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Eighteenth Century Colonial Women Essay

688 words - 3 pages

Eighteenth Century Colonial Women

In order to fully understand and analyze a period of time, a full examination of people's everyday life is quite necessary. Although inferior to men, the roles and status of women in eighteenth century colonial America, contributed to the prospering society. The role of the family and extended kinship ties in the lives of African Americans is seen as a unifying and supporting force in times of suffering.
The role and status of an eighteenth century colonial woman was clearly an overlooked responsibility. She was required to be her husband's assistant, "not his equal", but an inferior. She was expected to show her husband "reverence" and be "Submissive to his demands". If a woman did not live up to these duties, there were often severe consequences to follow. For example, 128 men were tried for abusing their wives between 1630 and 1699. As one might expect, countless other cases never made as far as court. Women "for the most part, keep at home and seldom appear in the streets, never in publick assemblies except at the churches or meetings." Clearly, men were favored before the law, a woman's property becoming her husband's possession once she wed. According to the common law doctrine of coverture, she could not "sue or be sued, make contracts, buy or sell property, or draft a will". Housewives were responsible for a number of duties; cooking, cleaning, sewing, spinning and gardening. In addition to trading surplus foods and goods with other women, they salted, pickled, and preserved fruits and vegetables. In the absence of ones husband, they assumed their obligations. A woman's most important and most demanding responsibility was child rearing. "Most women could expect to bear at least six children and delivered children at fairly regular intervals averaging every twenty to thirty months, often having the last child after the age of forty." This is a time when women were not given equal rights to the common white man, as was true...

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