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Title: Woman's Life in Colonial Days
Author: Holliday, Carl
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Transcriber's Note: In the original text, some footnotes were referenced
more than once in the text.  For clarity, these references have had a
letter added to the number, for example, 26a.]



  _Professor of English_
  _San Jose State College, California_




  _First Printed in 1922_
  _Reprinted in 1968_



This book is an attempt to portray by means of the writings of colonial
days the life of the women of that period,--how they lived, what their
work and their play, what and how they thought and felt, their strength
and their weakness, the joys and the sorrows of their everyday
existence. Through such an attempt perhaps we can more nearly understand
how and why the American woman is what she is to-day.

For a long time to come, one of the principal reasons for the study of
the writings of America will lie, not in their intrinsic merit alone,
but in their revelations of American life, ideals, aspirations, and
social and intellectual endeavors. We Americans need what Professor
Shorey has called "the controlling consciousness of tradition." We have
not sufficiently regarded the bond that connects our present
institutions with their origins in the days of our forefathers. That is
one of the main purposes of this study, and the author believes that
through contributions of such a character he can render the national
intellectual spirit at least as valuable a service as he could through a
study of some legend of ancient Britain or some epic of an extinct race.
As Mr. Percy Boynton has said, "To foster in a whole generation some
clear recognition of other qualities in America than its bigness, and of
other distinctions between the past and the present than that they are
far apart is to contribute towards the consciousness of a national
individuality which is the first essential of national life.... We
must put our minds upon ourselves, we must look to our past and to our
present, and then intelligently to our future."

The author has endeavored to follow such advice by bringing forward
those qualities of colonial womanhood which have made for the
refinement, the intellectuality, the spirit, the aggressiveness, and
withal the genuine womanliness of the present-day American woman. As the
book is not intended for scholars alone, the author has felt free when
he had not original source material before him to quote now and then
from the studies of writers on other phases of colonial life--such as
the valuable books by Dr. Philip Alexander Bruce, Dr. John Bassett, Dr.
George Sydney Fisher, Charles C. Coffin, Alice Brown, Alice Morse Earle,
Anna Hollingsworth Wharton, and Geraldine Brooks.

The author believes that many misconceptions have crept into the mind of
the average reader concerning the life of colonial women--ideas, for
instance, of unending long-faced gloom, constant fear of pleasure,
repression of all normal emotions. It is hoped that this book will go
far toward clearing the mind of the reader of such misconceptions, by
showing that woman in colonial days knew love and passion, felt longing
and aspiration, used the heart and the brain, very much as does her
descendant of to-day.

For permission to quote from the works mentioned hereafter, the author
wishes to express his gratitude to Sydney G. Fisher and the J.B.
Lippincott Company (_Men, Women and Manners in Colonial Days_), Ralph L.
Bartlett, executor for Charles C. Coffin, (_Old Times in Colonial
Days_), Alice Brown and Charles Scribner's Sons (_Mercy Warren_), Philip
Alexander Bruce and the Macmillan Company (_Institutional History of
Virginia in the Seventeenth Century_), Anne H. Wharton (_Martha
Washington_), John Spencer Bassett (_Writings of Colonel Byrd_), Alice
Earle Hyde (_Alice Morse Earl's Child Life in Colonial Days_), Geraldine
Brooks and Thomas Y. Crowell Company (_Dames and Daughters of Colonial
Days_). The author wishes to acknowledge his deep indebtedness to the
late Sylvia Brady Holliday, whose untiring investigations of the subject
while a student under him contributed much to this book.




  I. The Spirit of Woman--The Suffering of Women--The Era of
     Adventure--Privation and Death in the First Colonial
     Days--Descriptions by Prince, Bradford, Johnson, etc.--Early

  II. Woman and Her Religion--Its Unyielding Quality--Its
     Repressive Effect on Woman--Wigglesworth's _Day of Doom_--What
     It Taught Woman--Necessity of Early Baptism--Edward's _Eternity of
     Hell Torment_--_Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God_--Effect
     on Womanhood--Personal Devils--Dangers of Earthly Love--God's
     Sudden Punishments.

  III. Inherited Nervousness--Fears in Childhood--Theological Precocity.

  IV. Woman's Day of Rest--Sabbath Rules and Customs--A Typical Sabbath.

  V. Religion and Woman's Foibles--Religious Regulations--Effect on
     Dress--Women's Singing in Church--Southern Opinion of Northern
     Severity--Effect of Feminine Repression.

  VI. Woman's Comfort in Religion--An Intolerant Era--Religious
     Gatherings for Women--Formal Meetings with Mrs. Hutchinson--Causes
     of Complaint--Meetings of Quaker Women.

  VII. Female Rebellion--The Antinomians--Activities of Anne
     Hutchinson--Her Doctrines--Her Banishment--Emotional Starvation--Dread
     of Heresy--Anne Hutchinson's Death.

  VIII. Woman and Witchcraft--Universal Belief in Witchcraft--Signs
     of Witchcraft--Causes of the Belief--Lack of Recreation--Origin
     of Witchcraft Mania--Echoes from the Trials--Waning of the Mania.

  IX. Religion Outside of New England--First Church in Virginia--Southern
     Strictness--Woman's Religious Testimony--Religious Sanity--The
     Dutch Church--General Conclusions.


  I. Feminine Ignorance--Reasons--The Evidence in Court Records--Dame's
     Schools--School Curriculum--Training in Home Duties.

  II. Woman's Education in the South--Jefferson's Advice--Private
     Tutors--General Interest in Education--Provision in Wills.

  III. Brilliant Exceptions to Female Ignorance--Southern and
     Northern Women Contrasted--Unusual Studies for Women--Eliza
     Pinckney--Jane Turell--Abigail Adams.

  IV. Practical Education--Abigail Adams' Opinion--Importance of
     Bookkeeping--Franklin's Advice.

  V. Educational Frills--Female Seminaries--Moravian
     Schools--Dancing--Etiquette--Rules for Eating--Mechanical Arts
     Toward Uprightness--Complaints of Educational Poverty--Fancy
     Sewing--General Conclusions.


  I. Charm of the Colonial Home--Lack of Counter Attractions--Neither
     Saints nor Sinners in the Home.

  II. Domestic Love and Confidence--The Winthrop Love Letters--Edwards'
     Rhapsody--Further Examples--Descriptions of Home Life--Mrs.
     Washington and Mrs. Hamilton at Home.

  III. Domestic Toil and Strain--South _vs._ North--Lack of
     Conveniences--Silver and Linen--Colonial Cooking--Cooking
     Utensils--Specimen Meals--Home Manufactures.

  IV. Domestic Pride--Effect of Anti-British Sentiment--Spinning

  V. Special Domestic Tasks--Supplying Necessities--Candles--Soap--Herbs
     --Neighborly Co-operation--Social "Bees."

  VI. The Size of the Family--Large Families an Asset--Astonishing
     Examples--Infant Death-Rate--Children as Workers.

  VII. Indian Attacks--Suffering of Captive Women--Mary Rowlandson's
     Account--Returning the Kidnapped.

  VIII. Parental Training--Co-operation Between Parents--Cotton Mather
     as Disciplinarian--Sewall's Methods--Eliza Pinckney's
     Motherliness--New York Mothers--Abigail Adams to Her Son.

  IX. Tributes to Colonial Mothers--Judge Sewall's Noble Words--Other
     Specimens of Praise--John Lawson's Views--Woman's Strengthening

  X. Interest in the Home--Franklin's Interest--Evidence from
     Jefferson--Sewall's Affection--Washington's Relaxation--John Adams
     with the Children--Examples of Considerateness--Mention of Gifts.

  XI. Woman's Sphere--Opposition to Broader Activities--A Sad
     Example--Opinions of Colonial Leaders--Woman's Contentment with Her
     Sphere--Woman's Helpfulness--Distress of Mrs. Benedict Arnold.

  XII. Women in Business--Husbands' Confidence in Wives'
     Shrewdness--Evidence from Franklin--Abigail Adams as Manager--General


  I. Dress Regulation by Law--Magistrate _vs._ Women--Fines.

  II. Contemporary Descriptions of Dress--Effect of Wealth and
     Travel--Madame Knight's Descriptions--Testimony by Sewall, Franklin,
     Abigail Adams.

  III. Raillery and Scolding--Nathaniel Ward on Woman's Costume--Newspaper
     Comments--Advertisement of _Hoop Petticoats_--Evidence on the Size
     of Hoops--Hair-Dressing--Feminine Replies to Raillery.

  IV. Extravagance in Dress--Chastellux's Opinion--Evidence from Account
     Books--Children's Dress--Fashions in Philadelphia and New York--A
     Gentleman's Dress--Dolly Madison's Costume--The Meschianza--A Ball
     Dress--Dolls as Models--Men's Jokes on Dress--Increase in Cost of


  I. Southern Isolation and Hospitality--Progress through Wealth--Care-free
     Life of the South--Social Effect of Tobacco Raising--Historians'
     Opinions of the Social Life--Early Growth of Virginia
     Hospitality--John Hammond's Description in 1656--Effect of Cavalier
     Blood--Beverly's Description of Virginia Social Life--Foreign
     Opinions of Virginia Luxury and Culture.

  II. Splendor in the Home--Pitman's Description of a Southern
     Mansion--Elegant Furnishings of the Time.

  III. Social Activities--Evidence in Invitations--Eliza Pinckney's Opinion
     of Carolinians--Open-House--Washington's Hospitable
     Record--Art and Music in the South--A Reception to a Bride--Old-Time
     Refreshments--Informal Visiting--A Letter by Mrs. Washington--Social
     Effects of Slow Travel.

  IV. New England Social Life--Social Influence of Public
     Opinion--Cautious Attitude Toward Pleasure--Social Origin of Yankee
     Inquisitiveness--Sewall's Records of Social Affairs--Pynchon's Records
     of a Century Later.

  V. Funerals as Recreations--Grim Pleasure in Attending--Funeral
     Cards--Gifts of Gloves, Rings, and Scarfs--Absence of
     Depression--Records of Sewall's Attendance--Wane of Gift-Giving--A
     New Amsterdam Funeral.

  VI. Trials and Executions--Puritan Itching for Morbid and
     Sensational--Frankness of Descriptions--Treatment of Condemned
     Criminals--The Public at Executions--Sewall's Description of an
     Execution--Coming of More Normal Entertainments--The Dancing
     Master Arrives.

  VII. Special Social Days--Lecture Day--Prayers for the Afflicted--Fast
     Days--Scant Attention to Thanksgiving and Christmas--How Bradford
     Stopped Christmas Observation--Sewall's Records of Christmas--A
     Century Later.

  VIII. Social Restrictions--Josselyn's Account of New England
     Restraints--Growing Laxity--Sarah Knight's Description--Severity
     in 1780--Laws Against Lodging Relatives of the Opposite Sex--What
     Could not be Done in 1650--Husking Parties and Other Community

  IX. Dutch Social Life--Its Pleasant Familiarity--Mrs. Grant's
     Description of Early New York--Normal Pleasures--Love of Flowers
     and Children--Love of Eating--Mrs. Grant's Record--Disregard for
     Religion--Mating the Children--Picnicking--Peculiar Customs at
     Dutch Funerals.

  X. British Social Influences--Increase of Wealth--The Schuyler
     Home--Mingling of Gaiety and Economy--A Description in 1757--Foreign
     Astonishment at New York Display--Richness of Woman's
     Adornment--Card-Playing and Dancing--Gambling in Society.

  XI. Causes of Display and Frivolity--Washington's Punctiliousness--Mrs.
     Washington's Dislike of Stateliness--Disgust of the
     Democratic--Senator Maclay's Description of a Dinner by
     Washington--Permanent Benefit of Washington's Formality--Elizabeth
     Southgate's Record of New York Pastimes.

  XII. Society in Philadelphia--Social Welcome for the British--Early
     Instruction in Dancing--Formal Dancing Assemblies.

  XIII. The Beauty of Philadelphia Women--Abigail Adams' Description--The
     Accomplished Mrs. Bingham--Introduction of Social Fads--Contrasts
     with New York Belles.

  XIV. Social Functions--Lavish Use of Wealth at Philadelphia--Washington's
     Birthday--Martha Washington in Philadelphia--Domestic Ability of the
     Belles--Franklin and his Daughter--General Wayne's Statement about
     Philadelphia Gaiety.

  XV. Theatrical Performances--Their Growth in Popularity--Washington's
     Liking for Them--Mrs. Adams' Description--First Performance in
     New York, Charleston, Williamsburg, Baltimore--Invading the
     Stage--Throwing Missiles.

  XVI. Strange Customs in Louisiana--Passion for Pleasure--Influence of
     Creoles and Negroes--Habitat for Sailors and West Indian
     Ruffians--Reasons for Vice--Accounts by Berquin-Duvallon--Commonness
     of Concubinage--Alliott's Description--Reasons for Aversion to
     Marriage--Corruptness of Fathers and Sons--Drawing the Color
     Line--Race Prejudice at Balls--Fine Qualities of Louisiana White
     Women--Excess in Dress--Lack of Education--Berquin-Duvallon's
     Disgust--The Murder of Babes--General Conclusions.


  I. New England Weddings--Lack of Ceremony and Merrymaking--Freedom of
     Choice for Women--The Parents' Permission--Evidence from
     Sewall--Penalty for Toying with the Heart--The Dowry.

  II. Judge Sewall's Courtships--Independence of Colonial Women--Sewall
     and Madam Winthrop--His Friends' Urgings--His Marriage to Mrs.
     Tilley--Madam Winthrop's Hard-Hearted Manner--Sewall Looks
     Elsewhere for a Wife--Success Again.

  III. Liberty to Choose--Eliza Pinckney's Letter on the Matter--Betty
     Sewall's Rejection of Lovers.

  IV. The Banns and the Ceremony--Banns Required in Nearly all
     Colonies--Prejudice against the Service of Preachers--Sewall's
     Descriptions of Weddings--Sewall's Efforts to Prevent Preachers
     from Officiating--Refreshments at Weddings--Increase in Hilarity.

  V. Matrimonial Restrictions--Reasons for Them--Frequency of
     Bigamy--Monthly Fines--Marriage with Relatives.

  VI. Spinsters--Youthful Marriages--Bachelors and Spinsters Viewed with
     Suspicion--Fate of Old Maids--Description of a Boston Spinster.

  VII. Separation and Divorce--Rarity of Them--Separation in Sewall's
     Family--Its Tragedy and Comedy.

  VIII. Marriage in Pennsylvania--Approach Toward Laxness--Ben
     Franklin's Marriage--Quaker Marriages--Strange Mating among
     Moravians--Dutch Marriages.

  IX. Marriage in the South--Church Service Required by Public
     Sentiment--Merrymaking--Buying Wives--Indented Servants--John
     Hammond's Account of Them.

  X. Romance in Marriage--Benedict Arnold's Proposal--Hamilton's
     Opinion of His "Betty"--The Charming Romance of Agnes Surrage.

  XI. Feminine Independence--Treason at the Tongue's End--Independence
     of the Schuyler Girls.

  XII. Matrimonial Advice--Jane Turell's Advice to Herself.

  XIII. Matrimonial Irregularities--Frequency of Them--Cause of Such
     Troubles--Winthrop's Records of Cases--Death as a Penalty--Law
     against Marriage of Relatives--No Discrimination in Punishment
     because of Sex--Sewall's Accounts of Executions--Use of the
     Scarlet Letter--Records by Howard--Custom of Bundling--Its
     Origin--Adultery between Indented White Women and
     Negroes--Punishment in Virginia--Instances of the Social Evil in
     New England--Less Shame among Colonial Men.

  XIV. Violent Speech and Action--Rebellious Speech against the
    Church--Amazonian Wives--Citations from Court Records--Punishment
    for Slander.


  I. Religious Initiative--Anne Hutchinson's Use of Brains--Bravery
     of Quaker Women--Perseverance of Mary Dyer--Martyrdom of Quakers.

  II. Commercial Initiative--Dabbling in State Affairs--Women as
     Merchants--Mrs. Franklin in Business--Pay for Women
     Teachers--Women as Plantation Managers--Example of Eliza
     Pinckney--Her Busy Day--Martha Washington as Manager.

  III. Woman's Legal Powers--Right to Own and Will Property--John
     Todd's Will--A Church Attempts to Cheat a Woman--Astonishing
     Career of Margaret Brent--Women Fortify Boston Neck--Tompson's
     Satire on it--Feminine Initiative at Nantucket.

  IV. Patriotic Initiative and Courage--Evidence from Letters--The
     Anxiety of the Women--Women Near the Firing-Line--Mrs. Adams in
     Danger--Martha Washington's Valor--Mrs. Pinckney's Optimism--Her
     Financial Distress--Entertaining the Enemy--Marion's Escape--Mrs.
     Pinckney's Presence of Mind--Abigail Adams' Brave Words--Her
     Description of a Battle--Man's Appreciation of Woman's
     Bravery--Mercy Warren's Calmness--Catherine Schuyler's Valiant
     Deed--How She Treated Burgoyne--Some General Conclusions.






_I. The Spirit of Woman_

With what a valiant and unyielding spirit our forefathers met the
unspeakable hardships of the first days of American colonization! We of
these softer and more abundant times can never quite comprehend what
distress, what positive suffering those bold souls of the seventeenth
century endured to establish a new people among the nations of the
world. The very voyage from England to America might have daunted the
bravest of spirits. Note but this glimpse from an account by Colonel
Norwood in his _Voyage to Virginia_: "Women and children made dismal
cries and grievous complaints. The infinite number of rats that all the
voyage had been our plague, we now were glad to make our prey to feed
on; and as they were insnared and taken a well grown rat was sold for
sixteen shillings as a market rate. Nay, before the voyage did end (as I
was credibly informed) a woman great with child offered twenty shillings
for a rat, which the proprietor refusing, the woman died."

That was an era of restless, adventurous spirits--men and women filled
with the rich and danger-loving blood of the Elizabethan day. We should
recall that every colony of the original thirteen, except Georgia, was
founded in the seventeenth century when the energy of that great and
versatile period of the Virgin Queen had not yet dissipated itself. The
spirit that moved Ben Jonson and Shakespeare to undertake the new and
untried in literature was the same spirit that moved John Smith and his
cavaliers to invade the Virginia wilderness, and the Pilgrim Fathers to
found a commonwealth for freedom's sake on a stern and rock-bound coast.
It was the day of Milton, Dryden, and Bunyan, the day of the
Protectorate with its fanatical defenders, the day of the rise and fall
of British Puritanism, the day of the Revolution of 1688 which forever
doomed the theory of the divine rights of monarchs, the day of the
bloody Thirty Years' War with its consequent downfall of aristocracy,
the day of the Grand Monarch in France with its accumulating
preparations for the destruction of kingly lights and the rise of the

In such an age we can but expect bold adventures. The discovery and
exploration of the New World and the defeat of the Spanish Armada had
now made England monarch of sea and land. The imagination of the people
was aroused, and tales of a wealth like that of Croesus came from
mariners who had sailed the seven seas, and were willingly believed by
an excited audience. Indeed the nations stood ready with open-mouthed
wonder to accept all stories, no matter how marvelous or preposterous.
America suddenly appeared to all people as the land that offered wealth,
religious and political freedom, a home for the poor, a refuge for the
persecuted, in truth, a paradise for all who would begin life anew.
With such a vision and with such a spirit many came. The same energy
that created a Lear and a Hamlet created a Jamestown and a Plymouth.
Shakespeare was at the height of his career when Jamestown was settled,
and had been dead less than five years when the Puritans landed at
Plymouth. Impelled by the soul of such a day Puritan and Cavalier sought
the new land, hoping to find there that which they had been unable to
attain in the Old World.

