How did the numbers and condition of women affect family life and society in New England, the South, and African-American slaves? Compare and contrast these three groups and describe each group's dominant characteristics and how they became distinct in character.
The numbers in women affected family life in New England, Southern, and African-American society due to their ability to reproduce and create families. Each area had their own advantages and disadvantages, ranging from disease to differing life styles. No matter the situation, each area was directly affected by the role of women as the leaders of the family.
In the South the reproduction rate was very slow, especially in the Chesapeake area, due to disease. The woman that survived were few and outnumbered by men six to one in the beginning of the seventeenth century. Only did odds improve to three men per every two women towards the end of the century. As the colonies struggled onward in their development eventually generations of natives to the Chesapeake are were able to acquire immunity to the diseases such as malaria, dysentery, and typhoid. The presence of more women allowed for reproduction causing more families to form. Eventually the South could grow upon its own birthrate.
African-Americans did not suffer disease to the extent of the southerners, and unlike the women of the South, there was not a deficit of African women. Initially, the only reason there were a lack of families was because of the distance between plantations, but as planting was more widely adopted by colonists, farm land became closer in proximity allowing for more contact of friends and family. This only occurred in the North, further towards the South there was more isolation and virtually no contact between slaves on separate plantations. In the North the female population began to rise, and just as the women population in the Chesapeake, were enabled reproduction through their own fertility.
In contrast with the people of the Chesapeake, New Englanders tended to migrate not as individuals but as families. The population never suffered the prospect of severe disease and had always grown from its natural own natural reproductive increase due to the remarkably fertile people. Early marriages encouraged the prolific birthrate. Women of New England generally wed by their early twenties and produced children every two to three years after marriage until menopause. Childbearing became the cause of death of many women, thus it became feared. Many women would end up raising children until their death. However, in the colonies to the North disease was not a major threat, so the longevity of New Englanders contributed to family stability; this invented the notion of grandparents.
Disadvantages for women in the South included the hardships caused by disease paled in comparison to those of the African Americans. Up north, the situation was different due to the different life styles and the different emphasis changed the effects on the women. Nonetheless, the increase in the number of women and their conditioning allowed for a more prosperous society, in both the facets of the family life and the public life. Having a leader in the family and more children allowed for a greater emphasis to be placed on the education and leading a healthier and better life.
The main disadvantage of women in the South was the hardships caused by disease in contrast to the African-Americans.
In the early years of American History women played an extremely important role. Women helped the area to produce family ties of different strengths. These family ties in the South, New England, and in the African-American slave areas influenced their population and even cultures.
The Southern people had very weak family ties due to many factors. There were very few women living in the South, causing it to be hard to form many marriages. Those few marriages only lasted about seven years because of the deaths of spouses. Most children grew up with only one parent. Few families were able to grow because of the lack of women and because of diseases. There were many girls who became pregnant before marriage. All of these hardships contributed to the weak family ties in the South. After the people were able to develop immunities to the deadly diseases, more families were able to form, allowing the population to rise.
The Slaves who lived in the Chesapeake area had relatively close family ties, especially when compared to the family ties of the people in the South. They had a much larger population of women, making it easier to find spouses. When these families had children in America, a unique African-American slave culture was created. This culture included different speech, religion, and folkways. They created an entirely new speech known as Gullah. Some words from this language can still be seen in the languages of Americans today.
The New England area seemed to have the best family ties out of the three. New Englanders immigrated to this area as families rather than as individuals. Women usually were married by their early twenties, and would have a child about every two years thereafter. Raising these many children was a full time job for the New England woman. New England had close family ties since women there were able to live longer and raise children. All people in the New England area had a very long life span that is almost equivalent to the life span of people today.
The New England women and the women in the South had different rights. Since southern families were fragile, a woman needed to have better economic security if the husband died. Women were allowed to inherit their husband’s estates after the spouse’s death. New England women were forced to give up their property rights after marriage. Lawmakers there believed that a woman’s separate property right would destroy the marriage. However a woman would receive the property of her husband if she became a widow.
The women in these three places would help produce either strong family ties, or weak family ties. The strong family ties in New England allowed them to prosper and to have a higher population while the weak family ties in the South caused there to be a small population. The strong family ties of the slaves helped produce a new culture that would be seen throughout the rest of American history.
The numbers and condition of women greatly affected family life and society in New England, the South and among African-American slaves, yet for each group the ways in which they affected society were greatly varied. New England society was fairly stable, Southern society was less stable, and African American society was least stable of all.
