Well Behaved Women Rarely Make History Colonial women and their lives
OK to begin lets set the scene • All the women in the class need to leave • Why? Because in early America only a very few women received and education • But before you do … • If you are married I need to know who your husband is and why he let you leave the house • If you are not married I need to know if you have had sex and when and with who • Odd questions that could get me fired today, but questions that in Early New England the courts had a right to ask of all women
Many chose America to escape English class/political/religious structures • Female subordination, far more basic to transported intact • not to tamper with traditional roles and institutions but to re-create them as soon as possible • Women’s lives rarely entered the foreground of events • visible women of 17th C • usually those brought briefly into center stage by catastrophe or deviance • ideology of subordination remained intact • hazards and needs of their new environment affected women’s roles.
Balance of sexes skewed • e.g. Chesapeake • Four out of the five individuals were men • One colonist reported • “they grow very sensible of the Misfortune of Wanting Wives” • Without women colonial ventures were in danger of being wrecked • 1619 VA House of Burgesses petitioned that wives as well as husbands be eligible for grants of free land, arguing that in a new plantation • “it is not known whether man or woman be the most necessary.”
finding a suitable spouse • “If any Maid or single Woman have a desire to go over, they will think themselves in the Golden Age, when Men paid a Dowry for their Wives; for if they be but civil, and under 50 years of Age, some honest Man or other will purchase them for their Wives”
Not that she would have owned dowry When married - stripped of their legal rights • Wife’s possessions became her husband’s she was unable to • do business on her own • sue • borrow money • sign contracts • “The husband and wife are one, and the husband is that one.”
Early Virginia attempted yet another remedy to the sexual disparity • London recruiters began searching for marriageable women • offering free passage for girls of good reputation • Came with recommendations from their kinfolk and acquaintances attesting to their good character and domestic skills • Of the 57 women who arrived in 1621 • median age was 20
One of her parish elders noted Anne Richards was a • “woman of an honest life and conversation . . . and so is and ever hathebynne esteemed,” • Allice Burges, at 28, was one of the oldest and said to be skillful in the art of brewing beer – important in place where the water was generally undrinkable • we don’t know what happened to most of the women but presence speaks to the scarcity of women in this new colony
When they married, new husbands had to reimburse the company with 120 pounds of good leaf tobacco • Between 1620 and 1622 about 150 “pure and spotless” women came to the colony as “tobacco brides”
Women found themselves in a place where gender role temporarily suspended due to conditions • “a very civil woman” who could nonetheless “carry a gunn in the woods and kill deer, turkeys . . . shoot down wild cattle, catch and tyehoggs . . . and perform the most manful exercises as well as most men in these parts.” • William Bryd, a well known seventeenth century diarist
Farms were almost all isolated • No easy connections • With this isolation, you better hope that you like your spouse • virtually impossible to get a divorce • But…thanks to the malarial swamps, few people wound up married for life • Many marriages were brief • four out of ten immigrants died within six years often of malaria, typhoid, or dysentery
Under such circumstances, family life took on a tentative quality. • patchwork families made up of widows, widowers, and several degrees of stepchildren • Colonies crowded with widows, many of them managing large estates • Men named their wives as executor • Highly unusual in England
In some cases, pure affection • “All I have I leave her, and if I had more she should enjoy it,” wrote John Smithson of Maryland in his will • But often, sheer practicality. • many people had no close relatives in America who could be trusted to oversee an estate • Few women stayed single long in the South • some went through five or six husbands. • newly empowered widows weren’t willing to give up control in order to acquire a helpmeet. • Married only whey they had legal assurance that they could determine the disposition of their restates
Indentured servants also derived several benefits from the region’s unbalanced sex ratios • Virtual certainty of marriage and a far greater choice of spouses than poor women in England • The people who colonized South didn’t develop any new philosophies • just didn’t have the resources to enforce the old rules that most of them still adhered to in theory
Despite this laxity, court cases suggest that gender norms DID matter in early colonial southern colonies • For instance, Ann Fowler was sentenced to twenty lashes in 1637 for defaming a county justice with the somewhat undeferential suggestion that he could • “Kiss my arse”
I am the Youth and Education Programs Intern and we have a class from West Park coming to the University on November 20, from 2:10-2:55 to learn about the pilgrims and the tradition of Thanksgiving. I was wondering if you or anyone else in your department would be interested in doing a 20 minute presentation on how Thanksgiving was started (we can have sample foods, crafts, or whatever… it can be as fun as you would like it to be)? If there is a class that is interested that would be great also. I know that it is the day before Thanksgiving break but it will be a great opportunity for the elementary kids to get a taste of higher education. Please let me know if you are interested or the names of anyone who might be. • Thanks, • Ashley Cochran • Youth & Education Programs InternASUI Center for Volunteerism & Social ActionIdaho Commons 301PO Box 442535, Moscow, ID 83844-2535Phone: (208) 885-9442 Fax: (208) 885-6944
On the surface at least, New England settlement provided a stark contrast to women’s lives in the South. • Most immigrants arrived in family units • climate of the northern colonies extended life expectancy to 65 for men and slightly less for women • 5 years longer than the average in England and 10 years more than the southern colonies • marriages might last a quarter of a century or more, and large families abounded • on average women had between 6-7 children
No woman was expected to remain unmarried for long • nor did Puritan authorities wish to encourage the single state. • “It would be a bad president [sic],” the MA governor told one applicant, Deborah Holmes, “to keep hous alone.” • Family was the ideal and the base for society
Unlike the southern colonists, the • “Wives are part of the house and family,” announced a New England minister, “and are to be under the husband’s government.” • Male as head of family had absolute authority over the household • A woman had a right to the love and support of her spouse but, • did not have a right to question his judgment.