While from the standpoint of years the Cavalier colony at Jamestown
might be entitled to the first discussion, it is with the Puritans that
we shall begin this investigation. For, with the Puritan Fathers came
the Puritan Mothers, and while the influence of those fathers on
American civilization has been too vast ever to be adequately described,
the influence of those brave pioneer women, while less ostentatious, is
none the less powerful.

What perils, what distress, what positive torture, not only physical but
mental, those first mothers of America experienced! Sickness and famine
were their daily portion in life. Their children, pushing ever westward,
also underwent untold toil and distress, but not to the degree known by
those founders of New England; for when the settlements of the later
seventeenth century were established some part of the rawness and
newness had worn away, friends were not far distant, supplies were not
wanting for long periods, and if the privations were intense, there were
always the original settlements to fall back upon. Hear what Thomas
Prince in his _Annals of New England_, published in 1726, has to say of
those first days in the Plymouth Colony:

"March 24. (1621) N.B. This month Thirteen of our number die. And in
three months past die Half our Company. The greatest part in the depth
of winter, wanting houses and other comforts; being infected with the
scurvy and other diseases, which their long voyage and unaccommodate
conditions bring upon them. So as there die, sometimes, two or three a
day. Of one hundred persons, scarce fifty remain. The living scarce able
to bury the dead; the well not sufficient to tend the sick: there being,
in their time of greatest distress, but six or seven; who spare no pains
to help them.... But the spring advancing, it pleases GOD, the mortality
begins to cease; and the sick and lame to recover: which puts new life
into the people; though they had borne their sad affliction with as much
patience as any could do."[1]

Indeed, as we read of that struggle with famine, sickness, and death
during the first few years of the Plymouth Colony we can but marvel that
human flesh and human soul could withstand the onslaught. The brave old
colonist Bradford, confirms in his _History of Plymouth Plantation_ the
stories told by others: "But that which was most sad and lamentable, was
that in two or three months' time half of their company died, especially
in January and February, being the depth of winter ... that of one
hundred and odd persons scarce fifty remained: and of these in the time
of most distress there was but six or seven sound persons; who to their
great commendations, be it spoken, spared no pains, night nor day, but
with abundance of toil and hazard of their own health, fetched them
wood, made them fires, ... in a word did all the homely, and necessary
offices for them."

The conditions were the same whether in the Plymouth or in the
Massachusetts Bay Colony. And yet how brave--how pathetically brave--was
the colonial woman under every affliction. In hours when a less valiant
womanhood would have sunk in despair these wives and mothers
strengthened one another and praised God for the humble sustenance He
allowed them. The sturdy colonist, Edward Johnson, in his _Wonder
Working Providence of Zions Saviour in New England_, writing of the
privations of 1631, the year after his colony had been founded, pays
this tribute to the help-meets of the men:

"The women once a day, as the tide gave way, resorted to the mussels,
and clambanks, which are a fish as big as horse-mussels, where they
daily gathered their families' food with much heavenly discourse of the
provisions Christ had formerly made for many thousands of his followers
in the wilderness. Quoth one, 'My husband hath travelled as far as
Plymouth (which is near forty miles), and hath with great toil brought a
little corn home with him, and before that is spent the Lord will
assuredly provide.' Quoth the other, 'Our last peck of meal is now in
the oven at home a-baking, and many of our godly neighbors have quite
spent all, and we owe one loaf of that little we have.' Then spake a
third, 'My husband hath ventured himself among the Indians for corn, and
can get none, as also our honored Governor hath distributed his so far,
that a day or two more will put an end to his store, and all the rest,
and yet methinks our children are as cheerful, fat and lusty with
feeding upon these mussels, clambanks, and other fish, as they were in
England with their fill of bread, which makes me cheerful in the Lord's
providing for us, being further confirmed by the exhortation of our
pastor to trust the Lord with providing for us; whose is the earth and
the fulness thereof.'"

It is a genuine pleasure to us of little faith to note that such trust
was indeed justified; for, continued Johnson: "As they were encouraging
one another in Christ's careful providing for them, they lift up their
eyes and saw two ships coming in, and presently this news came to their
ears, that they were come--full of victuals.... After this manner did
Christ many times graciously provide for this His people, even at the
last cast."

If we will stop to consider the fact that many of these women of the
Massachusetts Bay Colony were accustomed to the comfortable living of
the middle-class country people of England, with considerable material
wealth and even some of the luxuries of modern civilization, we may
imagine, at least in part, the terrifying contrast met with in the New
World. For conditions along the stormy coast of New England were indeed
primitive. Picture the founding, for instance, of a town that later was
destined to become the home of philosopher and seer--Concord,
Massachusetts. Says Johnson in his _Wonder Working Providence_:

"After they had thus found out a place of abode they burrow themselves
in the earth for their first shelter, under some hillside, casting the
earth aloft upon timber; they make a smoke fire against the earth at the
highest side and thus these poor servants of Christ provide shelter for
themselves, their wives and little ones, keeping off the short showers
from their lodgings, but the long rains penetrate through to their great
disturbance in the night season. Yet in these poor wigwams they sing
psalms, pray and praise their God till they can provide them houses,
which ordinarily was not wont to be with many till the earth by the
Lord's blessing brought forth bread to feed them, their wives and little
ones.... Thus this poor people populate this howling desert, marching
manfully on, the Lord assisting, through the greatest difficulties and
sorest labors that ever any with such weak means have done."

And Margaret Winthrop writes thus to her step-son in England: "When I
think of the troublesome times and manyfolde destractions that are in
our native Countrye, I thinke we doe not pryse oure happinesse heare as
we have cause, that we should be in peace when so many troubles are in
most places of the world."

Many another quotation could be presented to emphasize the impressions
given above. Reading these after the lapse of nearly three centuries, we
marvel at the strength, the patience, the perseverance, the imperishable
hope, trust, and faith of the Puritan woman. Such hardships and
privations as have been described above might seem sufficient; but these
were by no means all or even the greatest of the trials of womanhood in
the days of the nation's childhood. To understand in any measure at all
the life of a child or a wife or a mother of the Puritan colonies with
its strain and suffering, we must know and comprehend her religion. Let
us examine this--the dominating influence of her life.

_II. Woman and Her Religion_

Paradoxical as it may seem, religion was to the colonial woman both a
blessing and a curse. Though it gave courage and some comfort it was as
hard and unyielding as steel. We of this later hour may well shudder
when we read the sermons of Cotton Mather and Jonathan Edwards; but if
the mere reading causes astonishment after the lapse of these hundreds
of years, what terror the messages must have inspired in those who lived
under their terrific indictments, prophecies, and warnings. Here was a
religion based on Judaism and the Mosaic code, "an eye for an eye, and a
tooth for a tooth." Moses Coit Tyler has declared in his _History of
American Literature_:[2] "They did not attempt to combine the sacred and
the secular; they simply abolished the secular and left only the sacred.
The state became the church; the king a priest; politics a department of
theology; citizenship the privilege of those only who had received
baptism and the Lord's Supper."

And what an idea of the sacred was theirs! The gentleness, the mercy,
the loving kindness that are of God so seldom enter into those ancient
discussions that such attributes are almost negligible. Michael
Wigglesworth's poem, _The Day of Doom_, published in 1662, may be
considered as an authoritative treatise on the theology of the Puritans;
for it not only was so popular as to receive several reprints, but was
sanctioned by the elders of the church themselves. If this was
orthodoxy--and the proof that it was is evident--it was of a sort that
might well sour and embitter the nature of man and fill the gentle soul
of womanhood with fear and dark forebodings. We well know that the
Puritans thoroughly believed that man's nature was weak and sinful, and
that the human soul was a prisoner placed here upon earth by the Creator
to be surrounded with temptations. This God is good, however, in that he
has given man an opportunity to overcome the surrounding evils.

    "But I'm a prisoner,
      Under a heavy chain;
    Almighty God's afflicting hand,
      Doth me by force restrain.

           *       *       *       *       *

    "But why should I complain
      That have so good a God,
    That doth mine heart with comfort fill
      Ev'n whilst I feel his rod?

           *       *       *       *       *

    "Let God be magnified,
      Whose everlasting strength
    Upholds me under sufferings
      Of more than ten years' length."

The _Day of Doom_ is, in the main, its author's vision of judgment day,
and, whatever artistic or theological defects it may have, it undeniably
possesses realism. For instance, several stanzas deal with one of the
most dreadful doctrines of the Puritan faith, that all infants who died
unbaptized entered into eternal torment--a theory that must have
influenced profoundly the happiness and woe of colonial women. The poem
describes for us what was then believed should be the scene on that
final day when young and old, heathen and Christian, saint and sinner,
are called before their God to answer for their conduct in the flesh.
Hear the plea of the infants, who dying, at birth before baptism could
be administered, asked to be relieved from punishment on the grounds
that they have committed no sin.

    "If for our own transgression,
      or disobedience,
    We here did stand at thy left hand,
      just were the Recompense;
    But Adam's guilt our souls hath spilt,
      his fault is charg'd upon us;
    And that alone hath overthrown and utterly
      undone us."

Pointing out that it was Adam who ate of the tree and that they were
innocent, they ask:

    "O great Creator, why was our nature
      depraved and forlorn?
    Why so defil'd, and made so vil'd,
      whilst we were yet unborn?
    If it be just, and needs we must
      transgressors reckon'd be,
    Thy mercy, Lord, to us afford,
      which sinners hath set free."

But the Creator answers:

    "God doth such doom forbid,
    That men should die eternally
      for what they never did.
    But what you call old Adam's fall,
      and only his trespass,
    You call amiss to call it his,
      both his and yours it was."

The Judge then inquires why, since they would have received the
pleasures and joys which Adam could have given them, the rewards and
blessings, should they hesitate to share his "treason."

    "Since then to share in his welfare,
      you could have been content,
    You may with reason share in his treason,
      and in the punishment,
    Hence you were born in state forlorn,
      with natures so depraved
    Death was your due because that you
      had thus yourselves behaved.

           *       *       *       *       *

    "Had you been made in Adam's stead,
      you would like things have wrought,
    And so into the self-same woe
      yourselves and yours have brought."

Then follows a reprimand upon the part of the judge because they should
presume to question His judgments, and to ask for mercy:

    "Will you demand grace at my hand,
      and challenge what is mine?
    Will you teach me whom to set free,
      and thus my grace confine.

    "You sinners are, and such a share
      as sinners may expect;
    Such you shall have, for I do save
      none but mine own Elect.

    "Yet to compare your sin with theirs
      who liv'd a longer time,
    I do confess yours is much less
      though every sin's a crime.

    "A crime it is, therefore in bliss
      you may not hope to dwell;
    But unto you I shall allow
      the easiest room in Hell."

Would not this cause anguish to the heart of any mother? Indeed, we
shall never know what intense anxiety the Puritan woman may have
suffered during the few days intervening between the hour of the birth
and the date of the baptism of her infant. It is not surprising,
therefore, that an exceedingly brief period was allowed to elapse before
the babe was taken from its mother's arms and carried through snow and
wind to the desolate church. Judge Sewall, whose _Diary_ covers most of
the years from 1686 to 1725, and who records every petty incident from
the cutting of his finger to the blowing off of the Governor's hat, has
left us these notes on the baptism of some of his fourteen children:

"April 8, 1677. Elizabeth Weeden, the Midwife, brought the infant to
the third Church when Sermon was about half done in the afternoon ...
I named him John." (Five days after birth.)[3] "Sabbath-day, December
13th 1685. Mr. Willard baptizeth my Son lately born, whom I named
Henry." (Four days after birth.)[4] "February 6, 1686-7. Between 3 and
4 P.M. Mr. Willard baptized my Son, whom I named Stephen." (Five days
after birth.)[5]

Little wonder that infant mortality was exceedingly high, especially
when the baptismal service took place on a day as cold as this one
mentioned by Sewall: "Sabbath, Janr. 24 ... This day so cold that the
Sacramental Bread is frozen pretty hard, and rattles sadly as broken
into the Plates."[6] We may take it for granted that the water in the
font was rapidly freezing, if not entirely frozen, and doubtless the
babe, shrinking under the icy touch, felt inclined to give up the
struggle for existence, and decline a further reception into so cold
and forbidding a world. Once more hear a description by the kindly,
but abnormally orthodox old Judge: "Lord's Day, Jany 15, 1715-16. An
extraordinary Cold Storm of Wind and Snow.... Bread was frozen at the
Lord's Table: Though 'twas so Cold, yet John Tuckerman was baptised.
At six a-clock my ink freezes so that I can hardly write by a good
fire in my Wive's Chamber. Yet was very Comfortable at Meeting. Laus

But let us pass to other phases of this theology under which the Puritan
woman lived. The God pictured in the _Day of Doom_ not only was of a
cruel and angry nature but was arbitrary beyond modern belief. His wrath
fell according to his caprice upon sinner or saint. We are tempted to
inquire as to the strange mental process that could have led any human
being to believe in such a Creator. Regardless of doctrine, creed, or
theology, we cannot totally dissociate our earthly mental condition from
that in the future state; we cannot refuse to believe that we shall have
the same intelligent mind, and the same ability to understand, perceive,
and love. Apparently, however, the Puritan found no difficulty in
believing that the future existence entailed an entire change in the
principles of love and in the emotions of sympathy and pity.

      "He that was erst a husband pierc'd
        with sense of wife's distress,
      Whose tender heart did bear a part
        of all her grievances.
      Shall mourn no more as heretofore,
          because of her ill plight,
      Although he see her now to be
          a damn'd forsaken wight.

      "The tender mother will own no other
          of all her num'rous brood
      But such as stand at Christ's right hand,
          acquitted through his Blood.
      The pious father had now much rather
          his graceless son should lie
      In hell with devils, for all his evils,
          burning eternally."

                      (_Day of Doom._)

But we do not have to trust to Michael Wigglesworth's poem alone for a
realistic conception of the God and the religion of the Puritans. It is
in the sermons of the day that we discover a still more unbending,
harsh, and hideous view of the Creator and his characteristics. In the
thunderings of Cotton Mather and Jonathan Edwards, we, like the colonial
women who sat so meekly in the high, hard benches, may fairly smell the
brimstone of the Nether World. Why, exclaims Jonathan Edwards in his
sermon, _The Eternity of Hell Torments_:

"Do but consider what it is to suffer extreme torment forever and ever;
to suffer it day and night, from one day to another, from one year to
another, from one age to another, from one thousand ages to another, and
so, adding age to age, and thousands to thousands, in pain, in wailing
and lamenting, groaning and shrieking, and gnashing your teeth; with
your souls full of dreadful grief and amazement, with your bodies and
every member full of racking torture, without any possibility of
getting ease; without any possibility of moving God to pity by your
cries; without any possibility of hiding yourselves from him.... How
dismal will it be, when you are under these racking torments, to know
assuredly that you never, never shall be delivered from them; to have no
hope; when you shall wish that you might but be turned into nothing, but
shall have no hope of it; when you shall wish that you might be turned
into a toad or a serpent, but shall have no hope of it; when you would
rejoice, if you might but have any relief, after you shall have endured
these torments millions of ages, but shall have no hope of it; when
after you shall have worn out the age of the sun, moon, and stars, in
your dolorous groans and lamentations, without any rest day or night,
when after you shall have worn out a thousand more such ages, yet you
shall have no hope, but shall know that you are not one whit nearer to
the end of your torments; but that still there are the same groans, the
same shrieks, the same doleful cries, incessantly to be made by you, and
that the smoke of your torment shall still ascend up, forever and ever;
and that your souls, which shall have been agitated with the wrath of
God all this while, yet will still exist to bear more wrath; your
bodies, which shall have been burning and roasting all this while in
these glowing flames, yet shall not have been consumed, but will remain
to roast through an eternity yet, which will not have been at all
shortened by what shall have been past."

When we remember that to the Puritan man, woman, or child the message of
the preacher meant the message of God, we may imagine what effect such
words had on a colonial congregation. To the overwrought nerves of many
a Puritan woman, taught to believe meekly the doctrines of her father,
and weakened in body by ceaseless childbearing and unending toil, such a
picture must indeed have been terrifying. And the God that she and her
husband heard described Sabbath after Sabbath was not only heartily
willing to condemn man to eternal torment but capable of enjoying the
tortures of the damned, and gloating in strange joy over the writhings
of the condemned. Is it any wonder that in the midst of Jonathan
Edward's sermon, _Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God_, men and women
sprang to their feet and shrieked in anguish, "What shall we do to be

"The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a
spider, or some loathsome insect, over the fire, abhors you and is
dreadfully provoked; his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks
upon you as worthy of nothing else but to be cast into the fire; he is
of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten
thousand times as abominable in his eyes, as the most hateful and
venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than
ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand
that holds you from falling into the fire every moment; it is ascribed
to nothing else that you did not go to hell the last night; that you was
suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to
sleep; and there is no other reason to be given why you have not dropped
into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God's hand has held
you up; there is no other reason to be given why you have not gone to
hell, since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking his pure
eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his solemn worship: yea,
there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you do not
this very moment drop down into hell."

Under such teachings the girl of colonial New England grew into
womanhood; with such thoughts in mind she saw her children go down into
the grave; with such forebodings she herself passed out into an
uncertain Hereafter. Nor was there any escape from such sermons; for
church attendance was for many years compulsory, and even when not
compulsory, was essential for those who did not wish to be politically
and socially ostracized. The preachers were not, of course, required to
give proof for their declarations; they might well have announced, "Thus
saith the Lord," but they preferred to enter into disquisitions
bristling with arguments and so-called logical deductions. For instance,
note in Edwards' sermon, _Why Saints in Glory will Rejoice to see the
Torments of the Damned_, the chain of reasoning leading to the
conclusion that those enthroned in heaven shall find joy in the unending
torture of their less fortunate neighbors:

"They will rejoice in seeing the _justice_ of God glorified in the
sufferings of the damned. The misery of the damned, dreadful as it is,
is but what justice requires. They in heaven will see and know it much
more clearly than any of us do here. They will see how perfectly just
and righteous their punishment is and therefore how properly inflicted
by the supreme Governor of the world.... They will rejoice when they see
him who is their Father and eternal portion so glorious in his justice.
The sight of this strict and immutable justice of God will render him
amiable and adorable in their eyes. It will occasion rejoicing in them,
as they will have the greater sense of _their own happiness_, by seeing
the contrary misery. It is the nature of pleasure and pain, of happiness
and misery, greatly to heighten the sense of each other.... When they
shall see how miserable others of their fellow-creatures are, who were
naturally in the same circumstances with themselves; when they shall see
the smoke of their torment, and the raging of the flames of their
burning, and hear their dolorous shrieks and cries, and consider that
they in the meantime are in the most blissful state, and shall surely be
in it to all eternity; how will they rejoice!... When they shall see the
dreadful miseries of the damned, and consider that they deserved the
same misery, and that it was sovereign grace, and nothing else, which
made them so much to differ from the damned, that if it had not been for
that, they would have been in the same condition; but that God from all
eternity was pleased to set his love upon them, that Christ hath laid
down his life for them, and hath made them thus gloriously happy
forever, O how will they adore that dying love of Christ, which has
redeemed them from so great a misery, and purchased for them so great
happiness, and has so distinguished them from others of their

It was a strange creed that led men to teach such theories. And when we
learn that Jonathan Edwards was a man of singular gentleness and
kind-heartedness, we realize that it must have tortured him to preach
such doctrines, but that he believed it his sacred duty to do so.

