The Western Europe that opened up the Atlantic world in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries was patriarchal. This means men ruled over women and children in the family and in society. All aspects of patriarchal societies allocated power and property to men though religious, political and cultural beliefs . These patriarchal ideologies were taken to the Atlantic World and although women were not sailors or explorers and did not directly discover any of the new world they did contribute to an extent toward the successes of the North American Colonies.
Even though European women tended to stay home, the work f African and Indian women in the colonies contributed to their successes. Women were servants, seamstresses, midwives, slaves, tavern keepers and played many more roles in society that helped the colonies succeed. Women were also required for population of the colonies and raising the new generations that followed . There were three “groups” of women in the North American colonies: European women, Native American women and African women. I will be exploring the contributions of these three groups of women in North American colonies in the Atlantic World.
In 1653, the beginning of the process of opulating English America, overall less than one fifth of the immigrants were women but during the seventeenth century a great migration occurred and provided enough women to double the population every generation for two centuries. This shows how important women were for the colonies as without them population would unquestionably not have been possible. European women were very much the housewives of the era as shown by their roles in Plymouth Colony, where they were the cooks, cleaners and child minders.
Women here also did some of the work that may have been taken on by men in Europe, this included working in the fields. The contributions made here by European women were important as without them they would not have eaten as well as they did or the homes in general would not have been as successful and the children may not have grown as well as they did. Also the fact that these women took on what was traditionally known to them as “men’s” work would have helped greatly because if the colony found itself short of workers they still had someone to rely on to make sure the work was done.
Women from Europe also contracted themselves as indentured servants which helped them finance their passage, this was an important form of white migration to he new world. Indentured servants’ work mainly included growing, processing and transporting the sugar or tobacco. Women were important in the tobacco and sugar industries in the Virginia Company of London in 1608. Sir Edwin Sandy’s, Treasurer of the Virginia Company of London, wrote in 1620, “The plantation can never flourish till families be planted and the respect of wives and children fix the people on the soil.
So if women had not become servants and entered these industries the colonies and industries themselves may not have thrived as well as they did, showing women played a role key in he successes of North American Colonies. If the indentured women of Chesapeake in the seventeenth completed their service married men who owned property and the completion of her service gave the woman property of her own. Wives who outlived their husbands became powerful widows, inheriting plantations and property.
This gave women in North American colonies power equal to that of some men, which not only was a progression on the patriarchal view of Western Europe it also meant that with their own plantations and properties they were able to contribute to the economy and growth of the colonies howing they contributed greatly to the successes of the North American colonies at this time. In Native American culture, women played an immensely important role. Men viewed women not just as wives and homemakers but as essential to tribe life. Women were given many roles as hunters, cooks, warriors and many more .
This culture compared to that of the patriarchal Western Europe and how women were viewed as inferior was one of great progress as women here were given a voice and a proper role in society and were seen as essential to survival instead of just as child-bearers which was how Western women were viewed for a long time. In North American colonies however, Native American women played a much different role. European men perceived what the Native women were doing as “men’s” work. The idea of a woman doing a man’s job or taking power away from a man was unheard of in Europe at the time.
Many Native women were taken as slaves and put to work in the fields and industries of the colony, they were also stripped of their noble Native titles. Marriages between Europeans and Native American women were vital in securing alliances and were “a great help in engaging [Indians] in trade”. These marriages to Native women exhibit how important they were as hey created relationships between Natives and European settlers which were crucial in the successes of the North American colonies, this is shown through the fur-trading economy of New France who needed Native cooperation to access pelts and make profits.
This cooperation was provided through marriages with Native women, validating their key role in the successes of the North American colonies. The partnerships made with Native women also allowed for the expansion of the colonies as they created ties between the Europeans and Natives and also created communities and important families, “There is an important Indian woman in irtually every major encounter between Europeans and Indians in the New World. As mistresses or wives, they counseled, translated and guided white men who were entering new territory.
Indian women lived with white men, translated their words, and bore their children. In this way, Indian women were the first important mediators of meaning between the cultures of two worlds. ” Wrote Clara Sue Kidwell, a Native American author. Slave labour was a vital part of the successes of the North American colonies. African slave women may have had no choice in being in the colonies of North America but they ontributed greatly through their labour.
Both male and female slaves were likely to perform the same tasks, although more physically demanding tasks were assigned to male slaves . For example, men would be assigned chopping wood and women assigned construction. When skilled labour such as carpentry and blacksmithing, was assigned only to male slaves, this left a lot of male slaves unavailable and so field work would fall into the hands of the female slaves . In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, women made up about thirty six percent of the total of the Atlantic slave trade.
This is a small percentage ompared to the amount of men that made the passage across the Atlantic but African women were very valued for if they fell pregnant it gave an economic advantage to the colony as they brought a new generation of workers. This gave an important role to African women as they became child bearers in the colonies. The labour provided by African women was essential for the growth and expansion of the colonies.
They were also vital in providing company for male slaves and populating colonies with new generations of workers. It is definite that women played a crucial role in the successes of the North American colonies. First with European women making the passage to the New World either with their families or as an indentured servant they became workers and homemakers, both roles contributing greatly to the colonies as they provided for their families and offered support to their husbands and contributing to the economies with their own plantations.
Native American women reinforced the role that women had in the successes of the colonies as they had experience of the land from their lives in the tribes that could be transferred work in the colonies, allowing the colonies to grow and expand. They were also the gateways to the relationships and artnerships between the Natives and the European settlers as their marriages created bonds that allowed Natives and Europeans to work together in expanding the colonies.
Lastly, as previously mentioned, although African women did not choose to make the passage to the New World the labour and children they provided granted the development of the colonies as they brought new generations of workers and their own labour allowed the colony owners to exploit the land and bring in new economies to North America. Without women it is easy to assume that the North American colonies would not have prospered as greatly as they did.