Farm Families: Women's Place
Men played the dominant role in both politics and domestic matters in New England society. Women were subordinate to their husbands and had few rights under law. Daughters typically had a lesser position than sons. A woman's place was in the home, serving as a dutiful daughter to her father or as a helpmate to her husband. Women were expected to bear and raise families that averaged six to seven children. While gradual reductions in farm size after 1750 prompted many families to have fewer children, women were kept in check by cultural expectations, colonial laws, and religious restrictions.
Farm Property: Inheritance
For many colonists, the availability of land prompted their migration to America. In New England, most land was held by common people who passed the land to their children so as to ensure that the family's needs would be met from one generation to another. By doing so, New England farmers were able to create communities composed of independent property owners, despite the fact that many individual farms were shrinking in acreage with each passing generation.
The Crisis of Freehold Society
By the eighteenth century, dramatic increases in population and overcrowding of the land threatened freehold society in New England, where good land had become difficult to find. Farm communities responded to this crisis by reducing family size, asking the government to open new land along the frontier, planting crops with higher yields, and sharing labor and goods. _________________________________________________________________________ Because diverse people from across Europe settled in the middle colonies, they lacked the cultural uniformity of New England. Nevertheless, amid diversity, the middle colonies established a social and political order that incorporated freedom and diversity and created a model for the future.
Economic Growth and Social Inequality
Between 1720 and 1770, rising wheat prices in Western Europe led to a boom in both exports and population in the middle colonies. While many poor farmers refused to live on the manorial estates of New York, the colonies of New Jersey and Pennsylvania offered fairly equal economic opportunities to settlers. By the 1760s in Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey, the landed gentry and merchants had grown rich, while yeomen farmers had fallen behind economically; there were increasing numbers of tenant farmers and poor people without any property. In many places the colonies became as crowded and socially divided as rural England.
From its founding, Pennsylvania attracted a mixed religious and ethnic population, with Quakers being the dominant social group. Quaker teachings were quite different from those of other Protestant denominations. For example, Quakers believed in egalitarianism and advocated peaceful relations with Native Americans. Liberal social and religious policies in Pennsylvania attracted thousands of Europeans who were fleeing war, religious persecution, and poverty in their homelands. The largest ethnic migrations to Pennsylvania in the 1700s involved the Germans and Scots-Irish who settled along the frontier, where they kept alive the social patterns and traditions that they had brought from Europe.
Religious Identity and Political Conflict
The Middle Atlantic colonies, especially Pennsylvania, were marked by religious and ethnic diversity. Religious differences actually enhanced stability because the churches enforced a strict code of behavior among their members. By the 1750s, however, ethnic differences that found the Germans and Scots-Irish opposing Quaker leadership were causing tension and creating political conflict....