The religion, however, that the Puritan woman imbibed from girlhood to
old age went further than this; it taught the theory of a personal
devil. To the New England colonists Satan was a very real individual
capable of taking to himself a physical form with the proverbial tail,
horns, and hoofs. Hear what Cotton Mather, one of the most eminent
divines of early Massachusetts, has to say in his _Memorable
Providences_ about this highly personal Satan: "There is both a God and
a Devil and Witchcraft: That there is no out-ward Affliction, but what
God may (and sometimes doth) permit Satan to trouble his people withal:
That the Malice of Satan and his Instruments, is very great against the
Children of God: That the clearest Gospel-Light shining in a place, will
not keep some from entering hellish Contracts with infernal Spirits:
That Prayer is a powerful and effectual Remedy against the malicious
practices of Devils and those in Covenant with them."[8]

And His Satanic Majesty had legions of followers, equally insistent on
tormenting humanity. In _The Wonders of the Invisible World_, published
in 1692, Mather proves that there is a devil and that the being has
specific attributes, powers, and limitations:

     "A devil is a fallen angel, an angel fallen from the fear and
     love of God, and from all celestial glories; but fallen to all
     manner of wretchedness and cursedness.... There are multitudes,
     multitudes, in the valley of destruction, where the devils are!
     When we speak of the devil, 'tis a name of multitude.... The
     devils they swarm about us, like the frogs of Egypt, in the most
     retired of our chambers. Are we at our boards? beds? There will
     be devils to tempt us into carnality. Are we in our shops? There
     will be devils to tempt us into dishonesty. Yea, though we get
     into the church of God, there will be devils to haunt us in the
     very temple itself, and there tempt us to manifold misbehaviors.
     I am verily persuaded that there are very few human affairs
     whereinto some devils are not insinuated. There is not so much as
     a journey intended, but Satan will have an hand in hindering or
     furthering of it."

     "...'Tis to be supposed, that there is a sort of arbitrary, even
     military government, among the devils.... These devils have a
     prince over them, who is king over the children of pride. 'Tis
     probable that the devil, who was the ringleader of that mutinous
     and rebellious crew which first shook off the authority of God,
     is now the general of those hellish armies; our Lord that
     conquered him has told us the name of him; 'tis Belzebub; 'tis he
     that is the devil and the rest are his angels, or his
     soldiers.... 'Tis to be supposed that some devils are more
     peculiarly commission'd, and perhaps qualify'd, for some
     countries, while others are for others.... It is not likely that
     every devil does know every language; or that every devil can do
     every mischief. 'Tis possible that the experience, or, if I may
     call it so, the education of all devils is not alike, and that
     there may be some difference in their abilities...."

What was naturally the effect of such a faith upon the sensitive nerves
of the women of those days? Viewed in its larger aspects this was an
objective, not a subjective religion. It could but make the sensitive
soul super-sensitive, introspective, morbidly alive to uncanny and weird
suggestions, and strangely afraid of the temptation of enjoying earthly
pleasures. Its followers dared not allow themselves to become deeply
attached to anything temporal; for such an emotion was the device of the
devil, and God would surely remove the object of such affection. Whether
through anger or jealousy or kindness, the Creator did this, the Puritan
woman seems not to have stopped to consider; her belief was sufficient
that earthly desires and even natural love must be repressed. Winthrop,
a staunch supporter of colonial New England creeds as well as of
independence, gives us an example of God's actions in such a matter: "A
godly woman of the church of Boston, dwelling sometime in London,
brought with her a parcel of very fine linen of great value, which she
set her heart too much upon, and had been at charge to have it all newly
washed, and curiously folded and pressed, and so left it in press in her
parlor over night." Through the carelessness of a servant, the package
caught on fire and was totally destroyed. "But it pleased God that the
loss of this linen did her much good, both in taking off her heart from
worldly comforts, and in preparing her for a far greater affliction by
the untimely death of her husband...."[9]

Especially did this doctrine apply to the love of human beings. How
often must it have grieved the Puritan mother to realize that she must
exercise unceasing care lest she love her children too intensely! For
the passionate love of a mother for her babe was but a rash temptation
to an ever-watchful and ever-jealous God to snatch the little one away.
Preachers declared it in the pulpit, and writers emphasized it in their
books; the trusting and faithful woman dared not believe otherwise.
Once more we may turn to Winthrop for proof of this terrifying doctrine:

"God will be sanctified in them that come near him. Two others were the
children of one of the Church of Boston. While their parents were at the
lecture, the boy (being about seven years of age), having a small staff
in his hand, ran down upon the ice towards a boat he saw, and the ice
breaking, he fell in, but his staff kept him up, till his sister, about
fourteen years old, ran down to save her brother (though there were four
men at hand, and called to her not to go, being themselves hasting to
save him) and so drowned herself and him also, being past recovery ere
the men could come at them, and could easily reach ground with their
feet. The parents had no more sons, and confessed they had been too
indulgent towards him, and had set their hearts overmuch upon him."[10]

And again, what mother could be certain that punishment for her own
petty errors might not be wreaked upon her innocent child? For the faith
of the day did not demand that the sinner receive upon himself the
recompense for his deeds; the mighty Ruler above could and would
arbitrarily choose as the victim the offspring of an erring parent. Says
Winthrop in the _History of New England_, mentioned above:

"This puts me in mind of another child very strangely drowned a little
before winter. The parents were also members of the church of Boston.
The father had undertaken to maintain the mill-dam, and being at work
upon it (with some help he had hired), in the afternoon of the last day
of the week, night came upon them before they had finished what they
intended, and his conscience began to put him in mind of the Lord's day,
and he was troubled, yet went on and wrought an hour within night. The
next day, after evening exercise, and after they had supped, the mother
put two children to bed in the room where themselves did lie, and they
went out to visit a neighbor. When they returned, they continued about
an hour in the room, and missed not the child, but then the mother going
to the bed, and not finding her youngest child (a daughter about five
years of age), after much search she found it drowned in a well in her
cellar; which was very observable, as by a special hand of God, that the
child should go out of that room into another in the dark, and then fall
down at a trap-door, or go down the stairs, and so into the well in the
farther end of the cellar, the top of the well and the water being even
with the ground. But the father, freely in the open congregation, did
acknowledge it the righteous hand of God for his profaning his holy day
against the checks of his own conscience."

There was a certain amount of pitiable egotism in all this. Seemingly
God had very little to do except watch the Puritans. It reminds one of
the two resolutions tradition says that some Puritan leader suggested:
Resolved, firstly, that the saints shall inherit the earth; resolved,
secondly, that we are the saints. A supernatural or divine explanation
seems to have been sought for all events; natural causes were too
frequently ignored. The super-sensitive almost morbid nature resulting
from such an attitude caused far-fetched hypotheses; God was in every
incident and every act or accident. We may turn again to Winthrop's
_History_ for an illustration:

"1648. The synod met at Cambridge. Mr. Allen preached. It fell out,
about the midst of his sermon, there came a snake into the seat where
many elders sate behind the preacher. Divers elders shifted from it, but
Mr. Thomson, one of the elders of Braintree, (a man of much faith) trod
upon the head of it, until it was killed. This being so remarkable, and
nothing falling out but by divine providence, it is out of doubt, the
Lord discovered somewhat of his mind in it. The serpent is the devil;
the synod, the representative of the churches of Christ in New England.
The devil had formerly and lately attempted their disturbance and
dissolution; but their faith in the seed of the woman overcame him and
crushed his head."

There was a further belief that God in hasty anger often wreaked instant
vengeance upon those who displeased Him, and this doctrine doubtless
kept many a Puritan in constant dread lest the hour of retribution
should come upon him without warning. How often the mother of those days
must have admonished in all sincerity her child not to do this or that
lest God strike the sudden blow of death in retribution. Numerous indeed
are the examples presented of sinners who paid thus abruptly the penalty
for transgression. Let Increase Mather speak through his _Essay for the
Recording of Illustrious Providences_:

"The hand of God was very remarkable in that which came to pass in the
Narragansett country in New England, not many weeks since; for I have
good information, that on August 28, 1683, a man there (viz. Samuel
Wilson) having caused his dog to mischief his neighbor's cattle was
blamed for his so doing. He denied the fact with imprecations, wishing
that he might never stir from that place if he had so done. His neighbor
being troubled at his denying the truth, reproved him, and told him he
did very ill to deny what his conscience knew to be truth. The atheist
thereupon used the name of God in his imprecations, saying, 'He wished
to God he might never stir out of that place, if he had done that which
he was charged with.' The words were scarce out of his mouth before he
sunk down dead, and never stirred more; a son-in-law of his standing by
and catching him as he fell to the ground."

And if further proof of the swiftness with which God may act is desired,
Increase Mather's _Illustrious Providences_ may again be cited: "A thing
not unlike this happened (though not in New England yet) in America,
about a year ago; for in September, 1682, a man at the Isle of
Providence, belonging to a vessel, whereof one Wollery was master, being
charged with some deceit in a matter that had been committed to him, in
order to his own vindication, horridly wished 'that the devil might put
out his eyes if he had done as was suspected concerning him.' That very
night a rheum fell into his eyes so that within a few days he became
stark blind. His company being astonished at the Divine hand which thus
conspicuously and signally appeared, put him ashore at Providence, and
left him there. A physician being desired to undertake his cure, hearing
how he came to lose his sight, refused to meddle with him. This account
I lately received from credible persons, who knew and have often seen
the man whom the devil (according to his own wicked wish) made blind,
through the dreadful and righteous judgment of God."

_III. Inherited Nervousness_

In all ages it would seem that woman has more readily accepted the
teachings of her elders and has taken to heart more earnestly the
doctrines of new religions, however strange or novel, than has man. It
was so in the days of Christ; it is true in our own era of Christian
Science, Theosophy, and New Thought. The message that fell from the lips
of the fanatically zealous preachers of colonial times sank deep into
the hearts of New England women. Its impression was sharp and abiding,
and the sensitive mother transmitted her fears and dread to her child.
Timid girls, inheriting a super-conscious realization of human defects,
and hearing from babyhood the terrifying doctrines, grew also into a
womanhood noticeable for overwrought nerves and depressed spirits.
Timid, shrinking Betty Sewall, daughter of Judge Sewall, was troubled
all the days of her life with qualms about the state of her soul, was
hysterical as a child, wretched in her mature years, and depressed in
soul at the hour of her departure. In his famous diary her father makes
this note about her when she was about five years of age: "It falls to
my daughter Elizabeth's Share to read the 24 of Isaiah which she doth
with many Tears not being very well, and the Contents of the Chapter and
Sympathy with her draw Tears from me also."

A writer of our own day, Alice Morse Earle, has well expressed our
opinion when she says in her _Child Life in Colonial Days_: "The
terrible verses telling of God's judgment on the land, of fear of the
pit, of the snare, of emptiness and waste, of destruction and
desolation, must have sunk deep into the heart of the sick child, and
produced the condition shown by this entry when she was a few years
older: 'When I came in, past 7 at night, my wife met me in the Entry and
told me Betty had surprised them. I was surprised with the Abruptness of
the Relation. It seems Betty Sewall had given some signs of dejection
and sorrow; but a little while after dinner she burst into an amazing
cry which caus'd all the family to cry too. Her mother ask'd the Reason,
she gave none; at last said she was afraid she should go to Hell, her
Sins were not pardon'd. She was first wounded by my reading a Sermon of
Mr. Norton's; Text, Ye shall seek me and shall not find me. And these
words in the Sermon, Ye shall seek me and die in your Sins, ran in her
Mind and terrified her greatly. And staying at home, she read out of Mr.
Cotton Mather--Why hath Satan filled thy Heart? which increas'd her
Fear. Her Mother asked her whether she pray'd. She answered Yes, but
fear'd her prayers were not heard, because her sins were not

We may well imagine the anguish of Betty Sewall's mother. And yet
neither that mother, whose life had been gloomy enough under the same
religion, nor the father who had led his child into distress by holding
before her her sinful condition, could offer any genuine comfort. Miss
Earle has summarized with briefness and force the results of such
training: "A frightened child, a retiring girl, a vacillating
sweetheart, an unwilling bride, she became the mother of eight children;
but always suffered from morbid introspection, and overwhelming fear of
death and the future life, until at the age of thirty-five her father
sadly wrote, 'God has delivered her now from all her fears.'"[12]

According to our modern conception of what child life should consist of,
the existence of the Puritan girl must have been darkened from early
infancy by such a creed. Only the indomitable desire of the human being
to survive, and the capacity of the human spirit under the pressure of
daily duties to thrust back into the subconscious mind its dread or
terror, could enable man or woman to withstand the physical and mental
strain of the theories hurled down so sternly and so confidently from
the colonial pulpit. Cotton Mather in his _Diary_ records this incident
when his daughter was but four years old: "I took my little daughter
Katy into my Study and then I told my child I am to dye Shortly and she
must, when I am Dead, remember Everything I now said unto her. I sett
before her the sinful Condition of her Nature, and I charged her to pray
in Secret Places every Day. That God for the sake of Jesus Christ would
give her a New Heart. I gave her to understand that when I am taken from
her she must look to meet with more humbling Afflictions than she does
now she has a Tender Father to provide for her."

Infinite pity we may well have for those stern parents who, faithful to
what they considered their duty, missed so much of the sanity, sweetness
and joy of life, and thrust upon their babes, whose days should have
been filled with love and light and play, the dread of death and hell
and eternal damnation. It is with a touch of irony that we read that
Mather survived by thirty years this child whose infant mind was
tortured with visions of the grave. Yet a strange sort of pride seems to
have been taken in the capacity of children to imbibe such gloomy
theological theories and in the ability to repeat, parrotlike, the
oft-repeated doctrines of inherent sinfulness. One babe, two years old,
was able "savingly to understand the Mysteries of Redemption"; another
of the same age was "a dear lover of faithful ministers"; Anne
Greenwich, who, we are not surprised to discover, died at the age of
five, "discoursed most astonishingly of great mysteries"; Daniel
Bradley, when three years old, had an "impression and inquisition of the
state of souls after death"; Elizabeth Butcher, when only two and a half
years old, would ask herself as she lay in her cradle, "What is my
corrupt nature?" and would answer herself with the quotation, "It is
empty of grace, bent unto sin, and only to sin, and that continually."
With such spiritual food were our ancestors fed--sometimes to the
eternal undoing of their posterity's physical and mental welfare.

_IV. Woman's Day of Rest_

It is possible that the Puritan woman gained one very material blessing
from the religion of her day; she was relieved of practically all work
on Sunday. The colonial Sabbath was indeed strictly observed; there was
little visiting, no picnicking, no heavy meals, no week-end parties,
none of the entertainments so prevalent in our own day. The wife and
mother was therefore spared the heavy tasks of Sunday so commonly
expected of the typical twentieth-century housewife. But it is doubtful
whether the alternative--attendance at church almost the entire
day--would appear one whit more desirable to the modern woman. The
Sabbath of those times was verily a period of religious worship. No one
must leave town, and no one must travel to town save for the church
service. There must be no work on the farm or in the city. Boats must
not be used except when necessary to transport people to divine service.
Fishing, hunting, and dancing were absolutely forbidden. No one must use
a horse, ox, or wagon if the church were within reasonable walking
distance, and "reasonable" was a most expansive word. Tobacco was not to
be smoked or chewed near any meeting-house. The odor of cooking food on
Sunday was an abomination in the nostrils of the Most High. And we
should bear in mind that these rules were enforced from sunset on
Saturday to sunset on Sunday--the twenty-four hours of the Puritan
Sabbath. The Holy Day, as spent by the preacher, John Cotton, may be
taken as typical of the strenuous hours of the Sabbath as observed by
many a New England pastor:

"He began the Sabbath at evening, therefore then performed family duty
after supper, being longer than ordinary in exposition. After which he
catechized his children and servants, and then returned to his study.
The morning following, family worship being ended, he retired into his
study until the bell called him away. Upon his return from meeting
(where he had preached and prayed some hours), he returned again into
his study (the place of his labor and prayer), unto his favorite
devotion; where having a small repast carried him up for his dinner, he
continued until the tolling of the bell. The public service of the
afternoon being over, he withdrew for a space to his pre-mentioned
oratory for his sacred addresses to God, as in the forenoon, then came
down, repeated the sermon in the family, prayed, after supper sang a
Psalm, and toward bedtime betaking himself again to his study he closed
the day with prayer."

To many a modern reader such a method of spending Sunday for either
preacher or laymen would seem not only irksome but positively
detrimental to physical and mental health; but we should bear in mind
that the opportunity to sit still and listen after six days of strenuous
muscular toil was probably welcomed by the colonist, and, further, that
in the absence of newspapers and magazines and other intellectual
stimuli the oratory of the clergy, stern as it may have been, was
possibly an equal relief. Especially were such "recreations" welcomed by
the women; for their toil was as arduous as that of the men; while their
round of life and their means of receiving the stimulus of public
movements were even more restricted.

_V. Religion and Woman's Foibles_

The repressive characteristics of the creed of the hour were felt more
keenly by those women than probably any man of the period ever dreamed.
For woman seems to possess an innate love of the dainty and the
beautiful, and beauty was the work of Satan. Nothing was too small or
insignificant for this religion to examine and control. It even
regulated that most difficult of all matters to govern--feminine dress.
As Fisher says in his _Men, Women and Manners in Colonial Times_:

     "At every opportunity they raised some question of religion and
     discussed it threadbare, and the more fine-spun and subtle it was
     the more it delighted them. Governor Winthrop's Journal is full
     of such questions as whether there could be an indwelling of the
     Holy Ghost in a believer without a personal union; whether it was
     lawful even to associate or have dealings with idolaters like the
     French; whether women should wear veils. On the question of
     veils, Roger Williams was in favor of them; but John Cotton one
     morning argued so powerfully on the other side that in the
     afternoon the women all came to church without them."

     "There were orders of the General Court forbidding 'short sleeves
     whereby the nakedness of the arms may be discovered.' Women's
     sleeves were not to be more than half an ell wide. There were to
     be no 'immoderate great sleeves, immoderate ... knots of ryban,
     broad shoulder bands and rayles, silk ruses, double ruffles and
     cuffs.' The women were complained of because of their 'wearing
     borders of hair and their cutting, curling, and immodest laying
     out of their hair.'"[13]

Petty details that would not receive a moment's consideration in our own
day aroused the theological scruples of those colonial pastors, and
moved them to interminable arguments which nicely balanced the pros and
cons as warranted by scripture. One of John Cotton's most famous sermons
dealt with the question as to whether women had a right to sing in
church, and after lengthy disquisition the preacher finally decided that
the Lord had no special objection to women's singing the Psalms, but
this conclusion was reached only after an unsparing battle of doubts and
logic. "Some," he declares, "that were altogether against singing of
Psalms at all with a lively voice, yet being convinced that it is a
moral worship of God warranted in Scripture, then if there must be a
Singing one alone must sing, not all (or if all) the Men only and not
the Women.... Some object, 'Because it is not permitted to speak in the
Church in two cases: 1. By way of teaching.... For this the Apostle
accounteth an act of authority which is unlawful for a woman to usurp
over the man, II, Tim. 2, 13. And besides the woman is more subject to
error than a man, ver. 14, and therefore might soon prove a seducer if
she became a teacher.... It is not permitted to a woman to speak in the
Church by way of propounding questions though under pretence of desire
to learn for her own satisfaction; but rather it is required she should
ask her husband at home."

Thus we might follow Cotton through many a page and hear his ingenious
application of Biblical verses, his carefully balanced arguments, his
earnest consideration of what seems to the modern reader a most trivial
question. To him, however, and probably to the women also it was a
weighty subject, more important by far than the cause of the high
mortality among both mothers and children of the day--a mortality
appallingly high. It would seem that the fevers, sore throats,
consumption, and small pox that destroyed women and babes in vast
numbers might have claimed some attention from the hair-splitting
clergyman and his congregation. We must not, however, judge the age too
harshly. It is utterly impossible for us of the twentieth century to
understand entirely the view point of the Puritans; for the remarkable
era of the nineteenth century intervenes, and freedom from superstition
and blind faith is a gift which came after that era and not before.

