This paper will provide a comparison and contrast of women colonists prior to 1776 and beyond, from the perspective of European settlers and Native American woman. It will analyze the effects of race, class and other effects on women's economic, social and family roles, and how these factors influenced diversity within the colonies.
North American women's economic, social and family roles varied significantly in colonial times. Factors such as race, ethnicity, class and geographic region influenced this diversity. The Native American woman was held in higher esteem than the European woman for some time during the early pre-colonial woman. In fact, in some ways the Native American woman set the stage for events including European woman's fight for equal rights including the right to vote, even though when the settler's first arrived, they had no such rights. When European women first arrived in America, Native American women did not have equal rights. They were however, regarded in much higher esteem than their British counterparts. This could be do to the fact that Native American religions respect the mother very greatly, seeing the woman as the fountain of life, and respecting the female for her contributions to the cycle of life. The society is less patriarchal, although life does still for the most part centers around the male. Religion set aside, the Native American woman was far more accustomed to hard labor than was the European woman. The Native American like the European woman may be married at a young age, but was accustomed to providing for the family, tilling her fields, caring for the family, and engaging in hard manual labor, something that was virtually unheard of among European woman. That is one reason slavery likely came about among the colonies, because of how hard life truly was for the women and colonists.
The role of women varied greatly during the 18th century however, at least among European women settlers, and this had more to do with social class than anything else. Most European women were displeased to learn how difficult life would be in the New America (Brown 1996). Nonetheless, women were necessary for expansion in the pre-colonial Americas. There were less than 300 settlers in the early colonies. Many people died, from disease or other causes, so these first settlers were among some of the bravest women of all time.
Native American women were accustomed to hard life; they had traditional roles including manual labor, but also reared children, prepared food, and created pottery. The native American woman also tilled the land and farmed. The men however, enjoyed hunting, fishing and building homes. These were things noble class Europeans did in their down time (Kamensky, 1995). Most European transplants, meaning women, regardless of their race had very difficult work ahead of them following their move to the Americas; they served primarily as homeworkers whose jobs included cleaning, making clothing for the entire family, making household goods for the home and to sell for money, taking care of the animals for the family, maintaining a fire and tending to the household garden and family.
Wealthier women had some chores but typically hired servants to do a majority of the hard labor. There was much pressure during these times for younger women to marry by the time they were fourteen years of age. Women not married by at least twenty five were considered a disgrace. Women married for financial gain primarily. A wife may have other areas of employment including assisting at a local tavern, or helping to bear children meaning working as a local midwife. A woman did not have any rights to own land, unless her husband died, at which point she was entitled to partial ownership of the land her husband owned. Even among Native American women tribes, where the woman was responsible for tilling and farming, life still centered on the male. The woman was held in high regard, and was central to everyday life however.
Things did improve for women after the Revolutionary War, in part because women became much more active participants in their liberty. Women's organizations began to appear more frequently with an emphasis in politics, something that was not seen in women's organizations previous to this. Organizations like the Daughters of Liberty began to become more active, assisting women in the…