am an undergraduate student
currently enrolled in a "History
of Women, Sex and the Family"
course. My professor has assigned
us term papers dealing with
how colonial women benefitted
in early America. However, I
was interested in finding out
if there is any information
out there about the transition
of women from Europe to America.
I am especially interested in
what was offered to these European
women to come to this new country,
basically, what incentives they
had to leave Europe. If you
could help me out any, it would
be greatly appreciated.
Thanks a lot, Summer
for your note to FEMINIST.COM--and
for posing your question to
me. Your question is the first
of its kind that I have received
and, therefore, in trying to
answer it, I learned something
new along the way.
The following is the basics.
It comes from The Reader's Companion to U.S. Women's History.
few histories of the European
settlements in North America
in the 17th and 18th centuries
have acknowledged it, women
played a key role in the development
of the North American colonies.
The first European outposts
were composed exclusively or
primarily of men. Since these
settlements were envisioned
as military or trading ventures,
that fact is hardly surprising,
but the absence of a substantial
number of European women among
the first settlers had a lasting
impact on thse societies subsequent
histories....In [these] colonies..men
lived in close contact with
Native American women...[and
this] gave rise to mixed race
people who became cultural,
political, and economic mediators
between Europeans and natives.
In other colonies....migrants
had difficulty sustaining their
societies. Either those colonies
fell to stronger powers, as
New Netherland did to England
in 1665; or they required constant
infusion of immigrants to survive,
as did VA and MD....[The] European
settlements that included large
proportions of women from their
beginnings--New England, PA,
NY, NJ--quickly reproduced themselves.
They did not need continued
migration from Europe to sustain
or expand....Historians once
regarded the colonial period
as a "golden age" for white
women because of their significant
contributions to the economy
and their employment as widows
in a wide variety of occupations,
but this interpretation ignored
women's lack of access to education,
dependent legal status in marriage,
and lives of hard work, frequent
childbearing, and early death.
Now historians assess white
that their lives were spent
as subordinates to fathers or
One important thing to keep
in mind is that Native American
suffered the most--as they were
expected to conform to "white
ways." For more on all of this,
this essay references the following:
Her By One Foot: The Subjugation
of Women in 17th Century New
France", by Karen Anderson;
"The Evolution of White Women's
Experience in Early America,"
by Mary Beth Norton American
Historial Review (pages 593-619).
I hope this helps to at least
point you in the right direction.