New England families were very stable because the people lived to old ages and women were always pregnant. They might even be pregnant every two to three years until menopause. In fact, women were so fertile that they came to fear pregnancy as they aged because they could die during childbirth. It is also said, because of their longevity, that New Englanders “invented” grandparents. The stable family environment was nurturing to children and their upbringing was reflected in the strong, tranquil social structure of colonial New England. The women’s fertility affected New England’s future economic system because the larger more concentrated population set the stage for industrial centers for the nation.
The Chesapeake area of the South was a very hostile environment for families. There were very few women, and most men died young and without a mate. The harsh region contributed to the low fertility rate. It was rare that children grew up with both parents and about a third of women were already pregnant when they wed. Once a generation was born immune to the harsh diseases that ran rampant in the area, the stage was set for family life. Although the population of women was growing, at the start of the 18th century, men still outnumbered women three to two. Since the families were smaller and fewer children meant fewer workers for the family plantation, the economy was dependant upon slave labor.
In the Deep South, family life was hard for slaves because plantations were great distances apart, labor was very physically demanding and there were few women. The climate was so hostile that the only thing that sustained the slave population was new imports. In comparison to the Deep South, the slaves in the Chesapeake region did not face such difficult lives. The work wasn’t as grueling, plantations were larger and closer together, and population of slave women was on the rise. Where larger plantations were in existence, the closeness of the plantations allowed visiting between the slaves, which in turn led to the formation of families. These families may have had parents at different plantations, or a rich owner might have bought their slave’s mate to reproduce more slaves. The slave population grew the most from its own reproduction, which was unlike past slaves. The contact between friends and family members allowed for a distinct slave culture to form. Its mixture of African and American cultures gave lasting contributions to American culture such as words that came from their own language, Gullah. In addition the slaves began the tradition of verbal and physical responses to preachers, musical instruments such as the banjo and bongo, and the foundations for jazz. A couple of words that we use today from Gullah are gumbo and voodoo. The tradition of responding to preachers dates back to the ringshout, a West African religious dance done by replying to the preacher’s shouts while “shuffling” in a circle.
|The numbers and conditions of
women generally improved family life and society in these three groups. With
the increase of women, population increased as did the importance of family
life. The conditions of women were often a result of their numbers. In New
England Women were usually married by the time they were in their early
twenties and would bear at least ten children, and raise around eight. Women
would devote their lives to child-raising, and children were raised in
nurturing environments. Although they had an important role in the home, in
society they were still considered inferior. Because of this emphasis on
family, they were deprived of separate rights of ownership from their
husbands, since that would recognize division between husband and wife. In
the South, family life was slightly different. Families were usually
smaller, and because of disease life expectancy, particularly for men, was
much lower. However, because so many women were made widows, there were laws
created which allowed them property rights after the death of their
husbands, rights which the women of
Women affected the family life and society
The Southern colonies were the
least forgiving parts of the
The Regionally Diverse Woman
Women in the Chesapeake Bay colonies, although a scarcity because of disease-induced death, were an integral component in the South’s male dominated society. Because of the lack of women, and the high demand for them from the men, women did not stay single for extended periods of time. Sadly, most marriages did not last long, due to untimely death of one, if not both partners; which caused children to be raised in broken homes. Most children were not raised with both a mother and a father, and virtually no one had grandparents. This lack of parental control and order within the society caused the children to be unruly, and thus increased the amount of pregnancies out of wedlock. The woman was also becoming quite a commodity in the eyes of the Southern men.
Contrary to the Southern society, the New Englanders were thriving. Healthy crops and high-quality living conditions allowed New England women marry young, and to rear many children, which caused an almost immediate population surge in the North. With so many children being born, many women died at childbirth. This caused widespread fear among women. If the mother of the family died, then the father would quickly remarry, and have children with his second wife. The family, however, was the center of the New England society. Children were taught to be respectful of others, and maintain the utmost obedience. Quite unlike Southern society, the most New England children grew up having grandparents to aid their parents in the upbringing process. It was said that “New England invented Grandparents.”
The African American slaves were oppressed throughout the country, because they were deliberately taken from their homes and removed from their society, cultures and way of life. Initially, when slaves were taken from Africa, to join the slave trade, men were most frequently brought to other parts of the globe. But, by 1720, the amount of females in the South began to rise, which caused to a slow increase in the African American population. The women were needed in order for other African Americans to be born. This increase in population caused the African culture to assimilate to the American culture, and thus brought about many unique contributions to the American society. This assimilation and amelioration of the American society was due, in large part, to the African women. The African woman’s role was much the same as that of the Southern and New England woman’s role, in that she was the deciding factor in the culture and the closeness of the family. She caused population to increase and children to be raised if she was so able. The woman was an irreplaceable component in the colonial times.
The woman’s role in seventeenth century colonial times was varied, depending on the region in which she was living. Health and cultural circumstances were what constituted this role. The Southern, New England and African American women each contributed their own attributes to the society in which they lived.