Women's Roles in Colonial America

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Colonial America was parallel to England and the European way of life in many aspects, especially in that of gender distinction. However, the colonies gradually developed unique distinctions which varied from one colony to the next. Marriage was in many cases, but not all, a business venture carefully managed by the parents of the man and the woman. The woman’s role in the Virginia family was greatly influenced by social class, her husband’s occupation, and accepted custom.

For the colonial society, marriage was a partnership heavily influenced by social class. Men and women in higher classes had greater restrictions in choosing their life-long partners because fortune was at stake. The parents of these men and women bargained with each other in order to arrange a marriage in which their wealth would be increased and standing in society improved. The women in lower classes led lives that involved more physical labor but had greater equality with their husband, even working alongside them due to the need to sustain their families.

Women had various jobs in their household, jobs which depended on the husband’s occupation and to some extent on the climate. The women of Virginia farmers led arduous lives, having to make goods which could otherwise be purchased, and had many responsibilities, even taking on some of the husbands’ tasks. Life on the plantation was drastically different. Women led hard lives and had the responsibility to make sure that the slaves and servants were doing their work. These women often found it easier to do their slaves’ work because the slaves had no incentive to complete their tasks and were not trustworthy. The mistress of the plantation worked alongside her servants during preparations for balls, work that was time-consuming. Women of the plantation had to be good at the art of...