From time to time the colonists to the south may have sneered at or even
condemned the severity of New England life, but in the main the
merchants of New York and the planters of Virginia and Maryland realized
and respected the moral worth and earnest nature of the Massachusetts
settlers. For example, the versatile Virginia leader, William Byrd,
remarks sarcastically in his _History of the Dividing Line Run in the
Year 1728_: "Nor would I care, like a certain New England Magistrate to
order a Man to the Whipping Post for daring to ride for a midwife on the
Lord's Day"; but in the same manuscript he pays these people of rigid
rules the following tribute: "Tho' these People may be ridiculed for
some Pharisaical Particularitys in their Worship and Behaviour, yet they
were very useful Subjects, as being Frugal and Industrious, giving no
Scandal or Bad Example, at least by any Open and Public Vices. By which
excellent Qualities they had much the Advantage of the Southern Colony,
who thought their being Members of the Establish't Church sufficient to
Sanctifie very loose and Profligate Morals. For this reason New England
improved much faster than Virginia, and in Seven or Eight Years New
Plymouth, like Switzerland, seemd too narrow a Territory for its

Those early New Englanders may have been frugal and industrious, giving
no scandal nor bad example; but the constant repression, the monotony,
the dreariness of the religion often wrought havoc with the sensitive
nerves of the women, and many of them needed, far more than prayers,
godly counsel and church trials, the skilled services of a physician.
Two incidents related by Winthrop should be sufficient to impress the
pathos or the down-right tragedy of the situation:

"A cooper's wife of Hingham, having been long in a sad melancholic
distemper near to phrensy, and having formerly attempted to drown her
child, but prevented by God's gracious providence, did now again take an
opportunity.... And threw it into the water and mud ... She carried the
child again, and threw it in so far as it could not get out; but then it
pleased God, that a young man, coming that way, saved it. She would give
no other reason for it, but that she did it to save it from misery, and
with that she was assured, she had sinned against the Holy Ghost, and
that she could not repent of any sin. Thus doth Satan work by the
advantage of our infirmities, which would stir us up to cleave the more
fast to Christ Jesus, and to walk the more humbly and watchfully in all
our conversation."

"Dorothy Talby was hanged at Boston for murdering her own daughter a
child of three years old. She had been a member of the church of Salem,
and of good esteem for goodliness, but, falling at difference with her
husband, through melancholy or spiritual delusions, she sometime
attempted to kill him, and her children, and herself, by refusing
meat.... After much patience, and divers admonitions not prevailing, the
church cast her out. Whereupon she grew worse; so as the magistrate
caused her to be whipped. Whereupon she was reformed for a time, and
carried herself more dutifully to her husband, but soon after she was so
possessed with Satan, that he persuaded her (by his delusions, which she
listened to as revelations from God) to break the neck of her own
child, that she might free it from future misery. This she confessed
upon her apprehension; yet, at her arraignment, she stood mute a good
space, till the governour told her she should be pressed to death, and
then she confessed the indictment. When she was to receive judgment, she
would not uncover her face, nor stand up, but as she was forced, nor
give any testimony of her repentance, either then or at her execution.
The cloth which should have covered her face, she plucked off, and put
between the rope and her neck. She desired to have been beheaded, giving
this reason, that it was less painful and less shameful. Mr. Peter, her
late pastor, and Mr. Wilson, went with her to the place of execution,
but could do no good with her."[15]

_VI. Woman's Comfort in Religion_

Little gentleness and surely little of the overwhelming love that was
Christ's are apparent in a creed so stern and uncompromising. But the
age in which it flourished was not in itself a gentle and tolerant era.
It had not been so many years since men and women had been tortured and
executed for their faith. The Spanish Inquisition had scarcely ceased
its labor of barbarism; and days were to follow both in England and on
the continent when acts almost as savage would be allowed for the sake
of religion. In spite, moreover, of all that has been said above, in
spite of the literalness, the belief in a personal devil, the fear of an
arbitrary God, the religion of Puritanism was not without comfort to the
New England woman. Many are the references to the Creator's comforting
presence and help. Note these lines from a letter written by Margaret
Winthrop to her husband in 1637: "Sure I am, that all shall work to the
best to them that love God, or rather are loved of him. I know he will
bring light out of obscurity, and make his righteousness shine forth as
clear as noonday. Yet I find in myself an adverse spirit, and a
trembling heart, not so willing to submit to the will of God as I
desire. There is a time to plant, and a time to pull up that which is
planted, which I could desire might not be yet. But the Lord knoweth
what is best, and his will be done..."

Though woman might not speak or hold office in the Church, yet she was
not by any means denied the ordinary privileges and comforts of
religious worship, but rather was encouraged to gather with her sisters
in informal seasons of prayer and meditation. The good wives are
commended in many of the writings of the day for general charity work
connected with the church, and are mentioned frequently as being present
at the evening assemblies similar to our modern prayer meetings. Cotton
Mather makes this notation in his _Essays to do Good_, published in
1710: "It is proposed, That about twelve families agree to meet (the men
and their wives) at each other's houses, in rotation, once in a
fortnight or a month, as shall be thought most proper, and spend a
suitable time together in religious exercises." Even when women ventured
to hold formal religious meetings there was at first little or no
protest. According to Hutchinson's _History of Massachusetts Bay_, when
Anne Hutchinson, that creator of religious strife and thorn in the side
of the Elders, conducted assemblies for women only, there was even
praise for the innovation. It was only when this leader criticised the
clergy that silence was demanded. "Mrs. Hutchinson thought fit to set up
a meeting for the sisters, also, where she repeated the sermons preached
the Lord's day before, adding her remarks and expositions. Her lectures
made much noise, and fifty or eighty principal women attended them. At
first they were generally approved of."

Only when the decency and the decorum of the colony was threatened did
the stern laws of the church descend upon Mistress Hutchinson and her
followers. It was doubtless the riotous conduct of these radicals that
caused the resolution to be passed by the assembly in 1637, which
stated, according to Winthrop: "That though women might meet (some few
together) to pray and edify one another; yet such a set assembly, (as
was then in practice at Boston), where sixty or more did meet every
week, and one woman (in a prophetical way, by resolving questions of
doctrine, and expounding scripture) took upon her the whole exercise,
was agreed to be disorderly, and without rule."

Among the Quakers women's meetings were common; for equality of the
sexes was one of their teachings. In the _Journal_ of George Fox
(1672) we come across this statement: "We had a Mens-Meeting and a
Womens-Meeting.... On the First of these Days the Men and Women had
their Meetings for Business, wherein the Affairs of the Church of God
were taken care of." Moreover, what must have seemed an abomination to
the Puritan Fathers, these Quakers allowed their wives and mothers to
serve in official capacities in the church, and permitted them to take
part in the quarterly business sessions. Thus, John Woolman in his
_Diary_ says: "We attended the Quarterly meeting with Ann Gaunt and
Mercy Redman." "After the quarterly meeting of worship ended I felt
drawings to go to the Women's meeting of business which was very
full." What was especially shocking to their Puritan neighbors was the
fact that these Quakers allowed their women to go forth as missionary
speakers, and, as in the case of Mary Dyer, to invade the sacred
precincts of the Massachusetts Bay Colony to proselyte to Quakerism.

_VII. Female Rebellion_

But those Puritan colonists had far greater troubles to harass them than
the few quiet Quaker women who were moved by Inner Light to speak in the
village streets. One of these troubles we have touched upon--the Rise of
the Antinomians, or the disturbance caused by Anne Hutchinson. The other
was the Salem Witchcraft proceedings. In both of these women were
directly concerned, and indeed were at the root of the disturbances. Let
us examine in some detail the influence of Puritan womanhood in these
social upheavals that shook the foundations of church rule in New

While most of the women of the Puritan colonies seem to have been too
busy with their household duties and their numerous children to concern
themselves extensively with public affairs, there was this one woman,
Anne Hutchinson, who has gained lasting fame as the cause of the
greatest religious and political disturbance occurring in Massachusetts
before the days of the Revolution. Many are the references in the early
writers to this radical leader and her followers. Some of the most
prominent men and women in the colony were inclined to follow her, and
for a time it appeared that hers was to be the real power of the day;
great was the excitement. Thomas Hutchinson in his _History of
Massachusetts Bay Colony_, told of her trial and banishment:
"Countenanced and encouraged by Mr. Vane and Mr. Cotton, she advanced
doctrines and opinions which involved the colony in disputes and
contensions; and being improved to civil as well as religious purposes,
had like to have produced ruin both to church and state."

Anne Hutchinson was the daughter of Francis Marbury, a prominent
clergyman of Lincolnshire, England. Intensely religious as a child, she
was deeply influenced when a young woman by the preaching of John
Cotton. The latter, not being able to worship as he wished in England,
moved to the Puritan colony in the New World, and Anne Hutchinson, upon
her arrival at Boston, frankly confessed that she had crossed the sea
solely to be under his preaching in his new home.

Many of the prominent men of the community soon became her followers:
Sir Harry Vane, Governor of the colony; her brother-in-law, the Rev.
John Wheelwright; William Coddington, a magistrate of Boston; and even
Cotton himself, leader of the church and supposedly orthodox of the
orthodox. That this was enough to turn the head of any woman may well be
surmised, especially when we remember that she was presumed to be the
silent and weaker vessel,--to find suddenly learned men and even the
greatest clergymen of the community sitting at her feet and hearing her
doctrines. It is difficult to determine the real state of affairs
concerning this woman and her teachings. Nothing unless, possibly the
witchcraft delusion at Salem, excited the colony as did this
disturbance in both church and state. While much has been written, so
much of partisanship is displayed in all the statements that it is with
great difficulty that we are able really to separate the facts from
jealousy and bitterness. During the first few months of her stay she
seems to have been commended for her faithful attendance at church, her
care of the sick, and her benevolent attitude toward the community. Even
her meetings for the sisters were praised by the pastors. But, not
content with holding meetings for her neighbors, she criticised the
preachers and their teachings. This was especially irritating to the
good Elders, because woman was supposed to be the silent member in the
household and meeting-house, and not capable of offering worthy
criticism. But even then the matter might have been passed in silence if
the church and state had not been one, and the pastors politicians.
Hutchinson, a kinsman of the rebellious leader, says in his _History of
Massachusetts Bay_:

"It is highly probable that if Mr. Vane had remained in England, or had
not craftily made use of the party which maintained these peculiar
opinions in religion, to bring him into civil power and authority and
draw the affections of the people from those who were their leaders into
the wilderness, these, like many other errors, might have prevailed a
short time without any disturbance to the state, and as the absurdity of
them appeared, silently subsided, and posterity would not have known that
such a woman as Mrs. Hutchinson ever existed.... It is difficult to
discover, from Mr. Cotton's own account of his principles published ten
years afterwards, in his answer to Bailey, wherein he differed from
her.... He seems to have been in danger when she was upon trial. The ...
ministers treated him coldly, but Mr. Winthrop, whose influence was now
greater than ever, protected him."

Just what were Anne Hutchinson's doctrines no one has ever been able to
determine; even Winthrop, a very able, clear-headed man who was well
versed in Puritan theology, and who was one of her most powerful
opponents, said he was unable to define them. "The two capital errors
with which she was charged were these: That the Holy Ghost dwells
personally in a justified person; and that nothing of sanctification can
help to evidence to believers their justification."[16]

Her teachings were not unlike those of the Quietists and that of the
"Inner Light," set forth by the Quakers--a doctrine that has always held
a charm for people who enjoy the mystical. But it was not so much the
doctrines probably as the fact that she and her followers were a
disturbing element that caused her expulsion from a colony where it was
vital and necessary to the existence of the settlement that harmony
should prevail. There had been great hardships and sacrifices; even yet
the colony was merely a handful of people surrounded by thousands of
active enemies. If these colonists were to live there must be uniformity
and conformity. "When the Pequots threatened Massachusetts colony a few
men in Boston refused to serve. These were Antinomians, followers of
Anne Hutchinson, who suspected their chaplain of being under a 'Covenant
of works,' whereas their doctrine was one should live under a 'Covenant
of grace.' This is one of the great reasons why they were banished. It
was the very life of the colony that they should have conformity, and
all of them as one man could scarcely withstand the Indians. Therefore
this religious doctrine was working rebellion and sedition, and
endangering the very existence of the state."[17]

Mistress Hutchinson was given a church trial, and after long days of
discussion was banished. Her sentence as recorded stands as follows:
"Mrs. Hutchinson, the wife of Mr. William Hutchinson, being convented
for traducing the ministers and their ministry in the country, she
declared voluntarily her revelation, and that she should be delivered,
and the court ruined with her posterity, and thereupon was
banished."[18] The facts prove that she must have been a woman of
shrewdness, force, personality, intelligence, and endowed with the
ability to lead. At her trial she was certainly the equal of the
ministers in her sharp and puzzling replies. The theological discussion
was exciting and many were the fine-spun, hair-splitting doctrines
brought forward on either side; but to-day the mere reading of them is a
weariness to the flesh.

Anne Hutchinson's efforts, according to some viewpoints, may have been a
failure, but they revealed in unmistakable manner the emotional
starvation of Puritan womanhood. Women, saddened by their hardships,
depressed by their religion, denied an open love for beauty, with none
of the usual food for imagination or the common outlets for emotions,
such as the modern woman has in her magazines, books, theatre and social
functions, flocked with eagerness to hear this feminine radical. They
seemed to realize that their souls were starving for something--they may
not have known exactly what. At first they may have gone to the
assemblies simply because such an unusual occurrence offered at least a
change or a diversion; but a very little listening seems to have
convinced them that this woman understood the female heart far better
than did John Cotton or any other male pastor of the settlements.
Moreover, the theory of "inner light" or the "covenant of grace"
undoubtedly appealed as something novel and refreshing after the
prolonged soul fast under the harshness and intolerance of the
Calvinistic creed. The women told their women friends of the new
theories, and wives and mothers talked of the matter to husbands and
fathers until gradually a great number of men became interested. The
churches of Massachusetts Bay Colony were in imminent danger of losing
their grasp upon the people and the government. It is evident that in
the home at least the Puritan woman was not entirely the silent, meek
creature she was supposed to be; her opinions were not only heard by
husband and father but heeded with considerable respect.

And what became of this first woman leader in America? Whether the fate
of this woman was typical of what was in store for all female speakers
and women outside their place is not stated by the elders; but they were
firm in their belief that her death was an appropriate punishment. She
removed to Rhode Island and later to New York, where she and all her
family, with the exception of one person, were killed by the Indians. As
Thomas Welde says in the preface of _A Short Story of the Rise, Wane
and Ruin of the Antinomians_ (1644): "I never heard that the Indians in
these parts did ever before commit the like outrage upon any one family,
or families; and therefore God's hand is the more apparently seen
herein, to pick out this woful woman, to make her and those belonging to
her an unheard of heavy example of their cruelty above others."

_VIII. Woman and Witchcraft_

It was at staid Boston that Anne Hutchinson marshalled her forces; it
was at peace-loving Salem that the Devil marshalled his witches in a
last despairing onslaught against the saints. To many readers there may
seem to be little or no connection between witchcraft and religion; but
an examination of the facts leading to the execution of the various
martyrs to superstition at Salem will convince the skeptical that there
was a most intimate relationship between the Puritan creed and the
theory of witchcraft.

Looking back after the passing of more than two hundred years, we cannot
but deem it strange that such an enlightened, educated and thoroughly
intelligent folk as the Puritans could have believed in the possession
of this malignant power. Especially does it appear incredible when we
remember that here was a people that came to this country for the
exercise of religious freedom, a citizenship that was descended from men
trained in the universities of England, a stalwart band that under
extreme privation had founded a college within sixteen years after the
settlement of a wilderness. It must be borne in mind, however, that the
Massachusetts colonies were not alone in this belief in witchcraft. It
was common throughout the world, and was as aged as humanity. Deprived
of the aid of modern science in explaining peculiar processes and
happenings, man had long been accustomed to fall back upon devils,
witches, and evil spirits as premises for his arguments. While the
execution of the witch was not so common an event elsewhere in the
world, during the Salem period, yet it was not unknown among so-called
enlightened people. As late as 1712 a woman was burned near London for
witchcraft, and several city clergymen were among the prosecutors.

A few extracts from colonial writings should make clear the attitude of
the Puritan leaders toward these unfortunates accused of being in league
with the devil. Winthrop thus records a case in 1648: "At the court one
Margaret Jones of Charlestown was indicted and found guilty of
witchcraft, and hanged for it. The evidence against her was, that she
was found to have such a malignant touch, as many persons, (men, women,
and children), whom she stroked or touched with any affection or
displeasure, etc., were taken with deafness ... or other violent pains
or sickness.... Some things which she foretold came to pass.... Her
behaviour at her trial was very intemperate, lying notoriously, and
railing upon the jury and witnesses, etc., and in the like distemper she
died. The same day and hour, she was executed, there was a very great
tempest at Connecticut, which blew down many trees, etc."[19]

Whether in North or in South, whether among Protestants or Catholics,
this belief in witchcraft existed. In one of the annual letters of the
"English Province of the Society of Jesus," written in 1656, we find
the following comment concerning the belief among emigrants to Maryland:
"The tempest lasted two months in all, whence the opinion arose, that it
was not raised by the violence of the sea or atmosphere, but was
occasioned by the malevolence of witches. Forthwith they seize a little
old woman suspected of sorcery; and after examining her with the
strictest scrutiny, guilty or not guilty, they slay her, suspected of
this very heinous sin. The corpse, and whatever belonged to her, they
cast into the sea. But the winds did not thus remit their violence, or
the raging sea its threatenings...."[20]

Even in Virginia, where less rigid religious authority existed, it was
not uncommon to hear accusations of sorcery and witchcraft. The form of
hysteria at length reached at Salem was the result of no sudden burst of
terror, but of a long evolution of ideas dealing with the power of
Satan. As early as 1638 Josselyn, a traveler in New England, wrote in
_New England's Rareties Discovered_: "There are none that beg in the
country, but there be witches too many ... that produce many strange
apparitions if you will believe report, of a shallop at sea manned with
women; of a ship and a great red horse standing by the main-mast, the
ship being in a small cove to the eastward vanished of a sudden. Of a
witch that appeared aboard of a ship twenty leagues to sea to a mariner
who took up the carpenter's broad axe and cleft her head with it, the
witch dying of the wound at home."

The religion of Salem and Boston was well fitted for developing this
very theory of malignant power in "possessed" persons. The teachings
that there was a personal devil, that God allowed him to tempt mankind,
that there were myriads of devils under Satan's control at all times,
ever watchful to entrap the unwary, that these devils were rulers over
certain territory and certain types of people--these teachings naturally
led to the assumption that the imps chose certain persons as their very
own. Moreover, the constant reminders of the danger of straying from the
strait and narrow way, and of the tortures of the afterworld led to
self-consciousness, introspection, and morbidness. The idea that Satan
was at all times seeking to undermine the Puritan church also made it
easy to believe that anyone living outside of, or contrary to, that
church was an agent of the devil, in short, bewitched. As it is only the
useful that survives, it was essential that the army of devils be given
a work to do, and this work was evident in the spirit of those who dared
to act and think in non-conformity to the rule of the church. The
devil's ways, too, were beyond the comprehension of man, cunning,
smooth, sly; the most godly might fall a victim, with the terrible
consequence that one might become bewitched and know it not. At this
stage it was the bounden duty of the unfortunate being's church brethren
to help him by inducing him to confess the indwelling of an evil spirit
and thus free himself from the great impostor. And if he did not confess
then it were better that he be killed, lest the devil through him
contaminate all. Why, says Mather, in his _Wonders of the Invisible
World_: "If the devils now can strike the minds of men with any poisons
of so fine a composition and operation, that scores of innocent people
shall unite in confessions of a crime which we see actually committed,
it is a thing prodigious, beyond the wonders of the former ages, and it
threatens no less than a sort of dissolution upon the world."

