Comparing Male and Female Lifestyles in the Colonies
Colonial women had it harder. Women had to overcome many more difficult obstacles than men, in order to prove themselves as being worthy. The obstacles varied between women of different background, including their status in class, as well as their race. They all had one thing in common though, which was the fact that they were all bound together by certain laws. These laws deemed them incapable of numerous abilities due to the fact that their gender was female. Thus, women's roles were seen as being limited to wives, mother's and household managers.
The first colonists to arrive were men. After their arrival, it became obvious that in order for colonization, women had to be present. So, the arrival of the first women in America was constituted by the need for wives for the settlers of the new land. The women were sold to the settlers. Marriage was a girl's future. It took place early. Women that had previously been married were in demand, because they were then thought of as being experienced housekeepers, and child raisers. Marriage was termed as a "civil death" for women, because they had absolutely no rights in the relationship. They could own nothing, not even clothes, for they wore their husband's clothes. Although there were certain obligations that were to be maintained by both partners, they were certainly not equal. Husbands were required to protect and provide for their wives. Wives, in exchange, were to submit to any male authority and to assist their husbands in by productive behavior and frugality.
In spite of all of the restrictions placed on women, they were able to make significant contributions, with the exception of the black enslaved women. The free white women were the first to have established schools, orphanages and the first to have acted as doctors, dealing with medical treatment of various ailments. Some women that spoke out, were effective in other ways, such as Anne Hutchinson, a colonist who had arrived in 1634. She was not admired by most, because she was an independent woman who liked to speak her mind about religious issues. She was viewed upon as the most notorious woman to challenge the authority of ministers. Although she was a woman, the government felt threatened. They believed that people would only be saved through hard work, good deeds, and righteousness, and were trying to enforce this belief. Meanwhile Anne Hutchinson expressed her beliefs that salvation lay in a direct, personal relationship with God. She encouraged people to make their own moral choices, and thought that all women had the same right as men to preach. She held Bible gatherings with many other women, which soon increased in size. Hutchinson was seen as disruptive, and " Though women might meet to pray end edify one another; yet such a set assembly where sixty or more did meet every week, and one woman ( in a prophetical way, by resolving questions of doctrine, and expanding scripture ), took it upon her the whole exercise was agreed to be disorderly and without rule." (Berkin 40). She was soon brought to a court, and found guilty of breaking the Bible's Fifth Commandment. She was then condemned and banished from Boston, with the words " Let your women keep silent in the churches for it is not permitted unto them to speak."
Other females worked at breaking down the barriers of other obstacles. Although women had roles, primarily in the household, they also maintained roles in the working world, as well. This is not to say that they were equivalent to men in this aspect, because they were not. Women and children were the prominent workers in the factory. In spite of this being true, women were unskilled, resulting in lower wages. It took women a week to make what a man made in one day.
The colonial women within the family, were quite aware of the disadvantages proposed to them based on gender. Religion, like law, endorsed female subjection. All religions barred women from the ministry, with the exception of the Quakers. Still, many women found religion to be a way out of their daily, routine life. The church provided an enticing lure of the thought of spiritual equality. In every realm of their lives their inequality to men surfaced, so they sought happiness elsewhere. They viewed their souls to be of equal importance to men. This gave them a sense of personal connection to God.
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