Sample History Essays on Women in Colonial America

Colonial America had a rather deep division between the North and South Colonies. From a general perspective, New England and Southern colonies had different traditions. To compare and contrast the roles of women in these colonies, it is important to identify where the roles of women came from. During the colonial period, younger women were expected to take the roles of adult women of keeping household, and family intact. The marriage and job opportunities aspects identify the difference in terms of women’s roles between New England and the Southern colonies.

One of the major differences in women roles between the New England, and Southern colonies is outlined through the marriage aspect. In the southern colonies, women were subjected to unbalanced sex ratios and adverse conditions that led to a high mortality rate. As such, they were expected to marry at an early age, as well as witness the deaths of their husbands. This would allow them to remarry. In contrast, women from New England colonies were subjected to balanced sex ratio and effective conditions that lowered the mortality rate (Leigh, 2009). As such, they married at a late age and witnessed widowhood later in their lives, which implied that they could not remarry.

Another difference between New England and the Southern colonies in terms of the women’s roles is the concept of opportunities offered to women to work for wages. In the southern colonies, women workers were offered few job opportunities and paid low wages for their services compared to the Whites. In contrast, New England, where states had abolished slavery after the revolution, women workers were offered many job opportunities and paid high wages, the same rate as the Whites.

During the colonial period, married women did not legal rights to ownership of property, and running any business. These privileges were granted to single women and widows. The single women and widows had the legal rights to live where there were pleased and support themselves in any occupation without any restriction, such as a license. They would also enter into contracts to buy or sell estates and accumulate personal property that included livestock, cash, and stocks (Leigh, 2009). They were to benefit from these legal rights so long as they remained unmarried. They could sue or get sued, write wills, and act as property executors.

Before the colonial period, Native American women led different lives from those of the colonial women. One of the major differences in their lives is identified in terms of gender roles. Native American women led their daily lives by working the equivalent roles or jobs to those of their male counterparts (Díaz, 2011). In contrast, the colonial women led their daily lives working and protecting the households. Moreover, Native and colonial women’s lives differ in the aspect of marriage. Before the colonial period, men were required to join the Native women’s families, and the women had control over marriages. In contrast, colonial women were required to join the men’s families and abide by their rules.

Perceptions of women’s roles significantly transformed from the native era to the colonial era. In the native era, women were equally as important as men, and they could do equivalent jobs. However, in the colonial era, a stereotype was established that women’s roles were to keep households and families intact. During the colonial period, the roles of women differed in the New England and Southern colonies. In New England colonies, women were married late, unlike the Southern that required women to get married early.





Díaz, M. (2011). Native American Women and Religion in the American colonies: Textual and visual traces of an imagined community. Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers28(2), 205-231. Retrieved from

Leigh, D. (2009). Colonialism, Gender, and the Family in North America: For a Gendered Analysis of Indigenous Struggles. Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism9(1), 70-88. Retrieved from