To avoid or counteract this desolation was the purpose of the legal
proceedings at Salem. It was believed by fairly intelligent people that
Satan carried with him a black book in which he induced his victims to
write their names with their own blood, signifying thereby that they had
given their souls into his keeping, and were henceforth his liegemen.
The rendezvous of these lost and damned was deep in the forest; the time
of meeting, midnight. In such a place and at such an hour the assembly
of witches and wizards plotted against the saints of God, namely, the
Puritans. According to Cotton Mather's _Wonders of the Invisible World_,
at the trial of one of these martyrs to superstition, George Burroughs,
he was accused by eight of the confessing witches "as being the head
actor at some of their hellish rendezvouzes, and one who had the promise
of being a king in Satan's kingdom, now going to be erected. One of them
falling into a kind of trance affirmed that G.B. had carried her away
into a very high mountain, where he shewed her mighty and glorious
kingdoms, and said, 'he would give them all to her, if she would write
in his book.'"

In such an era, of course, the attempt was too often made to explain
events, not in the light of common reason but as visitations of God to
try the faith of the folk, or as devices of Satan to tempt them from the
narrow Path. Such an affliction as "nerves" was not readily
acknowledged, and anyone subject to fits or nervous disorders, or any
child irritable or tempestuous might easily be the victim of witchcraft.
Note what Increase Mather has to say on the matter when explaining the
case of the children of John Goodwin of Boston: "...In the day time
they were handled with so many sorts of Ails, that it would require of
us almost as much time to Relate them all, as it did of them to Endure
them. Sometimes they would be Deaf, sometimes Dumb, and sometimes Blind,
and often, all this at once.... Their necks would be broken, so that
their Neck-bone would seem dissolved unto them that felt after it; and
yet on the sudden, it would become again so stiff that there was no
stirring of their Heads...."[21]

As we have noted in previous pages, the morbidness and super-sensitive
spiritual condition of the colonists brought on by the peculiar social
environment had for many years prepared the way for just such a tragic
attitude toward physical and mental ailments. The usual safety vents of
modern society, the common functions we may class as general "good
times," were denied the soul, and it turned back to feed upon itself.
The following hint by Sewall, written a few years before the witchcraft
craze, is significant: "Thorsday, Novr. 12. After the Ministers of this
Town Come to the Court and complain against a Dancing Master, who seeks
to set up here, and hath mixt Dances, and his time of Meeting is
Lecture-Day; and 'tis reported he should say that by one Play he could
teach more Divinity than Mr. Willard or the Old Testament. Mr. Moodey
said 'twas not a time for N.E. to dance. Mr. Mather struck at the Root,
speaking against mixt Dances."[22] And again in the records by another
colonist, Prince, we note: "1631. March 22. First Court at Boston.
Ordered That all who have cards, dice, or 'tables' in their houses shall
make way with them before the next court."[23]

But the lack of social safety valves seemingly did not suggest itself to
the Puritan fathers; not the causes, but the religious effect of the
matter was what those stern churchmen sought to destroy. Says Cotton
Mather: "So horrid and hellish is the Crime of Witchcraft, that were
Gods Thoughts as our thoughts, or Gods Wayes as our wayes, it could be
no other, but Unpardonable. But that Grace of God may be admired, and
that the worst of Sinners may be encouraged, Behold, Witchcraft also has
found a Pardon.... From the Hell of Witchcraft our merciful Jesus can
fetch a guilty Creature to the Glory of Heaven. Our Lord hath sometimes
Recovered those who have in the most horrid manner given themselves away
to the Destroyer of their souls."[24]

Where did this mania, this riot of superstition and fanaticism that
resulted in so much sorrow and so many deaths have its beginning and
origin? Coffin in his _Old Times in the Colonies_ has summed up the
matters briefly and vividly: "The saddest story in the history of our
country is that of the witch craze at Salem, Mass. brought about by a
negro woman and a company of girls. The negress, Tituba, was a slave,
whom Rev. Samuel Parris, one of the ministers of Salem, had purchased in
Barbadoes. We may think of Tituba as seated in the old kitchen of Mr.
Parris's house during the long winter evenings, telling witchcraft
stories to the minister's niece, Elizabeth, nine years old. She draws a
circle in the ashes on the hearth, burns a lock of hair, and mutters
gibberish. They are incantations to call up the devil and his imps. The
girls of the village gather in the old kitchen to hear Tituba's stories,
and to mutter words that have no meaning. The girls are Abigail
Williams, who is eleven; Anne Putnam, twelve; Mary Walcot; and Mary
Lewis, seventeen; Elizabeth Hubbard, Elizabeth Booth, and Susannah
Sheldon, eighteen; and two servant girls, Mary Warren, and Sarah
Churchill. Tituba taught them to bark like dogs, mew like cats, grunt
like hogs, to creep through chairs and under tables on their hands and
feet, and pretend to have spasms.... Mr. Parris had read the books and
pamphlets published in England ... and he came to the conclusion that
they were bewitched. He sent for Doctor Griggs who said that the girls
were not sick, and without doubt were bewitched.... The town was on
fire. Who bewitches you? they were asked. Sarah Good, Sarah Osbum, and
Tituba, said the girls. Sarah Good was a poor, old woman, who begged her
bread from door to door. Sarah Osburn was old, wrinkled, and

The news of the peculiar actions of the girls spread throughout the
settlement; people flocked to see their antics. By this time the
children had carried the "fun" so far that they dared not confess, lest
the punishment be terrific, and, therefore, to escape the consequences,
they accused various old women of bewitching them. Undoubtedly the
little ones had no idea that the delusion would seize so firmly upon
the superstitious nature of the people; but the settlers, especially the
clergymen and the doctors, took the matter seriously and brought the
accused to trial. The craze spread; neighbor accused neighbor; enemies
apparently tried to pay old scores by the same method; and those who did
not confess were put to death. It is a fact worth noting that the large
majority of the witnesses and the greater number of the victims were
women. The men who conducted the trials and passed the verdict of
"guilty" cannot, of course, stand blameless; but it was the long pent-up
but now abnormally awakened imagination of the women that wrought havoc
through their testimony to incredible things and their descriptions of
unbelievable actions. No doubt many a personal grievance, petty
jealousy, ancient spite, and neighborhood quarrel entered into the
conflict; but the results were out of all proportion to such causes, and
remain to-day among the blackest and most sorrowful records on the pages
of American history.

As stated above, some of the testimony was incredible and would be
ridiculous if the outcome had not been so tragic. Let us read some bits
from the record of those solemn trials. Increase Mather in his
_Remarkable Providences_ related the following concerning the
persecution of William Morse and wife at Newberry, Massachusetts: "On
December 8, in the Morning, there were five great Stones and Bricks by
an invisible hand thrown in at the west end of the house while the Mans
Wife was making the Bed, the Bedstead was lifted up from the floor, and
the Bedstaff flung out of the Window, and a Cat was hurled at her....
The man's Wife going to the Cellar ... the door shut down upon her, and
the Table came and lay upon the door, and the man was forced to remove
it e're his Wife could be released from where she was."[26a]

Again, see the remarkable vision beheld by Goodman Hortado and his wife
in 1683: "The said Mary and her Husband going in a Cannoo over the River
they saw like the head of a man new-shorn, and the tail of a white Cat
about two or three foot distance from each other, swimming over before
the Cannoo, but no body appeared to joyn head and tail together."[26b]

Cotton Mather in his _Wonders of the Invisible World_ gives us some
insight into the mental and physical condition of many of the witnesses
called upon to testify to the works of Satan. Some of them undoubtedly
were far more in need of an expert on nervous diseases than of the
ministrations of either jurist or clergyman. "It cost the Court a
wonderful deal of Trouble, to hear the Testimonies of the Sufferers; for
when they were going to give in their Depositions, they would for a long
time be taken with fitts, that made them uncapable of saying anything.
The Chief Judge asked the prisoner who he thought hindered these
witnesses from giving their testimonies? and he answered, He supposed it
was the Devil."

It must have been a reign of terror for the Puritan mother and wife.
What woman could tell whether she or her daughter might not be the next
victim of the bloody harvest? Note the ancient records again. Here are
the words of the colonist, Robert Calef, in his _More Wonders of the
Invisible World_: "September 9. Six more were tried, and received
Sentence of Death; viz., Martha Cory af Salem Village, Mary Easty of
Topsfield, Alice Parker and Ann Pudeater of Salem, Dorcas Hoar of
Beverly, and Mary Bradberry of Salisbury. September 1st, Giles Gory was
prest to Death." And Sewall in his _Diary_ thus speaks of the same
barbarous execution just mentioned: "Monday, Sept. 19, 1692. About noon,
at Salem, Giles Gory was press'd to death for standing Mute; much pains
was used with him two days, one after another, by the Court and Capt.
Gardner of Nantucket who had been of his acquaintance, but all in

Those were harsh times, and many a man or woman showed heroic qualities
under the strain. The editor of Sewall's _Diary_ makes this comment upon
the silent heroism of the martyr, Giles Cory: "At first, apparently, a
firm believer in the witchcraft delusion, even to the extent of
mistrusting his saintly wife, who was executed three days after his
torturous death, his was the most tragic of all the fearful offerings.
He had made a will, while confined in Ipswich jail, conveying his
property, according to his own preferences, among his heirs; and, in the
belief that his will would be invalidated and his estate confiscated, if
he were condemned by a jury after pleading to the indictment, he
resolutely preserved silence, knowing that an acqittance was an

In the case of Cory doubtless the majority of the people thought the
manner of death, like that of Anne Hutchinson, was a fitting judgment of
God; for Sewall records in his ever-helpful Diary: "Sept. 20. Now I
hear from Salem that about 18 years agoe, he [Giles Cory] was suspected
to have stamp'd and press'd a man to death, but was cleared. Twas not
remembered till Ann Putnam was told of it by said Cory's Spectre the
Sabbath day night before the Execution."[28]

The Corys, Eastys, and Putnams were families exceedingly prominent
during the entire course of the mania; Ann Putnam's name appears again
and again. She evidently was a woman of unusual force and impressive
personality, and many were her revelations concerning suspected persons
and even totally innocent neighbors. Such workers brought distressing
results, and how often the helpless victims were women! Hear these
echoes from the gloomy court rooms: "September 17: Nine more received
Sentence of Death, viz., Margaret Scot of Rowly, Goodwife Reed of
Marblehead, Samuel Wardwell, and Mary Parker of Andover, also Abigail
Falkner of Andover ... Rebecka Eames of Boxford, Mary Lacy and Ann
Foster of Andover, and Abigail Hobbs of Topsfield. Of these Eight were
Executed."[29] And Cotton Mather in a letter to a friend: "Our Good God
is working of Miracles. Five Witches were lately Executed, impudently
demanding of God a Miraculous Vindication of their Innocency."[30]

And yet how absurd was much of the testimony that led to such wholesale
murder. We have seen some of it already. Note these words by a witness
against Martha Carrier, as presented in Cotton Mather's _Wonders of the
Invisible World_: "The devil carry'd them on a pole to a witch-meeting;
but the pole broke, and she hanging about Carrier's neck, they both
fell down, and she then received an hurt by the fall whereof she was not
at this very time recovered.... This rampant hag, Martha Carrier, was
the person, of whom the confessions of the witches, and of her own
children among the rest, agreed, that the devil had promised her she
should be Queen of Hell."

Here and there a few brave souls dared to protest against the outrage;
but they were exceedingly few. Lady Phipps, wife of the governor, risked
her life by signing a paper for the discharge of a prisoner condemned
for witchcraft. The jailor reluctantly obeyed and lost his position for
allowing the prisoner to go; but in after years the act must have been a
source of genuine consolation to him. Only fear must have restrained the
more thoughtful citizens from similar acts of mercy. Even children were
imprisoned, and so cruelly treated that some lost their reason. In the
_New England History and General Register_ (XXV, 253) is found this
pathetic note: "Dorcas Good, thus sent to prison 'as hale and well as
other children,' lay there seven or eight months, and 'being chain'd in
the dungeon was so hardly used and terrifyed' that eighteen years later
her father alleged 'that she hath ever since been very, chargeable,
haveing little or no reason to govern herself.'"[31]

How many extracts from those old writings might be presented to make a
graphic picture of that era of horror and bloodshed. No one, no matter
what his family, his manner of living, his standing in the community,
was safe. Women feared to do the least thing unconventional; for it was
an easy task to obtain witnesses, and the most paltry evidence might
cause most unfounded charges. And the only way to escape death, be it
remembered, was through confession. Otherwise the witch or wizard was
still in the possession of the devil, and, since Satan was plotting the
destruction of the Puritan church, anything and anybody in the power of
Satan must be destroyed. Those who met death were martyrs who would not
confess a lie, and such died as a protest against common liberty of
conscience. No monument has been erected to their memory, but their
names remain in the old annals as a warning against bigotry and
fanaticism. Though some suffered the agonies of a horrible death, there
were innumerable women who lived and yet probably suffered a thousand
deaths in fear and foreboding. Hear once more the words of Robert
Calef's ancient book, _More Wonders of the Invisible World_: "It was the
latter end of February, 1691, when divers young persons belonging to Mr.
Parris's family, and one or more of the neighbourhood, began to act
after a strange and unusual manner, viz., by getting into holes, and
creeping under chairs and stools, and to use sundry odd postures and
antick gestures, uttering foolish, ridiculous speeches.... The
physicians that were called could assign no reason for this; but it
seems one of them ... told them he was afraid they were bewitched....
March the 11th, Mr. Parris invited several neighbouring ministers to
join with him in keeping a solemn day of prayer at his own house....
Those ill affected ... first complained of ... the said Indian woman,
named Tituba; she confessed that the devil urged her to sign a book ...
and also to work mischief to the children, etc."

"A child of Sarah Good's was likewise apprehended, being between 4 and 5
years old. The accusers said this child bit them, and would shew such
like marks, as those of a small set of teeth, upon their arms...."

"March 31, 1692, was set apart as a day of solemn humiliation at
Salem ... on which day Abigail Williams said, 'that she saw a great number
of persons in the village at the administration of a mock sacrament, where
they had bread as red as raw flesh, and red drink.'"

The husband of Mrs. Cary, who afterwards escaped, tells this: "Having
been there [in prison] one night, next morning the jailer put irons on
her legs (having received such a command); the weight of them was about
eight pounds: these with her other afflictions soon brought her into
convulsion fits, so that I thought she would have died that night. I
sent to entreat that the irons might be taken off; but all entreaties
were in vain...."

"John Proctor and his wife being in prison, the sheriff came to his
house and seized all the goods, provisions and cattle ... and left
nothing in the house for the support of the children...."

"Old Jacobs being condemned, the sheriff and officers came and seized
all he had; his wife had her wedding ring taken from her ... and the
neighbours in charity relieved her."

"The family of the Putnams ... were chief prosecutors in this business."

"And now nineteen persons having been hanged, and one pressed to death,
and eight more condemned, in all twenty and eight ... about fifty
having confessed ... above an hundred and fifty in prison, and above two
hundred more accused; the special commission of oyer and terminer comes
to a period...."

During the summer of 1692 the disastrous material and financial results
of the reign of terror became so evident that the shrewd business sense
of the colonist became alarmed. Harvests were ungathered, fields and
cattle were neglected, numerous people sold their farms and moved
southward; some did not await the sale but abandoned their property. The
thirst for blood could not last, especially when it threatened
commercial ruin. Moreover, the accusers at length aimed too high;
accusations were made against persons of rank, members of the governor's
family, and even the relatives of the pastors themselves. "The killing
time lasted about four months, from the first of June to the end of
September, 1692, and then a reaction came because the informers began to
strike at important persons, and named the wife of the governor. Twenty
persons had been put to death ... and if the delusion had lasted much
longer under the rules of evidence that were adopted everybody in the
colony except the magistrates and ministers would have been either hung
or would have stood charged with witchcraft."[32]

The Puritan clergymen have been severely blamed for this strange wave of
fanaticism, and no doubt, as leaders in the movement, they were largely
responsible; but even their power and authority could never have caused
such wide-spread terror, had not the women of the day given such active
aid. The feminine soul, with its long pent emotions, craved excitement,
and this was an opportunity eagerly seized upon. As Fisher says, "As
their religion taught them to see in human nature only depravity and
corruption, so in the outward nature by which they were surrounded, they
saw forewarnings and signs of doom and dread. Where the modern mind now
refreshes itself in New England with the beauties of the seashore, the
forest, and the sunset, the Puritan saw only threatenings of

We cannot doubt in most instances the sincerity of these men and women,
and in later days, when confessions of rash and hasty charges of action
were made, their repentance was apparently just as sincere. Judge
Sewall, for instance, read before the assembled congregation his
petition to God for forgiveness. "In a short time all the people
recovered from their madness, [and] admitted their error.... In 1697 the
General Court ordered a day of fasting and prayer for what had been done
amiss in the 'late tragedy raised among us by Satan.' Satan was the
scapegoat, and nothing was said about the designs and motives of the
ministers."[34] Possibly it was just as well that Satan was blamed; for
the responsibility is thus shifted for one of the most hideous pages in
American history.

