Discovering Silenced Women in Early America through Patriarchal Structures, Law, and Society
February 27, 2013
Throughout time, scholars have wanted to understand American women’s history. Gender has played a role in shaping the behaviors and ideas within societies. The gender role that women played can be looked at in a historically specific manner. In the early 1500s through the late-nineteenth century, women have had a silenced place in society and within their home. This ideology silences real women’s voices under patriarchal structures. In the time period of Early America, women were silenced through various factors such as the laws and ideas created within marriage, views of women given by society, and even instances where religion has shaped a woman’s place. The story of Sarah Penn in Mary Wilkins Freeman’s “The Revolt of Mother” shows us and illustrates how women are silenced within patriarchal structures within the home and marriage. Sarah Penn is a woman from a rural New England farm that is going through a conflict with her husband, Adoniram. He planned to build a lavish barn in replacement to the new house he had promised Sarah in the beginning of their marriage. When Sarah learns of her husband’s plans, she attempts to get him to change his ways. In result of her confrontation, he denies her and does not listen. When her husband is away, Sarah takes advantage of the situation and initiates a “revolt” where she moves all her family’s belongings into the new barn. When her husband comes home, he is disoriented but submits to her and Sarah achieves a victory for herself and her family. This story depicts an entertaining plot with a somewhat predictable ending. In a deeper context, however, there is a serious analysis of difficulties that Sarah and women face in this time period. The story that Sarah Penn experiences is an example of how women are silenced through different factors in the home. Sarah is a woman who does not have a voice in what is happening in her family life. She did not know her husband was building a new barn because he did not tell her. Adoniram had a method of control that restricts Sarah to her space and to her own silence. He did not think that it was Sarah’s concern and when she asked him about the new barn he was building, he told her to go “’tend to your own affairs” . The author then states that Sarah understood her why she was silenced because it was her “native tongue”. She understood her place in society but she decides to take action in her plight of an oppressed life. In addition to Sarah’s husband silencing her from having a say about his actions, her own son even has a sense of control over her. When she confronts her own son, Sammy, about the barn he did not give her answers to her questions. He knew more information about Adoniram’s plans than she did. By this example, it is stressed that even the “son” had a place in silencing women during the early times in America. The author wanted its readers to see and understand that sons grew up to follow in their father’s footsteps and take complete control of the home. This was a learned practice and Sarah’s son, Sammy, was taking after his father. Even though the son showed patriarchal actions, the knowledge and acceptance of the ways of gender roles that were put on women tended to affect Sarah’s family. Sarah acknowledges the idea of being silenced by explaining to her daughter that someday she would understand that they were “women-folks” and that “men-folk” did not have a care in what women said or complained about. When Sarah confronted Adoniram about the barn once again and demanded an explanation, he denied her an explanation. As a result of this, Sarah demanded for him to provide her a room where her daughter can be married in. After listening to her demands and points about her house needing to be replaced, he replied “I ain’t got nothing to say” several times . Sarah Penn did...
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