The Forgotten Women of Colonial and Revolutionary America Essay

Submitted By emilyab5
Words: 1875
Pages: 8

The Forgotten Women of Colonial and Revolutionary America For throughout the history of education a great focus has been put on the men of colonial and revolutionary America. Students learn about the powerful leaders that lead to our freedom from England and the brave men that came to a new land for work. Hidden in the background of those lessons are the women. Just because they did not have the rights to stand up and lead an army or nation does not mean that they were useless to the new world. Whether it is early colonial or revolutionary America, much can be said of their roles and experiences often glanced over in American history. These distinct groups of women share similarities as far as their roles on the home front but also differ in the institution of marriage, the way they are involved in politics, and how they help their country doing times of need. When comparing the basic roles of women from colonial times to women of the revolution one thing is clear, women lack access to the same rights men are given. Their roles in government and politics are extremely limited and most of their time is spent on the home front. What is expected of these groups of women is to have children, take care of the children, and look after the domestic problems within the household, like cooking and cleaning (lecture). During colonial America it was common for free, creole women to be married as early as sixteen or seventeen and to have nine to eleven children in their short lifetimes (Berkin 9-10). One difference colonial women have from women of the revolution is the amount of hard labor they do one the home front. The small number of women that came over from England as indentured servants were put to work in the tobacco fields, just like the men. This hard, laborious job was different than what women were used to in England. One account tells the hardship or sorrow indentured women go through in the colonies saying how they are overworked and slaves to their employers, which is something they were not expected when they decided to come. The women who wrote the poem says “No rest that I can have, whist I am here a Slave, […] in misery I spend my time hath no end […] then let maids beware, all by my ill-fare” (“Trappen’d Maiden” reader 2). Women of the Chesapeake and other early colonies do not have a long life span; often women only lived to 39 due to harsh conditions and childbirth (lecture). During their short lives women are worked hard in the fields. They are basically considered slaves because they worked long hours tending to the tobacco plants, because of the lack of able bodied servants during the time. Women came over thinking indentured servitude would be similar to England, taking care of household duties, when in reality they felt tricked. Marriage as an institution also changed from the times of early colonial America to the revolution. Women in the colonies were drastically outnumbered by the number of men. In that case, it is very easy for women to find a husband, since the amount of eligible men is so high (lecture). Berkin refers to it as a “paradise for women” (7). It is simple for these women to actually find a spouse, as well as marry up. Life for wives is tough during colonial times. They are restricted of many individual rights because they are basically property of their husbands (lecture). Any and all property given to women from their fathers is transferred over to the husband after marriage. The only times women are freed of ownership is when they are single adults looking for a mate or when they are widowed. Single women are allowed to own property, make money, sue, and make contracts (Berkin). Since the life expectancy of men is so low remarriage and the union of children from various different marriages is common in the colonies (lecture). Many times the children are not of age to own property by the time their father dies so he leaves the property to the wife for the time being, called dower