_IX. Religion Outside of New England_

Apparently it was only under Puritanism that the colonial woman really
suffered through the requirements of her religion. In other colonies
there may have been those who felt hampered and restrained; but
certainly in New York, Pennsylvania, and the Southern provinces, there
was no creed that made life an existence of dread and fear. In most
parts of the South the Established Church of England was the authorized,
or popular, religious institution, and it would seem that the women who
followed its teachings were as reverent and pious, if not so full of the
fear of judgment, as their sisters to the North. The earliest settlers
of Virginia dutifully observed the customs and ceremonies of the
established church, and it was the dominant form of religion in Virginia
and the Carolinas throughout the colonial era. John Smith has left the
record of the first place and manner of divine worship in Virginia: "Wee
did hang an awning, which is an old saile, to three or four trees to
shadow us from the Sunne; our walls were railes of Wood; our seats
unhewed trees till we cut plankes; our Pulpit a bar of wood nailed to
two neighbouring trees. In foul weather we shifted into an old rotten
tent; this came by way of adventure for new. This was our Church till we
built a homely thing like a barne set upon Cratchets, covered with
rafts, sedge, and earth; so also was the walls; the best of our houses
were of like curiosity.... Yet we had daily Common Prayer morning and
evening; every Sunday two sermons; and every three months a holy
Communion till our Minister died: but our Prayers daily with an Homily
on Sundays wee continued two or three years after, till more Preachers

According to Bruce's _Institutional History of Virginia in the
Seventeenth Century_[35] it would seem that the early Virginians were as
strict as the New Englanders about the matter of church attendance and
Sabbath observance. When we come across the notation that "Sarah Purdy
was indicted 1682 for shelling corn on Sunday," we may feel rather sure
that during at least the first eighty years of life about Jamestown
Sunday must have been indeed a day of rest. Says Bruce: "The first
General Assembly to meet in Virginia passed a law requiring of every
citizen attendance at divine services on Sunday. The penalty imposed was
a fine, if one failed to be present. If the delinquent was a freeman he
was to be compelled to pay three shillings for each offense, to be
devoted to the church, and should he be a slave he was to be sentenced
to be whipped."[36]

In Georgia and the Carolinas of the later eighteenth century the
influence of Methodism--especially after the coming of Wesley and
Whitefield--was marked, while the Scotch Presbyterian and the French
Huguenots exercised a wholesome effect through their strict honesty and
upright lives. Among these two latter sects women seem to have been very
much in the back-ground, but among the Methodists, especially in
Georgia, the influence of woman in the church was certainly noticeable.
There was often in the words and deeds of Southern women in general a
note of confident trust in God's love and in a joyous future life,
rather lacking in the writings of New England. Eliza Pinckney, for
instance, when but seventeen years old, wrote to her brother George a
long letter of advice, containing such tender, yet almost exultant
language as the following: "To be conscious we have an Almighty friend
to bless our Endeavours, and to assist us in all Difficulties, gives
rapture beyond all the boasted Enjoyments of the world, allowing them
their utmost Extent & fulness of joy. Let us then, my dear Brother, set
out right and keep the sacred page always in view.... God is Truth
itself and can't reveal naturally or supernaturally contrarieties."[37a]

There is a sweet reasonableness about this, very refreshing after an
investigation of witches or myriads of devils, and, on the whole, we
find much more sanity in the Southern relationship between religion and
life than in the Northern. While there was some bickering and
quarreling, especially after the arrival of Whitefield; yet such
disputes do not seem to have left the bitterness and suspicion that
followed in the trail of the church trials in Massachusetts. Indeed,
various creeds must have lived peacefully side by side; for the colonial
surveyor, de Brahm, speaks of nine different sects in a town of twelve
thousand inhabitants, and makes this further comment: "Yet are (they)
far from being incouraged or even inclined to that disorder which is so
common among men of contrary religious sentiments in other parts of the
world.... (The) inhabitants (were) from the beginning renound for
concord, compleasance, courteousness and tenderness towards each other,
and more so towards foreigners, without regard or respect of nature and

Perhaps, however, by the middle of the eighteenth century religious
sanity had become the rule both North and South; for there are many
evidences at that later period of a trust in the mercy of God and
comfort in His authority. We find Abigail Adams, whose letters cover
the last twenty-five years of the eighteenth century, saying, "That we
rest under the shadow of the Almighty is the consolation to which I
resort and find that comfort which the world cannot give."[38] And
Martha Washington, writing to Governor Trumbull, after the death of her
husband, says: "For myself I have only to bow with humble submission to
the will of that God who giveth and who taketh away, looking forward
with faith and hope to the moment when I shall be again united with the
partner of my life."[39] In the hour when the long struggle for
independence was opening, Mercy Warren could write in all confidence to
her husband, "I somehow or other feel as if all these things were for
the best--as if good would come out of evil--we may be brought low that
our faith may not be in the wisdom of men, but in the protecting
providence of God."[40] Among the Dutch of New York religion, like
eating, drinking and other common things of life, was taken in a rather
matter-of-fact way. Seldom indeed did these citizens of New Amsterdam
become so excited about doctrine as to quarrel over it; they were too
well contented with life as it was to contend over the life to be. Mrs.
Grant in _Memoirs of an American Lady_ has left us many intimate
pictures of the life in the Dutch colony. She and her mother joined her
father in New York in 1758, and through her residence at Claverach,
Albany, and Oswego gained thorough knowledge of the people, their
customs, social life and community ideas and ideals. Of their relation
to church and creed she remarks: "Their religion, then, like their
original national character, had in it little of fervor or enthusiasm;
their manner of performing religious duties regular and decent, but
calm, and to more ardent imaginations might appear mechanical.... If
their piety, however, was without enthusiasm it was also without
bigotry; they wished others to think as they did, without showing rancor
or contempt toward those who did not.... That monster in nature, an
impious woman, was never heard of among them."[41]

Unlike the New England clergyman, the New York parson was almost without
power of any sort, and was at no time considered an authority in
politics, sickness, witchcraft, or domestic affairs. Mrs. Grant was
surprised at his lack of influence, and declared: "The dominees, as
these people call their ministers, contented themselves with preaching
in a sober and moderate strain to the people; and living quietly in the
retirement of their families, were little heard of but in the pulpit;
and they seemed to consider a studious privacy as one of their chief
duties."[42] However, it was only in New England and possibly in
Virginia for a short time, that church and state were one, and this may
account for much of the difference in the attitudes of the preachers. In
New York the church was absolutely separate from the government, and
unless the pastor was a man of exceedingly strong personality, his
influence was never felt outside his congregation.

In conclusion, what may we say as to the general status of the colonial
woman in the church? Only in the Quaker congregation and possibly among
the Methodists in the South did colonial womanhood successfully assert
itself, and take part in the official activities of the institution. In
the Episcopal church of Virginia and the Carolinas, the Catholic Church
of Maryland and Louisiana, and the Dutch church of New York, women were
quiet onlookers, pious, reverent, and meek, freely acknowledging God in
their lives, content to be seen and not heard. In the Puritan assembly,
likewise, they were, on the surface at least, meek, silent, docile; but
their silence was deceiving, and, as shown in the witchcraft
catastrophe, was but the silence of a smouldering volcano. In the
eighteenth century, the womanhood of the land became more assertive, in
religion as in other affairs, and there is no doubt that Mercy Warren,
Eliza Pinckney, Abigail Adams, and others mentioned in these pages were
thinkers whose opinions were respected by both clergy and laymen. The
Puritan preacher did indeed declare against speech by women in the
church, and demanded that if they had any questions, they should ask
their husbands; but there came a time, and that quickly, when the voice
of woman was heard in the blood of Salem's dead.


[1] Reprinted in _English Garner_, Vol. II, p. 429.

[2] Vol. I, p. 101.

[3] Sewall's _Diary_, Vol. I, p. 40.

[4] _Ibid._, Vol. I, p. 111.

[5] _Ibid._, Vol. I, p. 167.

[6] _Diary_, Vol. I, p. 116.

[7] _Diary_, Vol. III, p. 71.

[8] Original Narratives of Early Am. Hist., Narratives of the
Witchcraft Cases. p. 96, 97.

[9] Winthrop: _Hist. of N.E._, Vol. II, p. 36.

[10] Winthrop: _Hist. of N. Eng._, Vol. II, p. 411.

[11] _Child Life in Colonial Days_; P. 238.

[12] _Ibid._

[13] Pp. 137, 185.

[14] _Writings of Col. Byrd_, Ed. Bassett, p. 25.

[15] Winthrop: _History of New England_, Vol. II, pp. 79, 335.

[16] Hutchinson: _History of Massachusetts Bay._ Chapter I.

[17] Fiske: _Dutch and Quaker Colonies in America_, Vol. I, p. 232.

[18] Hutchinson: _History of Massachusetts Bay_, Chapter I.

[19] _History of New England_, Vol. II, p. 397.

[20] _Narratives of Early Maryland_, p. 141.

[21] _Narratives of Witchcraft Cases_, p. 102.

[22] Sewall: _Diary_, Vol. I, p. 103.

[23] _Annals of New England_, Vol. I, p. 579.

[24] _Narratives of Witchcraft Cases_, p. 135.

[25] Page 210.

[26a],[26b] _Narratives of Witchcraft Cases_, p. 38.

[27a],[27b] _Diary_, Vol. I, p. 364.

[28] _Diary_, Vol. I, p. 364.

[29] _Narratives of Witchcraft Cases_, p. 366.

[30] _Narratives of Witchcraft Cases_, p. 215.

[31] _Narratives of Witchcraft Cases_, p. 159.

[32] Fisher: _Men, Women and Manners in Colonial Times_, p. 165.

[33] Fisher: _Men, Women and Manners in Colonial Times_, p. 165.

[34] Fisher: _Men, Women and Manners in Colonial Times_, p. 171.

[35] Pages 22, 35.

[36] _Institutional History_, Vol. I, p. 29.

[37a],[37b] Ravenel: _Eliza Pinckney_, p. 65.

[38] _Letters_, p. 106.

[39] Wharton: _Martha Washington_, p. 280.

[40] Brown: _Mercy Warren_, p. 96.

[41] _Memoirs of an American Lady_, p. 29.

[42] _Memoirs of an American Lady_, p. 155.



_I. Feminine Ignorance_

Unfortunately when we attempt to discover just how thorough woman's
mental training was in colonial days we are somewhat handicapped by the
lack of accurate data. Here and there through the early writings we have
only the merest hints as to what girls studied and as to the length of
their schooling. Of course, throughout the world in the seventeenth
century it was not customary to educate women in the sense that men in
the same rank were educated. Her place was in the home and as economic
pressure was not generally such as to force her to make her own living
in shop or factory or office, and as society would have scowled at the
very idea, she naturally prepared only for marriage and home-making.
Very few men of the era, even among philosophers and educational
leaders, ever seemed to think that a woman might be a better mother
through thorough mental training. And the women themselves, in the main,
apparently were not interested.

The result was that there long existed an astonishingly large amount of
illiteracy among them. Through an examination made for the U.S.
Department of Education, it has been found that among women signing
deeds or other legal documents in Massachusetts, from 1653 to 1656, as
high as fifty per cent could not write their name, and were obliged to
sign by means of a cross; while as late as 1697 fully thirty-eight per
cent were as illiterate. In New York fully sixty per cent of the Dutch
women were obliged to make their mark; while in Virginia, where deeds
signed by 3,066 women were examined, seventy-five per cent could not
sign their names. If the condition was so bad among those prosperous
enough to own property, what must it have been among the poor and
so-called lower classes?

We know, of course, that early in the seventeenth century schools
attended by both boys and girls were established in Massachusetts, and
before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth there was at least one public
school for both sexes in Virginia. But for the most part the girls of
early New England appear to have gone to the "dame's school," taught
by some spinster or poverty-stricken widow. We may again turn to
Sewall's _Diary_ for bits of evidence concerning the schooling in the
seventeenth century: "Tuesday, Oct. 16, 1688. Little Hanah going to
School in the morn, being enter'd a little within the Schoolhouse
Lane, is rid over by David Lopez, fell on her back, but I hope little
hurt, save that her Teeth bled a Little; was much frighted; but went
to School."[43] "Friday, Jan. 7th, 1686-7. This day Dame Walker is
taken so ill that she sends home my Daughters, not being able to teach
them."[44] "Wednesday, Jan. 19th, 1686-7. Mr. Stoughton and Dudley and
Capt. Eliot and Self, go to Muddy-River to Andrew Gardner's, where
'tis agreed that £12 only in or as Money, be levyed on the people by a
Rate towards maintaining a School to teach to write and read
English."[45] "Apr. 27, 1691.... This afternoon had Joseph to School
to Capt. Townsend's Mother's, his Cousin Jane accompanying him,
carried his Hornbook."[46]

And what did girls of Puritan days learn in the "dame schools"? Sewall
again may enlighten us in a notation in his _Diary_ for 1696: "Mary goes
to Mrs. Thair's to learn to Read and Knit." More than one hundred years
afterwards (1817), Abigail Adams, writing of her childhood, declared:
"My early education did not partake of the abundant opportunities which
the present days offer, and which even our common country schools now
afford. I never was sent to any school. I was always sick. Female
education, in the best families went no farther than writing and
arithmetic; in some few and rare instances, music and dancing."[47]

The Dutch women of New York, famous for their skill in housekeeping,
probably did not attend school, but received at home what little they
knew of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Mrs. Grant, speaking of
opportunities for female education in New Amsterdam in 1709, makes it
clear that the training of a girl's brain troubled no Hollander's head.
"It was at this time very difficult to procure the means of instruction
in those inland districts; female education, of consequence, was
conducted on a very limited scale; girls learned needlework (in which
they were indeed both skilful and ingenious) from their mothers and
aunts; they were taught too at that period to read, in Dutch, the Bible,
and a few Calvinist tracts of the devotional kind. But in the infancy
of the settlement few girls read English; when they did, they were
thought accomplished; they generally spoke it, however imperfectly, and
few were taught writing. This confined education precluded elegance;
yet, though there was no polish, there was no vulgarity."[48]

The words of the biographer of Catherine Schuyler might truthfully have
been applied to almost any girl in or near the quaint Dutch city:
"Meanwhile [about 1740] the girl [Catherine Schuyler] was perfecting
herself in the arts of housekeeping so dear to the Dutch matron. The
care of the dairy, the poultry, the spinning, the baking, the brewing,
the immaculate cleanliness of the Dutch, were not so much duties as
sacred household rites."[49] So much for womanly education in New
Amsterdam. A thorough training in domestic science, enough arithmetic
for keeping accurate accounts of expenses, and previous little
reading--these were considered ample to set the young woman on the right
path for her vocation as wife and mother.

This high respect for arithmetic was by no means limited to New York.
Ben Franklin, while in London, wrote thus to his daughter: "The more
attentively dutiful and tender you are towards your good mama, the more
you will recommend yourself to me.... Go constantly to church, whoever
preaches. For the rest, I would only recommend to you in my absence, to
acquire those useful accomplishments, arithmetic, and book-keeping. This
you might do with ease, if you would resolve not to see company on the
hours set apart for those studies."[50] In addition, however, Franklin
seems not to have been averse to a girl's receiving some of those social
accomplishments which might add to her graces; for in 1750 he wrote his
mother the following message about this same child: "Sally grows a fine
Girl, and is extreamly industrious with her Needle, and delights in her
Book. She is of a most affectionate Temper, and perfectly dutiful and
obliging to her Parents, and to all. Perhaps I flatter myself too much,
but I have hopes that she will prove an ingenious, sensible, notable,
and worthy Woman, like her Aunt Jenny. She goes now to the

_II. Woman's Education in the South_

It is to be expected that there was much more of this training in social
accomplishments in the South than in the North. Among the "first
families," in Virginia and the Carolinas the daughters regularly
received instruction, not only in household duties and the supervision
of the multitude of servants, but in music, dancing, drawing, etiquette
and such other branches as might help them to shine in the social life
that was so abundant. Thomas Jefferson has left us some hints as to the
education of aristocratic women in Virginia, in the following letter of
advice to his daughter:

     "Dear Patsy:--With respect to the distribution of your time, the
     following is what I should approve:

     "From 8 to 10, practice music.

     "From 10 to 1, dance one day and draw another.

     "From 1 to 2, draw on the day you dance, and write a letter next

     "From 3 to 4, read French.

     "From 4 to 5, exercise yourself in music.

     "From 5 till bedtime, read English, write, etc.

     "Informe me what books you read, what tunes you learn, and inclose
     me your best copy of every lesson in drawing.... Take care that
     you never spell a word wrong.... It produces great praise to a
     lady to spell well...."[52]

It should be noted, of course, that this message was written in the
later years of the eighteenth century when the French influence in
America was far more prominent than during the seventeenth. Moreover,
Jefferson himself had then been in France some time, and undoubtedly was
permeated with French ideas and ideals. But the established custom
throughout the South, except in Louisiana, demanded that the daughters
of the leading families receive a much more varied form of schooling
than their sisters in most parts of the North were obtaining. While the
sons of wealthy planters were frequently sent to English universities,
the daughters were trained under private tutors, who themselves were
often university graduates, and not infrequently well versed in
languages and literatures. The advice of Philip Fithian to John Peck,
his successor as private instructor in the family of a wealthy
Virginian, may be enlightening as to the character and sincerity of
these colonial teachers of Southern girls:

"The last direction I shall venture to mention on this head, is that you
abstain totally from women. What I would have you understand from this,
is, that by a train of faultless conduct in the whole course of your
tutorship, you make every Lady within the Sphere of your acquaintance,
who is between twelve and forty years of age, so much pleased with your
person, & so satisfied as to your ability in the capacity of a Teacher;
& in short, fully convinced, that, from a principle of Duty, you have
both, by night and by day endeavoured to acquit yourself honourably, in
the Character of a Tutor; & that this account, you have their free and
hearty consent, without making any manner of demand upon you, either to
stay longer in the Country with them, which they would choose, or
whenever your business calls you away, that they may not have it in
their Power either by charms or Justice to detain you, and when you must
leave them, have their sincere wishes & constant prayrs for Length of
days & much prosperity."[53]

We have little or no evidence concerning the education of women
belonging to the Southern laboring class, except the investigation of
court papers mentioned above, showing the lamentable amount of
illiteracy. In fact, so little was written by Southern women, high or
low, of the colonial period that it is practically impossible to state
anything positive about their intellectual training. It is a safe
conjecture, however, that the schooling of the average woman in the
South was not equal to that of the average women of Massachusetts, but
was probably fully equal to that of the Dutch women of New York. And yet
we must not think that efforts in education in the southern colonies
were lacking. As Dr. Lyon G. Tyler has said; "Under the conditions of
Virginia society, no developed educational system was possible, but it
is wrong to suppose that there was none. The parish institutions
introduced from England included educational beginnings; every minister
had a school, and it was the duty of the vestry to see that all poor
children could read and write. The county courts supervised the
vestries, and held a yearly 'orphans court,' which looked after the
material and educational welfare of all orphans."[54]

Indeed the interest in education during the seventeenth century, in
Virginia at least, seems to have been general. Repeatedly in examining
wills of the period we may find this interest expressed and explicit
directions given for educating not only the boys, but the girls. Bruce
in his valuable work, _Institutional History of Virginia in the
Seventeenth Century_, cites a number of such cases in which provisions
were made for the training of daughters of other female relatives.

"In 1657, Clement Thresh, of Rappahannock, in his will declared that all
his estate should be responsible for the outlay made necessary in
providing, during three years, instruction for his step-daughter, who,
being then thirteen years of age, had, no doubt, already been going to
school for some length of time. The manner of completing her education
(which, it seems, was to be prolonged to her sixteenth year) was perhaps
the usual one for girls at this period:--she was to be taught at a Mrs.
Peacock's, very probably by Mrs. Peacock herself, who may have been the
mistress of a small school; for it was ordered in the will, that if she
died, the step-daughter was to attend the same school as Thomas
Goodrich's children."[55] "Robert Gascoigne provided that his wife
should ... keep their daughter Bridget in school, until she could both
read and sew with an equal degree of skill."[56] "The indentures of Ann
Andrewes, who lived in Surry ... required her master to teach her, not
only how to sew and 'such things as were fitt for women to know,' but
also how to read and apparently also how to write." ... "In 1691 a girl
was bound out to Captain William Crafford ... under indentures which
required him to teach her how to spin, sew and read...."[57]

But, as shown in previous pages, female illiteracy in the South, at
least during the seventeenth century, was surprisingly great. No doubt,
in the eighteenth century, as the country became more thickly settled,
education became more general, but for a long time the women dragged
behind the men in plain reading and writing. Bruce declares: "There are
numerous evidences that illiteracy prevailed to a greater extent than
among persons of the opposite sex.... Among the entire female population
of the colony, without embracing the slaves, only one woman of every
three was able to sign her name in full, as compared with at least three
of every five persons of the opposite sex."[58]

_III. Brilliant Exceptions_

In the middle colonies, as in New England, schools for all classes were
established at an early date. Thus, the first school in Pennsylvania was
opened in 1683, only one year after the founding of Philadelphia, and
apparently very few children in that city were without schooling of some
sort. As is commonly agreed, more emphasis was placed on education in
New England than in any of the other colonies. A large number of the men
who established the Northern colonies were university graduates,
naturally interested in education, and the founding of Harvard, sixteen
years after the landing at Plymouth, proves this interest. Moreover, it
was considered essential that every man, woman, and child should be able
to read the Bible, and for this reason, if for no other, general
education would have been encouraged. As Moses Coit Tyler has declared,
"Theirs was a social structure with its corner stone resting on a book."
However true this may be, we are not warranted in assuming that the
women of the better classes in Massachusetts were any more thoroughly
educated, according to the standards of the time, than the women of the
better classes in other colonies. We do indeed find more New England
women writing; for here lived the first female poet in America, and the
first woman preacher, and thinkers of the Mercy Warren type who show in
their diaries and letters a keen and intelligent interest in public

It seems due, however, more to circumstances that such women as Mercy
Warren and Abigail Adams wrote much, while their sisters to the South
remained comparatively silent. The husband of each of these two colonial
dames was absent a great deal and these men were, therefore, the
recipients of many charming letters now made public; while the wife of
the better class planter in Virginia and the Carolinas had a husband who
seldom strayed long from the plantation. Eliza Pinckney's letters rival
in interest those of any American woman of the period, and if her
husband had been a man as prominent in war and political affairs as John
Adams, her letters would no doubt be considered today highly valuable.
True, Martha Washington was in a position to leave many interesting
written comments; for she was for many years close to the very center
and origin of the most exciting events; but she was more of a quiet
housewife than a woman who enjoyed the discussion of political events,
and, besides, with a certain inborn reserve and reticence she took pains
to destroy much of the private correspondence between her husband and
herself. Perhaps, with the small amount of evidence at hand we can never
say definitely in what particular colonies the women of the higher
classes were most highly educated; apparently very few of them were in
danger of receiving an over-dose of mental stimulation.

