Thursday, November 30, 2006

Portrait of Colonial Womanhood

On November 30th Patricia Reeve of Suffolk University presented Gender and Order in Colonial and Revolutionary America at the Madeline English School in Everett. The seminar focused on the cultural, theological, and legal concepts that structured the roles and lives of Euro-American women in colonial Massachusetts and the effects on the development of America’s political institutions. Discussion centered on answers to the following: How did the relations of gender determine social and political arrangements in colonial Massachusetts and with what effects on the distribution of political power in the years leading to the revolution?

Based on the reading of Carol Berkin’s First Generations: Women in Colonial America, participants were asked to characterize the physical and social circumstances in which colonial women lived; the variation in women’s lives across colonies; and the similarities and differences between Native and European conceptions of women and how they were romanticized and demonized in colonial America.

Puritanism and the religious bonds of womanhood were examined through a comparison of the trials of Ann Hibbens (“Church Trial Excommunication of Ann Hibbons”) and Anne Hutchinson (“Examination of Anne Hutchinson”) as documented by Nancy Cott in Root of Bitterness: Documents of the Social History of American Women. Discussion centered around why church and community leaders condemned their transgressions, each woman’s response to her critics, and the costs of defying male/religious authority.

Certainly an interesting picture of colonial womanhood was portrayed at today’s seminar.