Public Activities of Women in the Early United States

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Until more recent scholarly attention in the field of Women’s Studies, the economic history of the colonial United States was almost entirely given from a male perspective. Women in the early United States played a variety of roles in the formation of the new nation, but often times, these roles were dependent on race, class, and geographical distinctions. Despite the differences, however, overarching patterns existed, reflecting a common public attitude toward women at the time. Economic opportunities and gender labor division, often informed by cultural values, for women differed depending on the colony and its individual demands and local customs. In some colonies, the labor value of European women was worth more in the New World than at home, meaning that more economic opportunities could be found for women in the early United States; however, female slaves and indentured servants were offered little legal protection and, therefore, less autonomy. However, after the establishment of the United States, women began to play a greater role in the public sphere, organizing the foundations of the women’s suffrage movement and taking part in abolitionist societies.
Prior to coming to the New World, European women held a specific place in society. Women were responsible for domestic tasks, such as preparing food, making clothing, and raising children. When the settlers initially arrived in the new world, they were appalled at the sight of Native American women performing traditional and manual labor. Unlike their European counterparts, Native American women not only raised children, managed the household, and prepared food, they were also partially responsible for the maintenance of the land since the men were often hunting. In Anglo...

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