Depending on nationality, ethnic, location, and religious classification women’s lives improved and declined in the Colonial Period. The natives, the Europeans found on arrival to the New World, held their women in the highest regard. This changed with the introduction of European ideals. African women taken from their homes and brought to the New World in the chains of slavery also led to a decline of living conditions. Some European nationalities, like the Dutch, had advanced living conditions until the arrival and subsequent conquer by the English. Others, like the women from England had only room for improvement. The women of the south had a better social life then those of the north. Religiously Quaker women in Pennsylvania had more freedom then the Puritan women in the Massachusetts Bay colony.
As the main food producers of a subsistent economy the women of Native American tribes were considered the saviors of their perspective tribes. With the women doing all of the gathering and farming of tame crops women were biggest contributors to the survival of the native tribes. The male activities of the tribe were to hunt and protect the interest of the people through war with rival tribes. Since the men could be away for prolonged periods of time this left the women behind in the villages to farm in a highly organized way. (Women’s America. Pg.31)
The women of Iroquois Nation represented the peak of female power before and during the colonial period. With a female dominated society they had the right to own land and nominate elders to the council. One missionary wrote “they did not hesitate, when the occasion required, to ‘knock the horns off’ from the head of a chief a...
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...tionality, ethnic, religion, and location classification the women of the Colonial Period went through intervals of both growth and decline. This is only to be expected in a time when everything was changing sometimes for the good and sometimes the bad. It can not be said that the Colonial period was the worst time for women nor the best. As with all times in history, good things can lead to bad things and bad things to the good things. That is the study of history the possible prevention of these acts and beliefs in the future.
Taylor, Alan. American Colonies. The Penguin Group. New York: New York, 2001
Berkin, Carol. First Generations Women in Colonial America. Hill and Wang. New York. 1996.
Kerber, Linda and De Hart Sherron Jane. Women’s America, Refocasing the Past. Oxford University, New York. 2000.
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