A few women, however, were genuinely interested in cultural study, and
that too in subjects of an unusual character. Hear what Eliza Pinckney
says in her letters:

"I have got no further than the first volm of Virgil, but was most
agreeably disappointed to find myself instructed in agriculture as well
as entertained by his charming penn, for I am persuaded tho' he wrote
for Italy it will in many Instances suit Carolina."[59] "If you will not
laugh too immoderately at mee I'll Trust you with a Secrett. I have made
two wills already! I know I have done no harm, for I con'd my lesson
very perfectly, and know how to convey by will, Estates, Real and
Personal, and never forgett in its proper place, him and his heirs
forever.... But after all what can I do if a poor Creature lies a-dying,
and their family takes it into their head that I can serve them. I can't
refuse; butt when they are well, and able to employ a Lawyer, I always

And again she gives this glimpse of another study: "I am a very Dunce,
for I have not acquired ye writing shorthand yet with any degree of
swiftness." That she had made some study of philosophy also is evident
in this comment in a letter written after a prolonged absence from her
plantation home for the purpose of attending some social function: "I
began to consider what attraction there was in this place that used so
agreeably to soothe my pensive humour, and made me indifferent to
everything the gay world could boast; but I found the change not in the
place but in myself.... and I was forced to consult Mr. Locke over and
over, to see wherein personal Identity consisted, and if I was the very
same Selfe."[61]

Locke's philosophical theory is surely rather solid material, a kind
indeed which probably not many college women of the twentieth century
are familiar with. Add to these various intellectual pursuits of hers
the highly thorough study she made of agriculture, her genuinely
scientific experiments in the rotation and selection of crops, and her
practical and successful management of three large plantations, and we
may well conclude that here was a colonial woman with a mind of her own,
and a mind fit for something besides feminine trifles and graces.

Jane Turell, a resident of Boston during the first half of the
eighteenth century, was another whose interest in literature and other
branches of higher education was certainly not common to the women of
the period. Hear the narrative of the rather astonishing list of studies
she undertook, and the zeal with which she pursued her research:

     "Before she had seen eighteen, she had read, and 'in some
     measure' digested all the English poetry and polite pieces in
     prose, printed and manuscripts, in her father's well furnished
     library.... She had indeed such a thirst after knowledge that the
     leisure of the day did not suffice, but she spent whole nights in

     "I find she was sometimes fired with a laudable ambition of
     raising the honor of her sex, who are therefore under obligations
     to her; and all will be ready to own she had a fine genius, and
     is to be placed among those who have excelled."

     "...What greatly contributed to increase her knowledge, in
     divinity, history, physic, controversy, as well as poetry, was
     her attentive hearing most that I read upon those heads through
     the long evenings of the winters as we sat together."[62]

Mrs. Adams was still another example of that rare womanliness which
could combine with practical domestic ability a taste for high
intellectual pursuits. During the Revolutionary days in the hour of
deepest anxiety for the welfare of her husband and of her country, she
wrote to Mr. Adams: "I have taken a great fondness for reading Rollin's
_Ancient History_ since you left me. I am determined to go through with
it, if possible, in these days of solitude."[63] And again in a letter
written on December 5, 1773, to Mercy Warren, she says: "I send with
this the first volume of Molière and should be glad of your opinion of
the plays. I cannot be brought to like them. There seems to me to be a
general want of spirit. At the close of every one, I have felt
disappointed. There are no characters but what appear unfinished; and he
seems to have ridiculed vice without engaging us to virtue.... There is
one negative virtue of which he is possessed, I mean that of decency....
I fear I shall incur the charge of vanity by thus criticising an author
who has met with so much applause.... I should not have done it, if we
had not conversed about it before."[64]

Evidently, at least a few of those colonial dames who are popularly
supposed to have stayed at home and "tended their knitting" were
interested in and enthusiastically conversed about some rather classic
authors and rather deep questions. Mrs. Grant has told us of the aunt of
General Philip Schuyler, a woman of great force of character and
magnetic personality: "She was a great manager of her time and always
contrived to create leisure hours for reading; for that kind of
conversation which is properly styled gossiping she had the utmost
contempt.... Questions in religion and morality, too weighty for table
talk, were leisurely and coolly discussed [In the garden]."[65]

Again, Mrs. Grant pays tribute to her mental ability as well as to her
intelligent interest in vital questions of the hour, in the following
statement: "She clearly foresaw that no mode of taxation could be
invented to which they would easily submit; and that the defense of the
continent from enemies and keeping the necessary military force to
protect the weak and awe the turbulent would be a perpetual drain of men
and money to Great Britain, still increasing with the increased

There were indeed brilliant minds among the women of colonial days; but
for the most part the women of the period were content with a rather
small amount of intellectual training and did not seek to gain that
leadership so commonly sought by women of the twentieth century.
Practically the only view ahead was that of the home and domestic life,
and the whole tendency of education for woman was, therefore, toward the
decidedly practical.

_IV. Practical Education_

These brilliant women, like their sisters of less ability, had no
radical ideas about what they considered should be the fundamental
principles in female education; they one and all stood for sound
training in domestic arts and home making. Abigail Adams, whose tact,
thrift and genuine womanliness was largely responsible for her husband's
career, expressed herself in no uncertain terms concerning the duties of
woman: "I consider it as an indispensable requisite that every American
wife should herself know how to order and regulate her family; how to
govern her domestics and train up her children. For this purpose the
All-wise Creator made woman an help-meet for man and she who fails in
these duties does not answer the end of her creation."[67]

Indeed, it would appear that most, if not all, of the women of colonial
days agreed with the sentiment of Ben Franklin who spoke with warm
praise of a printer's wife who, after the death of her husband, took
charge of his business "with such success that she not only brought up
reputably a family of children, but at the expiration of the term was
able to purchase of me the printing house and establish her son in
it."[68] And, according to this practical man, her success was due
largely to the fact that as a native of Holland she had been taught "the
knowledge of accounts." "I mention this affair chiefly for the sake of
recommending that branch of education for our young females as likely to
be of more use to them and their children in case of widowhood than
either music or dancing, by preserving them from losses by imposition of
crafty men, and enabling them to continue perhaps a profitable
mercantile house with establish'd correspondence, till a son is grown up
fit to undertake and go on with it."[69]

And Mrs. Franklin, like her husband and Mrs. Adams, had no doubt of the
necessity of a thorough knowledge of household duties for every woman
who expected to marry. In 1757 she wrote to her sister-in-law in regard
to the proposed marriage of her nephew: "I think Miss Betsey a very
agreeable, sweet-tempered, good girl who has had a housewifely
education, and will make to a good husband a very good wife."

With these fundamentals in female education settled, some of the
colonists, at least, were very willing that the girls should learn some
of the intellectual "frills" and fads that might add to feminine grace
or possibly be of use in future emergencies. Franklin, for instance,
seemed anxious that Sally should learn her French and music. Writing to
his wife in 1758, he stated: "I hope Sally applies herself closely to
her French and musick, and that I shall find she has made great
Proficiency. Sally's last letter to her Brother is the best wrote that
of late I have seen of hers. I only wish she was a little more careful
of her spelling. I hope she continues to love going to Church, and would
have her read over and over again the _Whole Duty of Man_ and the Lady's
Library."[70] And again in 1772 we find him writing this advice to Sally
after her marriage to Mr. Bache: "I have advis'd him to settle down to
Business in Philadelphia where he will always be with you.... and I
think that in keeping a store, if it be where you dwell, you can be
serviceable as your mother was to me. For you are not deficient in
Capacity and I hope are not too proud.... You might easily learn
Accounts and you can copy Letters, or write them very well upon
Occasion. By Industry and Frugality you may get forward in the World,
being both of you yet young."[71]

_V. Educational Frills_

Toward the latter part of the eighteenth century that once-popular
institution, the boarding school for girls, became firmly established,
and many were the young "females" who suffered as did Oliver Wendell
Holmes' dear old aunt:

    "They braced my aunt against a board,
      To make her straight and tall;
    They laced her up, they starved her down,
      To make her light, and small;
    They pinched her feet, they singed her hair,
      They screwed it up with pins;--
    Oh, never mortal suffered more
      In penance for her sins."

One of the best known of these seminaries was that conducted by Susanna
Rowson, author of the once-famous novel _Charlotte Temple_. A letter
from a colonial miss of fourteen years, Eliza Southgate, who attended
this school, may be enlightening:

     "Hon. Father:

     "I am again placed at school under the tuition of an amiable
     lady, so mild, so good, no one can help loving her; she treats
     all her scholars with such tenderness as would win the affection
     of the most savage brute. I learn Embroiderey and Geography at
     present, and wish your permission to learn Musick.... I have
     described one of the blessings of creation in Mrs. Rowson, and
     now I will describe Mrs. Lyman as the reverse: she is the worst
     woman I ever knew of or that I ever saw, nobody knows what I
     suffered from the treatment of that woman."[72]

The Moravian seminaries of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and of North
Carolina were highly popular training places for girls; for in these
orderly institutions the students were sure to gain not only instruction
in graceful social accomplishments and a thorough knowledge of
housekeeping, but the rare habit of doing all things with regularity,
neatness, decorum, and quietness. The writer of the above letter has
also described one of these Pennsylvania schools with its prim teachers
and commendable mingling of the practical and the artistic. "The first
was merely a _sewing school_, little children and a pretty single
spinster about 30, her white skirt, white short tight waistcoat, nice
handkerchief pinned outside, a muslin apron and a close cap, of the most
singular form you can imagine. I can't describe it. The hair is all put
out of sight, turned back, and no border to the cap, very unbecoming and
very singular, tied under the chin with a pink ribbon--blue for the
married, white for the widows. Here was a Piano forte and another sister
teaching a little girl music. We went thro' all the different school
rooms, some misses of sixteen, their teachers were very agreeable and
easy, and in every room was a Piano."

It was a notable fact that dancing was taught in nearly all of these
institutes. In spite of Puritanical training, in spite of the
thunder-bolts of colonial preachers, the tide of public opinion could
not be stayed, and the girls _would_ learn the waltz and the prim
minuet. Times had indeed changed since the day when Cotton Mather so
sternly spoke his opinion on such an ungodly performance: "Who were the
Inventors of Petulant Dancings? Learned men have well observed that the
Devil was the First Inventor of the impleaded Dances, and the Gentiles
who worshipped him the first Practitioners of this Art."

Colonial school girls may have been meek and lowly in the seventeenth
century--the words of Winthrop and the Mathers rather indicate that
they were--but not so in the eighteenth. Some of them showed an
independence of spirit not at all agreeing with popular ideas of the
demure maid of olden days. Sarah Hall, for instance, whose parents lived
in Barbadoes, was sent to her grandmother, Madam Coleman of Boston, to
attend school. She arrived with her maid in 1719 and soon scandalized
her stately grandmother by abruptly leaving the house and engaging board
and lodging at a neighboring residence. At her brother's command she
returned; but even a brother's authority failed to control the spirited
young lady; for a few months after the episode Madam Coleman wrote:
"Sally won't go to school nor to church and wants a nue muff and a great
many other things she don't need. I tell her fine things are cheaper in
Barbadoes. She says she will go to Barbadoes in the Spring. She is well
and brisk, says her Brother has nothing to do with her as long as her
father is alive." The same lady informs us that Sally's instruction in
writing cost one pound, seven shillings, and four pence, the entrance
fee for dancing lessons, one pound, and the bill for dancing lessons for
four months, two pounds. No doubt it was worth the price; for later
Sally became rather a dashing society belle.

One thing always emphasized in the training of the colonial girl was
manners or etiquette--the art of being a charming hostess. As Mrs. Earle
says, "It is impossible to overestimate the value these laws of
etiquette, these conventions of custom had at a time, when neighborhood
life was the whole outside world." How many, many a "don't" the colonial
miss had dinned into her ears! Hear but a few of them: "Never sit down
at the table till asked, and after the blessing. Ask for nothing; tarry
till it be offered thee. Speak not. Bite not thy bread but break it.
Take salt only with a clean knife. Dip not the meat in the same. Hold
not thy knife upright but sloping, and lay it down at the right hand of
plate with blade on plate. Look not earnestly at any other that is
eating. When moderately satisfied leave the table. Sing not, hum not,
wriggle not.... Smell not of thy Meat; make not a noise with thy Tongue,
Mouth, Lips, or Breath in Thy Eating and Drinking.... When any speak to
thee, stand up. Say not I have heard it before. Never endeavour to help
him out if he tell it not right. Snigger not; never question the Truth
of it."

Girls were early taught these forms, and in addition received not only
advice but mechanical aid to insure their standing erect and sitting
upright. The average child of to-day would rebel most vigorously against
such contrivances, and justly; for in a few American schools, as in
English institutions, young ladies were literally tortured through
sitting in stocks, being strapped to backboards, and wearing stiffened
coats and stays re-inforced with strips of wood and metal. Such methods
undoubtedly made the colonial dame erect and perhaps stately in
appearance, but they contributed a certain artificial, thin-chested
structure that the healthy girl of to-day would abhor.

As we have seen, however, some women of the day contrived to pick up
unusual bits of knowledge, or made surprising expeditions into the realm
of literature and philosophy. Samuel Peters, writing in his _General
History of Connecticut_ in 1781, declared of their accomplishments:
"The women of Connecticut are strictly virtuous and to be compared to
the prude rather than the European polite lady. They are not permitted
to read plays; cannot converse about whist, quadrille or operas; but
will freely talk upon the subjects of history, geography, and
mathematics. They are great casuists and polemical divines; and I have
known not a few of them so well schooled in Greek and Latin as often to
put to the blush learned gentlemen." And yet Hannah Adams, writing in
her _Memoir_ in 1832, had this to say of educational opportunities in
Connecticut during the latter half of the eighteenth century: "My health
did not even admit of attending school with the children in the
neighborhood where I resided. The country schools, at that time, were
kept but a few months in the year, and all that was then taught in them
was reading, writing, and arithmetic. In the summer, the children were
instructed by females in reading, sewing, and other kinds of work. The
books chiefly made use of were the Bible and Psalter. Those who have had
the advantages of receiving the rudiments of their education at the
schools of the present day, can scarcely form an adequate idea of the
contrast between them, and those of an earlier age; and of the great
improvements which have been made even in the common country schools.
The disadvantages of my early education I have experienced during life;
and, among various others, the acquiring of a very faulty pronunciation;
a habit contracted so early, that I cannot wholly rectify it in later

North and South women complained of the lack of educational advantages.
Madame Schuyler deplored the scarcity of books and of facilities for
womanly education, and spoke with irony of the literary tastes of the
older ladies: "Shakespeare was a questionable author at the Flatts,
where the plays were considered grossly familiar, and by no means to be
compared to 'Cato' which Madame Schuyler greatly admired. The 'Essay on
Man' was also in high esteem with this lady."[73] Many women of the day
realized their lack of systematic training, and keenly regretted the
absence of opportunity to obtain it. Abigail Adams, writing to her
husband on the subject, says, "If you complain of education in sons what
shall I say of daughters who every day experience the want of it? With
regard to the education of my own children I feel myself soon out of my
depth, destitute in every part of education. I most sincerely wish that
some more liberal plan might be laid and executed for the benefit of the
rising generation and that our new Constitution may be distinguished for
encouraging learning and virtue. If we mean to have heroes, statesmen,
and philosophers, we should have learned women. The world perhaps would
laugh at me, but you, I know, have a mind too enlarged and liberal to
disregard sentiment. If as much depends as is allowed upon the early
education of youth and the first principles which are instilled take the
deepest root great benefit must arise from the literary accomplishments
in women."[74]

And again, Hannah Adams' _Memoir_ of 1832 expresses in the following
words the intellectual hunger of the Colonial woman: "I was very
desirous of learning the rudiments of Latin, Greek, geography, and
logic. Some gentlemen who boarded at my father's offered to instruct me
in these branches of learning gratis, and I pursued these studies with
indescribable pleasure and avidity. I still, however, sensibly felt the
want of a more systematic education, and those advantages which females
enjoy in the present day.... My reading was very desultory, and novels
engaged too much of my attention."

After all, it would seem that fancy sewing was considered far more
requisite than science and literature in the training of American girls
of the eighteenth century. As soon as the little maid was able to hold a
needle she was taught to knit, and at the age of four or five commonly
made excellent mittens and stockings. A girl of fourteen made in 1760 a
pair of silk stockings with open work design and with initials knitted
on the instep, and every stage of the work from the raising and winding
of the silk to the designing and spinning was done by one so young.
Girls began to make samplers almost before they could read their
letters, and wonderful were the birds and animals and scenes depicted in
embroidery by mere children. An advertisement of the day is significant
of the admiration held for such a form of decorative work: "Martha
Gazley, late from Great Britain, now in the city of New York Makes and
Teacheth the following curious Works, viz.: Artificial Fruit and Flowers
and other Wax-works, Nuns-work, Philigre and Pencil Work upon Muslin,
all sorts of Needle-Work, and Raising of Paste, as also to paint upon
Glass, and Transparant for Sconces, with other Works. If any young
Gentlewomen, or others are inclined to learn any or all of the
above-mentioned curious Works, they may be carefully instructed in the
same by said Martha Gazley."

Thus the evidence leads us to believe that a colonial woman's education
consisted in the main of training in how to conduct and care for a home.
It was her principal business in life and for it she certainly was well
prepared. In the seventeenth century girls attended either a short term
public school or a dame's school, or, as among the better families in
the South, were taught by private tutors. In the eighteenth century they
frequently attended boarding schools or female seminaries, and here
learned--at least in the middle colonies and the South--not only reading
and writing and arithmetic, but dancing, music, drawing, French, and
"manners." In Virginia and New York, as we have seen, illiteracy among
seventeenth century women was astonishingly common; but in the
eighteenth century those above the lowest classes in all three sections
could at least read, write, and keep accounts, and some few had dared to
reach out into the sphere of higher learning. That many realized their
intellectual poverty and deplored it is evident; how many more who kept
no diaries and left no letters hungered for culture we shall never know;
but the very longing of these colonial women is probably one of the main
causes of that remarkable movement for the higher education of American
women so noticeable in the earlier years of the nineteenth century.
Their smothered ambition undoubtedly gave birth to an intellectual
advance of women unequalled elsewhere in the world.


[43] Vol. I, p. 231.

[44] Vol. I, p. 161.

[45] Vol. I, p. 165.

[46] Vol. I, p. 344.

[47] _Letters of Abigail Adams_, p. 24.

[48] _Memoirs of an American Lady_, p. 27.

[49] Humphreys: _Catherine Schuyler_, p. 8.

[50] Smyth: _Writings of Ben Franklin_, Vol. III, p. 203.

[51] Smyth: _Writings of Ben Franklin_, Vol. III, p. 4.

[52] Ford: _Writings of Thomas Jefferson_, Vol. III. p. 345

[53] _Selections from Fithian's Writings_, Aug. 12, 1774.

[54] _American Nation Series, England in America_, p. 116.

[55] Vol. I, p. 299.

[56] Vol. I, p. 301.

[57] Vol. I, p. 311.

[58] _Institutional History of Virginia_, Vol. I, p. 454.

[59] Ravenel: _Eliza Pinckney_, p. 50.

[60] Ravenel: _Eliza Pinckney_, p. 51.

[61] Ravenel: _Eliza Pinckney_, p. 49.

[62] Turell: _Memoirs of Life and Death of Mrs. Jane Turell._

[63] _Letters of Abigail Adams_, p. 11.

[64] _Letters of Abigail Adams_, p. 9.

[65] Grant: _Memoirs of an American Lady_, p. 136.

