US History Essay Sample: The Role of Women Before and During the Colonial Period

Published: 2022-10-21
US History Essay Sample: The Role of Women Before and During the Colonial Period
Type of paper:  Research paper
Categories:  Women American history
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1902 words
16 min read

There is a difference in the lives of women before and during the colonial times. Before and during the colonial period, the society expected women to get married, bore for their husbands, work from their homes, and show respect to their husbands. Even though women had strong roles than ones played by men during the colonial era, they were good at enhancing the growth and survival of the colonies. The United States was built upon the hard work of women for the colonies. The pre and colonial periods have been the center of interests for many critics in regards to women. Some of the roles played by women during the pre-colonial and colonial periods included education, maintaining their households, working, ruling and enhancing legal statuses, working as slaves, and working for the colonies.

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Women were seen as shadow representatives of men. Most of their tasks were rooted in their homes, and as a result, they did not have the right to be assimilated at a public arena such as working with the government. They were later allowed to take small but visible roles in the public spheres. Events including the national capital event supported women's recognition and realization through letting them socialize with each other hence playing a backstage political role indirectly. Today, women are still suffering from male oppression. Women were identified from men as being inferior to men, subordinate, as well as immoral and irrational. For instance, they were secondary citizens in that they could not even join college than their male counterparts. On the other hand, in case of a widow, they were realized as agents in their own right. There was the right to inherit all property from the deceased husband; they would also own their business keep wages buy and sell items, as well as collecting and keeping rents.

One of the roles of women during the colonial period was education. As a result, there was the development of various schools for girls where women would be taught various subjects aside from home science, which were only taught to men. Some of the subjects included anatomy, philosophy, and geography. Some of the schools for women included secondary schools, colleges, and religious schools. Institutes would also assist women in letting them be realized by the community as equal in society. Most of them usually had little information in formal education. They were illiterate, and young girls would learn the home science skills required for the management of their homes. The society would view women as illiterate and that they could not comprehend education, therefore, the reason the community would let them only work at their homes. Women had no access to the same educational and intellectual opportunities as men. Women would only realize their subordination and effectively recognize their status quo.

The American society during the colonial period was considered a paradox as women would only represent a labor force and it led to them being marginalized. For instance, during the colonial period, some women were doctors, teachers, and preachers. However, they were later restricted to factories for work, as well as teaching. The medical field is an example of how there was a restriction to men and some unmarried girls hence, a hindrance to their education. Some women such as Elizabeth Backwell graduated from the Geneva medical college in New York where she became the very first female doctor in the United States. It was only through education that they would have the power of critical and creative thinking, but it was denied to them. They would also instill their children with moral values and enhance their good health. During the pre and colonial periods, the wife's relationships with their husbands were in such a way that it was liberal, where love and affection would be characteristics of a marital relationship. Therefore, most of the women experienced the enforcement of obedience and subservience. Through their roles as educators, therefore, some of the women would be dedicated to serving other women and children in society.

Women would also maintain their households before and during the colonial period. Home management was important to keep the colonies motivated. The roles performed by women at their homes included cooking, sewing, and weaving, raising the children, as well as ensuring that their homes are secure. They experienced harsh living conditions, and the root of their oppression was the patriarchal system of society. The society's system was close to women more than men. Women were considered as toys for men. The subordination of women was rooted in biblical laws where women of the past did not have a right to speak where men were. According to the biblical times, it was also a sin to speak openly in public, hence the same happening to the colonial times. The justification made by Paul was followed during the colonial period hence, the root of women subordination.

Women had a restriction on motherhood and wifehood hence would have the role of ornamentation, fetishism, as well as external accomplishments. Women were, therefore, perceived as secondary earners whose wages were low as compared to those of men. They would only perform their labor within their households. However, it was men who owned their wives just as they owned the various material possessions. Even the homes of their family, as well as their children, were not theirs regardless of any interruption by external factors, as they belonged to men. In regards to property rights, women, as long as they were unmarried, they had the same rights as those of men. They would acquire, own, as well as sell and transfer property. Women could also collect rent, keep own wages, make contracts, and also bring lawsuits. However, as soon as she had a husband and accepted him into her life, all rights were transferred to the man.

