October 11, 2012
The Role of Women in Early America
A woman’s role often depended upon many factors including: status, wealth, religion, race, and colony of residence. Although the particulars of individuals’ circumstances varied from person to person there were many things that they shared. Unlike modern women, a woman during this period often bore an average of ten children of which only half lived to adulthood. Anne Bradstreet bore eight children who apparently all lived which was unusual, her daughter however loses three children all by the age of four. Many women died at a young age during childbirth. It was a fear shared by all women, Anne Bradstreet writes of her own apprehension of suffering this fate in her poem “Before the Birth of One of Her Children” “How soon, my Dear, death may my steps attend, How soon’t may be thy lot to lose thy friend,” (Bradstreet 205). One of her biggest fears seems to be whom and how well will her children be looked after “Look to my little babes, my dear remains. And if thou lov thyself, or loved’st me, These O protect from stepdame’s injury.” (Bradstreet 205). It was quite common for a man to have multiple wives because of loses during the birthing process.
Women were often considered to be the weaker sex, not as strong physically or mentally as men and less emotionally stable. The Puritans believed that “to imagine that women were more likely than men to submit to Satan. A woman’s feminine soul, jeopardized in a woman’s feminine body, was frail, submissive, and passive—qualities that most New Englanders thought would allow her to become either a [good] wife to Christ or a drudge to Satan.” (Meyers 112). Legally they could neither vote, nor hold a public office, nor participate in legal matters on their own behalf, and opportunities for them outside the home were frequently limited. They were permitted with their husband’s permission to be housekeepers, shop clerics,...
Cited: Meyers, Debra. Common Whores, Vertuous Women, And Loveing Wives : Free Will Christian Women In Colonial Maryland. N.p.: Indiana University Press, 2003. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 10 Oct. 2012.
Eldridge, Larry D. Women And Freedom In Early America. N.p.: New York University Press, 1997. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 10 Oct. 2012.
Bradstreet, Anne. “Before the Birth of One of Her Children.” The Norton Anthology of America Literature. Gen. ed. Julia Reidhead. 7th ed. Vol. A. New York: Norton, 2007. 208. Print.
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