Changes in Gender Impact
For generations, students in American history classes have been studying the foundation of colonies in the British North America (Cott & pleck, 1979, p. 52). They have read about the economic and political development of these colonies. Besides, they have also been taught about how these colonies struggled to attain their independence. However, one significant issue has always hit them. The truth is that throughout the entire period of this so wonderful historic drama, they have never been confronted by a case of a female protagonist. Conflicts over gender roles and sexuality impacted the negligence of the effect that white American women had in the development of the North America during the 17th century. Besides, immigration and settlement of the white women immigrants in North America resulted in the shift roles and responsibilities along gender lines (Carr & Walsh, 1977, p.24).
The status of colonial women was mainly determined by the cultural attitudes, which were brought to these new locations from Europe. This was as a result of the specific conditions that limited successive waves of both the male and female settlers. The driving factors were labor requirements and changes that were impacted by the maturation of the colonialism over time. This leaves us confused about the status of women in the North American colonies.
The main aim of this paper is to explore and discuss the position of American white women during the 27th century. In order to accomplish this, the paper does an assessment on the issue based on the backdrop of four main factors within the colonial Maryland. One of the factors was the predominance of the immigrants. The other factor assessed was the early deaths of male inhabitants. Besides, the paper also did an assessment on late marriages among the women impacted by their indentured servitude. Last, the paper has also assessed the sexual imbalance, where the men were more than women. Owing to these conditions, the women experienced little retrains with regards to their social conduct. These women therefore, enjoyed much power unlike their English counterparts. A majority of them became wives of planters.’ They enjoyed significant freedom, which gave them the opportunity of choosing their preferred husbands. Moreover, they also enjoyed the right of property inheritance. However, it is important to note that the above four elements created the circumstances of demographic and social disruptions, which severely affected the family as well as the community at large.
The Maryland was settled in 1634. By 1650, the number of people in this province was estimated at probably not more than six hundred. In fact, it was estimated that the total number of women in Maryland was less than two hundred. As time advanced, there was a steady growth rate in population such that by the year 1704, the number of the white population in Maryland stood at an estimated 30, 437. The number of adult women had grown to 7163. It should be noted that this paper mainly focuses on the women of the second half of the 17th century. Irrespective of the status of the immigrant women, there was one certain factor about them. This is that the number of women who came was much less than that of men (Carr & Walsh, 1977, p. 25). In fact, the records indicate that the ration was almost three to one. The main question is, ‘why was the number of women lower?’’
It can be argued on the presumption that few of the women were willing to leave their families as well as their communities to venture into the wilderness. However, I have the feeling that women were generally not as desirable as their male counterparts to the merchants and planters that were making fortunes to rise and marketing tobacco. The crop needed much labor. The steady improvement in gender ratio among the servants towards the end of the 17th century may have been impacted by the change in recruitment of the required labor. Towards the end of the 1960s, the number of young men willing to immigrate declined. It was unable to meet the labor demands in the region. Thus, other alternative labor sources were opted for. This resulted into an increase in the number of women.
Despite the challenges in their new environment, these women were able to survive the challenge of seasoning and acquired their freedom. Besides, the absence of kin as well as the reduction of pressures on the sex ratio impacted the creation of conditions of sexual freedom. This encouraged freedom in courtship, a condition that was not customary in their native countries like England.
Another significant change that was experienced by these women was the age at which they got married. Because of the commitments that they had with their new roles, the women got married at relatively older ages unlike before. They would spend as more as ten additional years before getting married. Consequently, there was a significant reduction in the number of children that these women could have with their husbands. They would probably bear not more than three children, including still births.
Owing to the changes in the living conditions of the immigrant women, they tended to live longer than the ones before them (Carr & Walsh, 1977, p. 29). This could be attributed to the fact that women were possibly younger than their men at marriage. In situations like those, the dying husbands were anxious about the welfares of their families. In fact, they would even involve their wives in their will. This indicated how much they regarded and treasured their wives. As time passed, the husbands tended to entrust their wives with their wealth. Almost a fifth of the men that had children left them to their spouses. They had the faith that their wives would make sure that their children would be allowed to fairly share the portions of the wealth.
Remarriage was also usual and often one of the immediate solutions for the women who had lost their husbands. This privilege was impacted by a shortage of women. This enabled any immigrant woman to be eligible for remarriage. Therefore, it was necessary for the widows to get married again. This resulted into the transformation of the structure of marriage. The new husbands were forced to handle the responsibility of taking care of the step children.
In a nut shell, the immigration and settlement of the women in Maryland contributed greatly to the development of the women’s experience in matters of gender. The changes in the roles were mainly inflicted by the gender disparity. Later on, the impacts of changes in roles because of immigration spread to the predominantly native population of North America (Kerber, 1976. P. 62). However, it is good to bear in mind that as time advances, the gender imbalance disappeared.
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Carr, L., & Walsh, L. (1977). The planter’s wife: The experience of White Women in the Seventeenth Century-Maryland. JSTOR. Retrieved January 24, 2014, from http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/2936182?uid=2&uid=4&sid=21103327849227
Cott, N. F., & Pleck, E. H. (1979). A Heritage of her own: toward a new social history of American women. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Kerber, L. (1976). The Republican Mother: Women and the Enlightment-An American Perspective. JSTOR. Retrieved January 24, 2014, from http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/2712349?uid=2&uid=4&sid=21103327849767