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Role of Women during the Colonial Period

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Role of Women during the Colonial Period

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  • April 18, 2004
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The girls of the American colonies were educated in order to grow and become fitting wives. After a woman's homemaker education, she was ready for courtship. This took place at about 16 years of age. During this courtship, the woman did have full decision on which she was to marry. While it was ultimately up to her which man she would choose to spend her life with, her family did have some say. Before a man could date a girl, he would have to receive permission from her father. If he did not find the man fit to be married to his daughter, he would not permit the courtship to continue. If the family liked the man, they would put pressure on the girl to choose him. This idea of family involvement very much resembles the way it is now. The marriage choices of the colonial period were made very carefully because, unlike today, divorce or separation was rare if not unheard of.

After the woman was married, it was her duty to take care of the home. In doing that, she took care of the cooking, cleaning, maintaining the servants and overseeing the education of her children. These tasks consumed her day. While her husband was away she was the executive, but he was always the ruler and chief. "The husband is called the head of a woman. It belongs to the head to rule and govern. Wives are part of the house and family and ought to be under the husband's government," So while she was expected to run and perform all of the necessary duties of the household she really had no power within it.

European women in the 16-century had a specific place in the lives of their communities. They were to perform traditional roles including preparing and serving the food, weaving clothing, and raising and educating the children. When settlers came to the New World they were appalled to see how the Native American women did all of the traditional and manual labor, according to European standards. They worked in and around the house, reared the children, prepared the food and created...