Last Updated 08 Jan 2023

The Effects of Gender Roles on the Colonies of New England

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During colonial times there were very strict gender roles that men and women were expected to follow. These rules and laws were different from colony to colony but for the most part was the same. Women focused mainly on the at home stuff, knitting, small gardening, and teaching children scripture (it is important to know that this is directed to white women as black women had no rights). Men held the power in relationships, in the government, the church's, property, and controlled the family. Men also voted and their labor helped provide for the family and the colonies. Both men and women were equally important to the family and the survival of the colonially. If one fails, then the system will not work. As time went by however, the system would swing even more in favor to men. When first arriving to America life was extremely rough for the pilgrims, there were no shops, shelter, farms, and a shortage of women. Life back home was extremely different than the life that they had just started. As Jason Ripper puts it his book “American Stories: Living American History” that “The first seasons in America had been brutal, unyielding, and deadly.

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The winters were colder and the summers hotter than English folk had known, and farming prospects were mixed”. Because of this rough life women were a necessity in helping the men with the hard labor. There was help from the Native Americans with things like farming but without both male and women doing their duties then the colonies would have had a much harder time surviving. Doing labor work was new to colonial women. Before coming to America women would only do house work. They were not allowed to go school, go into a profession, and if they did work they were paid less. So, when arriving to America making this transition was probably not easy. Interestingly Native American women were respected a lot more than European women during the 1600s. Women could do almost anything that a man did besides a few things like go to war and hunt. Colonel men found this very strange claiming they were “slaves to the men”. Not everyone shared this thought though, Benjamin Franklin actually liked the Native Americans way of living. As Jason Ripper puts it “Franklin did not think that Native Americans lived in some caveman, throwback state of nature. Rather, he saw that they had sophisticated governments in which men and women participated”. Franklin was very ahead of his time, unfortunately the rest of the colonies did not see women, or the Native Americans like he did. As time passed and the colonies became more established, the need for women in the fields and other forms of hard labor was not needed. Women went back to their traditional role in the society. By the 18th century women were property to men once again but were still extremely important to the function of everyday life.

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