Marriage recognized as a civil contract based on mutual consent of both parties • Statutes outlawed or limited physical abuse of wives – in 1641 MA prohibited wife beating • “unless it be in his own defense upon her assault.” • Puritans in zeal to promote family granted absolute divorce with the right to wed again • Major innovation • In England marriage was a sacrament only the wealthy, mainly men, were able to terminate unions
Divorces were granted for desertion, bigamy, failure to provide, and adultery • Something that did not happen frequently MA only granted 27 divorces between 1639 and 1692 – most for desertion • The courts ruled on at least two other matters concerning men and women: premarital sex and adultery
If a child arrived before a marriage was nine months old, the couple could be hauled into court and charged with fornication and punished with nine lashes “upon the Naked back” or a steep fine • Adultery was a more serious matter. • Puritans defined adultery as sex between a married woman and any other man than her husband • A married man who strayed was only guilty of fornication
Deputy husbands • Many businesses theoretically operated by men actually conducted by their wives • Widows managed lands, shops, groceries, bookstores, taverns, and worked on occasion as blacksmiths, butchers, and gunsmiths
The widow as feme sole (unlike feme covert) own buy, sell property, sue and be sued, make contracts, administer estates, and hold power of attorney • This latitude is in the public’s interest. A destitute widow or spinster could drain a community’s resources
Goodwives and not so goodwives Poetry of Anne Bradstreet Banishment of Anne Hutchinson
Anne Bradstreet model of a Puritan’s private writing • “Religious Experiences” • intended to convey the “spiritual advantages” to her 8 children
written not for self-glorification but in humility • “not to sett forth myself but the glory of God.” • Bradstreet’s poems give us a better sense of gender roles in Puritan society • used her learning for private benefit • not for public trouble making or “meddling” in the affairs of men • Unlike……
Anne Hutchinson in the 1630s • Woman of status • middle-aged wife of a landowner, merchant, and public official • 43 when family (of 14 children) emigrated to MA in 1634 • Her services as a midwife gave her entrée into many homes but, • Talents as a theological attracted even more attention
60-80 townsfolk • gathering in the Hutchinson home to hear Anne’s learned discussion of weekly sermons • Argued that gift of heaven was freely bestowed by God • attained through a direct relationship with him
Held powerful sway over followers • people of substance • One male newcomer to Boston reported that when he arrived in town he was approached by • “a little nimble tongued Woman” who urged him to visit “one of her own Sex” who • “Preaches better Gospell than any of your black-coates that have been at the University.”
Fall 1637, summoned before the General Court • with the governor presiding • She stood alone, facing a panel of men. The meeting room doors were held open so the crowd of eager bystanders could hear.
For a long time she did very well, matching Governor Winthrop Bible citation for Bible citation • But she was doomed to lose eventually • Banished • Reverend Mather urged women in his congregation to remember that • “she is but a Woman and many unsound and dayngerous principles are held by her.”
Anne was guilty of • heresy and sedition • But also of role reversal • she was told at her trial that • “You have rather bine a Husband than a Wife, and a Preacher than a hearer, and a Magistrate than a subject.”
After expulsion from MA in 1637, Anne her husband, and younger children and followers relocated to RI • She will question RI authorities and the family will re-locate to NY where Anne and all but one of her younger children are killed by Indians in 1643 • The Puritans see this as divine retribution
Conclusion • With these differences • tempting to debate the relative advantages of Chesapeake women • seemed to profit from their low numbers • New England women • longer life expectancy and greater chance at a stable family life • But the contrast between these two modes of seventeenth century settlement obscure the commonality of female experience throughout the colonies. • Housewife and subordinate
Salem in midst of change • mercantile elite developing • prominent people less willing be town leaders • two clans • Putnams and the Porters • competing for control of the village and its pulpit
debate was raging over how independent Salem Village • tied more to the interior agricultural regions, should be from • Salem • a center of sea trade.
1688, John Putnam • an influential elder of Salem Village, • invited Samuel Parris, • a marginally successful planter and merchant in Barbados, • to preach in the Village church • A year later Parris accepted the • He moved to Salem Village with his wife Elizabeth, • six-year-old daughter Betty, • niece Abagail Williams, • Indian slave Tituba, acquired by Parris in Barbados.
February 1692 • Betty Parris became strangely ill. • dashed about, • dove under furniture, • contorted in pain, • complained of fever. • The cause of her symptoms may have been some combination of • stress, asthma, guilt, boredom, child abuse, epilepsy, and delusional psychosis.
There was another theory • Cotton Mather • "Memorable Providences," • Described the suspected witchcraft of an Irish washerwoman in Boston
Easy to believe in 1692 in Salem • Indian conflicts less than 70 miles away • Town crowded with refugees • Physical reminders that the devil was close at hand • Sudden and violent death occupied minds.
Talk of witchcraft increased when other playmates of Betty including • eleven-year-old Ann Putnam • Seventeen-year-old Mercy Lewis • Mary Walcott • began to exhibit similar unusual behavior • William Griggs, a doctor called to examine the girls • Supernatural origin.
Mary Sibley, proposed counter magic • Told Tituba to bake a rye cake with the urine of the afflicted victim and feed the cake to a dog. • Dogs were believed to be used by witches as agents to carry out their devilish commands.
Suspicion already begun to focus on Tituba, • known to tell tales of omens, voodoo, and witchcraft • Participation in the urine cake episode made her obvious scapegoat
girls "turned themselves from a circle of friends into a gang of juvenile delinquents.“ • People of period complained young people lacked piety and sense of purpose • Contorted into grotesque poses • complained of biting and pinching sensations. • Suspected affliction of the girls became an obsession.