Working as housewives were the women's economic and cultural activities assigned to them. There were legal rules of curvature, where they were no separate in identity as everything that the woman did was under the authority of their husband. The husband used to control their money including inheritance or even dowry. However, the housewives had the right to have a share of the human property as soon as she was widowed. They would even feed, clean, provide medical care for their home as well as supervise their servants. The domain of the housewife was dependent on wealth. They would even harvest and gather crops and cared for livestock while checking on the kitchen gardens. Women would have their roles as mothers juggled due to the baby boom, and their jobs were mostly filled when their men left for war. Most of them would strive to complete the tasks associated with them. However, the war would cause some cutbacks such as migration from farms hence, most of them finding difficulty in handling duplicate roles.

Another role of women was to work for the colonies. They showed hard work during the colonial times to ensure that the colonies received meals. Additionally, they would also do laundry for them, and attend to livestock. Many critics refer to women as being clever, just as men, courageous, and as well better than men. Women's minds are also mono sexed at present, but during the colonial periods and before, they were denied some of these rights by being inferior to society. Women were judged by their sex, but they are now judged in regards to their mind and thinking. Working for the colonies led the women to feel that they were subordinated, legally and socially to their seniors including the colonies. Working for the colonies was mostly voluntary for some, but enforced for others. They would nurse their injuries and also participate in the Red Cross. The various unorganized women would collect and turn various materials needed by the war effort. Some of the materials collected by women included fats that were rendered for cooking, aluminum foil folded by children, and rubber handballs, which were all useful for their men for fighting.

Women were also responsible for the rules and legal status. The colonial women had only a few rights or freedom associated with them. They would obey the men in their lives as their seniors regardless of them being their brothers. Additionally, they would not vote or hold a public office. Most of the colonial daughters would be taught to be obedient to everyone, submit to their instructions, and also depend on their decisions. Besides, they would also be subject to their limelight. Women had no standing at the law as they could not even participate in any voting at any office of the government. Otherwise, they could only get a representation politically, through a man. Even in speaking, it is the husbands that spoke on their behalf. It was the legal statuses and societal norms of women that allowed their husbands to have physical power upon their wives, even though it raised eyebrows to the family hence, violence. However, since most of the women were not heard by the public, they were unable to file for divorces.

Women worked as slaves until they formed an antislavery movement to let the society recognize them, their rights, as well as religious reforms. The natives of the land would view the immigrants as workers whereas some others would find them intruders at their land and let them work heavily, entitling them too difficult works. Women would be called to work for various industries such as the textile industries. Young women were enlisted, and some of them moved to their rural areas where they were not paid but used for the production industries. Some were also tasked with the responsibility of flying warplanes from the factories to the airfields located at the East Coast of the US. This was, however, a shift in roles as it was men who were responsible for flying the planes. However, they did not fly any warplanes in combat. Additionally, women would also work as farm workers with the intent of aiding their families financially in saving their marriage, but some were used as slaves during the colonial period. The effect of enslavement was the rise of immigration. Therefore, women worked as slaves for their seniors' lands.

There were various roles associated with women including education, maintaining their households, working, ruling and enhancing legal statuses, working as slaves, flying planes, and working for the colonies. The natives would see the immigrants into the US as slaves and workers of the community. These roles let the women become realized in the community as inferior. It was the men who were associated with warfare during the colonial period hence, leaving women behind with various roles to take care of including preparing them for the wars. The roles associated with them were, however, difficult as compared to the roles of men in the same community.

Works Cited

Bernhard, Virginia. "Men, Women and Children" at Jamestown: Population and Gender in Early Virginia, 1607-1610." The Journal of Southern History 58, no. 4 (1992): 599. doi:10.2307/2210786.

Hjane4. "Settlers, Indians and the Gender Identity of Women." Developmental Biology An Everchanging Realm. 2018. Accessed November 20, 2018.

Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation. "What Were the Roles of Women and Children at Jamestown?" History Is Fun. 2017. Accessed November 20, 2018.

Landofthebrave. "Colonial America." Colonial Women. 2017. Accessed November 20, 2018.

Plainshumanities. "Encyclopedia of the Great Plains." The Great Plains During W...

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