Women And Gender In Colonial North America

1204 words - 5 pages

During the colonial period in North America, women had varied experiences, which were instigated by differences in colonial styles. The population of North America during the period mostly comprised British settlers who originated from England and Wales. The remaining portion of the population was constituted by people from African and Asian origins. Some groups of individuals settled in New England, while other families moved to the Southern Colonies. In the mid 1660s, most immigrants came to the Colonial North America as indentured servants and slaves. There were more food supplies in the regions than most parts of the globe, including Europe. However, the life in the Colonial North America had its own challenges, pushing people to adjust to fit in. Women were the most hit by the challenges. The challenges posed by colonial settlements and restrictions in colonial North America in the 17th century forced women, especially African-Americans, to adapt to new gender roles to fit in the colonial situation.
The experiences that women underwent in colonial North America varied from one colony to the other. However, there were occurrences that were common in almost all the colonies. Women, especially of African-American heritage, engaged in economic activities, which consisted of mostly slavery oriented farming. These women worked alongside men in farms where sugarcane was grown. The women were not only readily available, but also came at a cheaper cost than their male counterparts. They mostly ended working in farms since they could not fit in skilled jobs such as blacksmithing and carpentry, which were left to male slaves (Irwin & Brooks, 2004). The trend continued uninterrupted until female slaves outnumbered their male counterparts in the field forces. It soon became a common knowledge that women could carry out the same tasks as men in the fields. However, the society was still conventional and only tasks that required relatively less energy were assigned to women, with those requiring much effort and advanced skills being left to men (Middleton & Lombard, 2011).
Hoeing is one of those economic engagements that never obeyed gender roles. Female slaves were made to hoe alongside their male counterparts in the farms where rice was grown. African-American women believed that hoeing was a female role just like cooking. In fact, that was the trend in Africa where most slaves came from. The fact that even men were forced into the activity was considered an upset to gender roles as it went contrary to the practices the women used to see in their countries of origin. The activity of hoeing was preserved for women in Africa and grouped in the same category as cooking. According to Irwin and Brooks (2004), having men and women hoe in the rice farms in colonial North America disturbed the gender identity of the African-American women.
Apart from the hoeing activity, the roles of being a mother were also upset in colonial North America through slavery....

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