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Rudimentary Roles - Women in Colonial America

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After the transition from a patriarchal society in England to the more democratic society in the New World, women began to have a more important role in the lives of the new settlers. Both genders had to do their own share of labor. King James I stated that "he who will not work shall not eat." During the busy and tough times of the early settlements, the same saying applied to the females as well. Their importance in colonial America would be shaped through the roles of maintaining household and farm order, encouraging faith and moral development, and the role of a subordinate to men.

In early settlement, land was plentiful and cheap, but the labor to maintain it was expensive. Women the 1600s to the early 1700s had to work almost as much as their male counterparts, but the separation of labor meant that the two genders were productive in different ways. Men, similar to most cultures, tended the farm, worked on construction, and completed tasks on fields or around the settlements. Women, however, usually stayed at home to take care of the children, prepare the food, make clothing and other material products, and the women usually directed indentured servants in the absence of the male dominant. The rise of food supply and wealth enabled the wealthier women to have more children, increasing the population. There was not much involvement with women and trade, and bearing a child would be one of the main reasons. Economic involvement was difficult for women who had to take care of children.

The rise of the economy brought colonial America to a more democratic style, which led to changes in the political and religious systems as well. The introduction of Quakers in 1647 brought a great change in the systems. Equally a group of men and women, the Quakers practiced religious freedom and discarded the old ways of worship. They also gave women an active role in church affairs. Not so much like the Quakers, Puritan religion in New England strove for an ideal marriage or ideal nuclear family. It also sought for rights of husbands. Many women believed that these times brought good fortune to the colonists. There were also many women who did not enjoy the same fate. Those were the ones likely to be accused of witchcraft in Salem, where 80% of the 300 accused were women. In this era, there were improvements, but not a large change in the roles of women in the political and religious systems.

Life in the colonies depended on your status,



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