[66] Grant: _Memoirs of an American Lady_, p. 267.

[67] _Letters of Abigail Adams_, p. 401.

[68] Smyth: _Writings of Franklin_, Vol. I, p. 344.

[69] _Ibid._, Vol. I, p. 344.

[70] Smyth: Vol. III, p. 431.

[71] Smyth: Vol. V, p. 345.

[72] Quoted in Earle's _Child Life in Colonial Days_, p. 113.

[73] Humphreys; _Catherine Schuyler_, p. 75.

[74] Brooks: _Dames and Daughters of Colonial Days_, p. 199.



_I. The Charm of the Colonial Home_

After all, it is in the home that the soul of the colonial woman is
fully revealed. We may say in all truthfulness that there never was a
time when the home wielded a greater influence than during the colonial
period of American history. For the home was then indeed the center and
heart of social life. There were no men's clubs, no women's societies,
no theatres, no moving pictures, no suffrage meetings, none of the
hundred and one exterior activities that now call forth both father and
mother from the home circle. The home of pre-revolutionary days was far
more than a place where the family ate and slept. Its simplicity, its
confidence, its air of security and permanence, and its atmosphere of
refuge or haven of rest are characteristics to be grasped in their true
significance only through a thorough reading of the writings of those
early days. The colonial woman had never received a diploma in domestic
science or home economics; she had never heard of balanced diets; she
had never been taught the arrangement of color schemes; but she knew the
secret of making from four bare walls the sacred institution with all
its subtle meanings comprehended under the one word, home.

All home life, of course, was not ideal. There were idle, slovenly
women, misguided female fanatics, as there are to-day. Too often in
considering the men and women who made colonial history we are liable to
think that all were of the stamp of Winthrop, Bradford, Sewall, Adams,
and Washington. Instead, they were people like the readers of this book,
neither saints nor depraved sinners. In later chapters we shall see that
many broke the laws of man and God, enforced cruel penalties on their
brothers and sisters, frequently disobeyed the ten commandments, and
balanced their charity with malice. Then, too, there was an ungentle,
rough, coarse element in the under-strata of society--an element
accentuated under the uncouth pioneer conditions. But, in the main, we
may believe that the great majority of citizens of New England, the
substantial traders and merchants of the middle colonies, and the
planters of the South, were law-abiding, God-fearing people who believed
in the sanctity of their homes and cherished them. We shall see that
these homes were well worth cherishing.

_II. Domestic Love and Confidence_

In this discussion of the colonial home, as in previous discussions, we
must depend for information far more upon the writings by men than upon
those by women. Yet, here and there, in the diaries and letters of wives
and mothers we catch glimpses of what the institution meant to
women--glimpses of that deep, abiding love and faith that have made the
home a favorite theme of song and story. In the correspondence between
husband and wife we have conclusive evidence that woman was held in high
respect, her advice often asked, and her influence marked. The letters
of Governor Winthrop to his wife Margaret might be offered as striking
illustrations of the confidence, sympathy, and love existing in colonial
home life. Thus, he writes from England: "My Dear Wife: Commend my Love
to them all. I kisse & embrace thee, my deare wife, & all my children, &
leave thee in His armes who is able to preserve you all, & to fulfill
our joye in our happye meeting in His good time. Amen. Thy faithfull
husband." And again just before leaving England he writes to her: "I
must begin now to prepare thee for our long parting which growes very
near. I know not how to deal with thee by arguments; for if thou wert as
wise and patient as ever woman was, yet it must needs be a great trial
to thee, and the greater because I am so dear to thee. That which I must
chiefly look at in thee for thy ground of contentment is thy godliness."

Nor were the wife's replies less warm and affectionate. Hear this bit
from a letter of three centuries ago: "MY MOST SWEET HUSBAND:--How
dearely welcome thy kinde letter was to me I am not able to expresse.
The sweetnesse of it did much refresh me. What can be more pleasinge to
a wife, than to heare of the welfayre of her best beloved, and how he is
pleased with hir pore endevors.... I wish that I may be all-wayes
pleasinge to thee, and that those comforts we have in each other may be
dayly increced as far as they be pleasinge to God.... I will doe any
service whearein I may please my good Husband. I confess I cannot doe
ynough for thee...."

Is it not evident that passionate, reverent love, amounting almost to
adoration, was fairly common in those early days? Numerous other
writings of the colonial period could add their testimony. Sometimes
the proof is in the letters of men longing for home and family;
sometimes in the messages of the wife longing for the return of her
"goodman"; sometimes it is discerned in bits of verse, such as those by
Ann Bradstreet, or in an enthusiastic description of a woman, such as
that by Jonathan Edwards about his future wife. Note the fervor of this
famous eulogy by the "coldly logical" Edwards; can it be excelled in
genuine warmth by the love letters of famous men in later days?

"They say there is a young lady in New Haven who is beloved of that
Great Being, who made and rules the world, and that there are certain
seasons in which this Great Being, in some way or other invisible, comes
to her and fills her mind with exceeding sweet delight and that she
hardly cares for anything, except to meditate on him--that she expects
after a while to be received up where he is, to be raised up out of the
world and caught up into heaven; being assured that he loves her too
well to let her remain at a distance from him always.... Therefore, if
you present all the world before her, with the richest of its treasures,
she disregards it and cares not for it, and is unmindful of any pain or
affliction. She has a strange sweetness in her mind and singular purity
in her affections; is most just and conscientious in all her conduct;
and you could not persuade her to do anything wrong or sinful, if you
would give her all the world, lest she offend this Great Being. She is
of a wonderful sweetness, calmness and universal benevolence of mind....
She will sometimes go about from place to place, singing sweetly; and
seems to be always full of joy and pleasure.... She loves to be alone,
walking in the fields and groves, and seems to have some one invisible
always conversing with her."

In several poems Ann Bradstreet, daughter of Gov. Thomas Dudley, and
wife of Simon Bradstreet, mother of eight children, and first of the
women poets of America, expressed rather ardently for a Puritan dame,
her love for her husband. Thus:

    "I crave this boon, this errand by the way:
    Commend me to the man more lov'd than life,
    Show him the sorrows of his widow'd wife,

           *       *       *       *       *

    "My sobs, my longing hopes, my doubting fears,
    And, if he love, how can he there abide?"

Again, we note the following:

    "If ever two were one, then surely we;
    If ever man were loved by wife, then thee;
    If ever wife was happy in a man,
    Compare with me, ye women, if you can."[75]

    "I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold,
    Or all the riches that the East doth hold,
    My love is such that rivers cannot quench,
    Nor aught but love from thee give recompense.
    My love is such I can no way repay;
    The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray,
    Then while we live in love let's persevere,
    That when we live no more we may live ever."

The letters of Abigail Adams to her husband might be offered as further
evidence of the affectionate relationships existing between man and wife
in colonial days. Our text books on history so often leave the
impression that the fear of God utterly prevented the colonial home from
being a place of confident love; but it is possible that the social
restraints imposed by the church outside the home reacted in such a
manner as to compel men and women to express more fervently the
affections otherwise repressed. When we read such lines as the following
in Mrs. Adams' correspondence, we may conjecture that the years of
necessary separation from her husband during the Revolutionary days,
must have meant as much of longing and pain as a similar separation
would mean to a modern wife:

     "My dearest Friend:

     "...I hope soon to receive the dearest of friends, and the
     tenderest of husbands, with that unabated affection which has for
     years past, and will whilst the vital spark lasts, burn in the
     bosom of your affectionate

                                A. Adams."

     "Boston, 25 October, 1777.... This day, dearest of friends,
     completes thirteen years since we were solemnly united in
     wedlock. Three years of this time we have been cruelly separated.
     I have patiently as I could, endured it, with the belief that you
     were serving your country...."

     "May 18, 1778.... Beneath my humble roof, blessed with the
     society and tenderest affection of my dear partner, I have
     enjoyed as much felicity and as exquisite happiness, as falls to
     the share of mortals...."[76]

And read these snatches from the correspondence of James and Mercy
Warren. Writing to Mercy, in 1775, the husband says: "I long to see you.
I long to sit with you under our Vines & have none to make us afraid....
I intend to fly Home I mean as soon as Prudence, Duty & Honor will
permitt." Again, in 1780, he writes: "MY DEAR MERCY: ... When shall I
hear from you? My affection is strong, my anxieties are many about you.
You are alone.... If you are not well & happy, how can I be so?"[77] Her
loving solicitude for his welfare is equally evident in her reply of
December 30 1777: "Oh! these painful absences. Ten thousand anxieties
invade my Bosom on your account & some times hold my lids waking many
hours of the Cold & Lonely Night."[78]

Those heroic days tried the soul of many a wife who held the home
together amidst privation and anguish, while the husband battled for the
homeland. From the trenches as well as from the congressional hall came
many a letter fully as tender, if not so stately, as that written by
George Washington after accepting the appointment as Commander-in-Chief
of the Continental Army:

"MY DEAREST:--...You may believe me, my dear Patsy, when I assure you,
in the most solemn manner, that, so far from seeking this appointment, I
have used every endeavor in my power to avoid it, not only from my
unwillingness to part with you and the family, but from a consciousness
of its being a trust too great for my capacity, and that I should enjoy
more real happiness in one month with you at home than I have the most
distant prospect of finding abroad, if my stay were to be seven times
seven years.... My unhappiness will flow from the uneasiness you will
feel from being left alone."[79]

Even the calm and matter-of-fact Franklin does not fail to express his
affection for wife and home; for, writing to his close friend, Miss Ray,
on March 4, 1755, he describes his longing in these words: "I began to
think of and wish for home, and, as I drew nearer, I found the
attraction stronger and stronger. My diligence and speed increased with
my impatience. I drove on violently, and made such long stretches that a
very few days brought me to my own house, and to the arms of my good old
wife and children, where I remain, thanks to God, at present well and

And sprightly Eliza Pinckney expresses her admiration for her husband
with her characteristic frankness, when she writes: "I am married, and
the gentleman I have made choice of comes up to my plan in every title."
Years later, after his death, she writes with the same frankness to her
mother: "I was for more than 14 years the happiest mortal upon Earth!
Heaven had blessed me beyond the lott of Mortals & left me nothing to
wish for.... I had not a desire beyond him."[81]

If the letters and other writings describing home life in those old days
may be accepted as true, it is not to be wondered at that husbands
longed so intensely to rejoin the domestic circle. The atmosphere of the
colonial household will be more minutely described when we come to
consider the social life of the women of the times; but at this point we
may well hear a few descriptions of the quaint and thoroughly lovable
homes of our forefathers. William Byrd, the Virginia scholar, statesman,
and wit, tells in some detail of the home of Colonel Spotswood, which he
visited in 1732:

    "In the Evening the noble Colo. came home from his Mines, who
     saluted me very civily, and Mrs. Spotswood's Sister, Miss Theky,
     who had been to meet him en Cavalier, was so kind too as to bid
     me welcome. We talkt over a legend of old Storys, supp'd about 9
     and then prattl'd with the Ladys, til twas time for a Travellour
     to retire. In the meantime I observ'd my old Friend to be very
     Uxorious, and exceedingly fond of his Children. This was so
     opposite to the Maxims he us'd to preach up before he was
     marry'd, that I you'd not forbear rubbing up the Memory of them.
     But he gave a very good-natur'd turn to his Change of Sentiments,
     by alleging that who ever brings a poor Gentlewoman into so
     solitary a place, from all her Friends and acquaintance, wou'd be
     ungrateful not to use her and all that belongs to her with all
     possible Tenderness."

     "...At Nine we met over a Pot of Coffee, which was not quite
     strong enough to give us the Palsy. After Breakfast the Colo. and
     I left the Ladys to their Domestick Affairs.... Dinner was both
     elegant and plentifull. The afternoon was devoted to the Ladys,
     who shew'd me one of their most beautiful Walks. They conducted
     me thro' a Shady Lane to the Landing, and by the way made me
     drink some very fine Water that issued from a Marble Fountain,
     and ran incessantly. Just behind it was a cover'd Bench, where
     Miss Theky often sat and bewail'd her fate as an unmarried woman."

     "...In the afternoon the Ladys walkt me about amongst all their
     little Animals, with which they amuse themselves, and furnish the
     Table.... Our Ladys overslept themselves this Morning, so that
     we did not break our Fast till Ten."[82]

We are so accustomed to look upon George Washington as a godlike man of
austere grandeur, that we seldom or never think of him as lover or
husband. But see how home-like the life at Mount Vernon was, as
described by a young Fredericksburg woman who visited the Washingtons
one Christmas week: "I must tell you what a charming day I spent at
Mount Vernon with mama and Sally. The Gen'l and Madame came home on
Christmas Eve, and such a racket the Servants made, for they were glad
of their coming! Three handsome young officers came with them. All
Christmas afternoon people came to pay their respects and duty. Among
them were stately dames and gay young women. The Gen'l seemed very
happy, and Mistress Washington was from Daybreake making everything as
agreeable as possible for everybody."[83]

Alexander Hamilton found life in his domestic circle so pleasant that he
declared he resigned his seat in Washington's cabinet to enjoy more
freely such happiness. Brooks in her _Dames and Daughters of Colonial
Days_,[84] gives us a pleasing picture of Mrs. Hamilton, "seated at the
table cutting slices of bread and spreading them with butter for the
younger boys, who, standing by her side, read in turn a chapter in the
Bible or a portion of Goldsmith's _Rome_. When the lessons were finished
the father and the elder children were called to breakfast, after which
the boys were packed off to school." "You cannot imagine how domestic I
am becoming," Hamilton writes. "I sigh for nothing but the society of my
wife and baby."

_III. Domestic Toil and Strain_

Despite the charm of colonial home life, however, the strain of that
life upon womankind was far greater than is the strain of modern
domestic duties. In New England this was probably more true than in the
South; for servants were far less plentiful in the North than in
Virginia and the Carolinas. But, on the other hand, the very number of
the domestics in the slave colonies added to the duties and anxieties of
the Southern woman; for genuine executive ability was required in
maintaining order and in feeding, clothing, and caring for the childish,
shiftless, unthinking negroes of the plantation. In the South the slaves
relieved the women of the middle and upper classes of almost manual
labor, and in spite of the constant watchfulness and tact required of
the Southern colonial dame, she possibly found domestic life somewhat
easier than did her sister to the North. The dreary drudgery, the
intense physical labor required of the colonial housewife was of such a
nature that the woman of to-day can scarcely comprehend it. Aside from
the astonishing number of child-births and child-deaths, aside too from
the natural privations, dangers, ravages of war, accidents and diseases,
incident to the settlement of a new country, there was the constant
drain upon the woman's physical strength through lack of those household
conveniences which every home maker now considers mere necessities. It
was a day of polished and sanded floors, and the proverbial neatness of
the colonial woman demanded that these be kept as bright as a mirror.
Many a hundred miles over those floors did the colonial dame travel--on
her knees. Then too every reputable household possessed its abundance of
pewter or silver, and such ware had to be polished with painstaking
regularity. Indeed the wealth of many a dame of those old days consisted
mainly of silver, pewter, and linen, and her pride in these possessions
was almost as vast as the labor she expended in caring for them. What a
collection was in those old-time linen chests! Humphreys, in her
_Catherine Schuyler_, copies the inventory of articles in one: "35
homespun Sheets, 9 Fine sheets, 12 Tow Sheets, 13 bolster-cases, 6
pillow-biers, 9 diaper brakefast cloathes, 17 Table cloathes, 12 damask
Napkins, 27 homespun Napkins, 31 Pillow-cases, 11 dresser Cloathes and a
damask Cupboard Cloate." And this too before the day of the
washing-machine, the steam laundry, and the electric iron! The mere
energy lost through slow hand-work in those times, if transformed into
electrical power, would probably have run all the mills and factories in
America previous to 1800.

There is a decided tendency among modern housewives to take a hostile
view of the ever recurring task of preparing food for the family; but if
these housewives were compelled suddenly to revert to the method and
amount of cooking of colonial days, there would be universal rebellion.
Apparently indigestion was little known among the colonists--at least
among the men, and the amount of heavy food consumed by the average
individual is astounding to the modern reader. The caterer's bill for a
banquet given by the corporation of New York to Lord Cornberry may help
us to realize the gastronomic ability of our ancestors:

                   "Mayor ... Dr.
  To a piece of beef and cabbage,
  To a dish of tripe and cowheel
  To a leg of pork and turnips
  To 2 puddings
  To a surloyn of beef
  To a turkey and onions
  To a leg mutton and pickles
  To a dish chickens
  To minced pyes
  To fruit, cheese, bread, etc.
  To butter for sauce
  To dressing dinner,
  To 31 bottles wine
  To beer and syder."

We must remember, moreover, that the greater part of all food consumed
in a family was prepared through its every stage by that family. No
factory-canned goods, no ready-to-warm soups, no evaporated fruits, no
potted meats stood upon the grocers' shelves as a very present help in
time of need. On the farm or plantation and even in the smaller towns
the meat was raised, slaughtered, and cured at home, the wheat, oats,
and corn grown, threshed, and frequently made into flour and meal by the
family, the fruit dried or preserved by the housewife. Molasses, sugar,
spices, and rum might be imported from the West Indies, but the everyday
foods must come from the local neighborhood, and through the hard manual
efforts of the consumer. An old farmer declared in the _American
Museum_ in 1787: "At this time my farm gave me and my whole family a
good living on the produce of it, and left me one year with another one
hundred and fifty silver dollars, for I never spent more than ten
dollars a year, which was for salt, nails, and the like. Nothing to eat,
drink or wear was bought, as my farm provided all."

The very building of a fire to cook the food was a laborious task with
flint and steel, one generally avoided by never allowing the embers on
the family hearth to die. Fire was indeed a precious gift in that day,
and that the methods sometimes used in obtaining it were truly
primitive, may be conjectured from the following extract from Prince's
_Annals of New England_: "April 21, 1631. The house of John Page of
Waterton burnt by carrying a few coals from one house to another. A coal
fell by the way and kindled the leaves."[85]

Over those great fire-places of colonial times many a wife presented
herself as a burnt offering to her lord and master, the goodman of the
house. The pots and kettles that ornamented the kitchen walls were
implements for pre-historic giants rather than for frail women. The
brass or copper kettles often holding fifteen gallons, and the huge iron
pots weighing forty pounds, were lugged hither and thither by women
whose every ounce of strength was needed for the too frequent pangs of
child-birth. The colonists boasted of the number of generations a kettle
would outlast; but perhaps the generations were too short--thanks to the
size of the kettle.

And yet with such cumbersome utensils, the good wives of all the
colonies prepared meals that would drive the modern cook to distraction.
Hear these eighteenth century comments on Philadelphia menus:

     "This plain Friend [Miers Fisher, a young Quaker lawyer], with
     his plain but pretty wife with her Thees and Thous, had provided
     us a costly entertainment: ducks, hams, chickens, beef, pig,
     tarts, creams, custards, jellies, fools, trifles, floating
     islands, beer, porter, punch, wine and along, etc."

     "At the home of Chief Justice Chew. About four o'clock we were
     called to dinner. Turtle and every other thing, flummery,
     jellies, sweetmeats of twenty sorts, trifles, whipped sillabubs,
     floating islands, fools, etc., with a dessert of fruits, raisins,
     almonds, pears, peaches.

     "A most sinful feast again! everything which could delight the
     eye or allure the taste; curds and creams, jellies, sweetmeats of
     various sorts, twenty kinds of tarts, fools, trifles, floating
     islands, whipped sillabubs, etc. Parmesan cheese, punch, wine,
     porter, beer."[86]

To be a housewife in colonial days evidently required the strength of
Hercules, the skill of Tubal Cain, and the patience of Job. Such an
advertisement as that appearing in the _Pennsylvania Packet_ of
September 23, 1780, was not an exceptional challenge to female
ingenuity and perseverance:

"Wanted at a Seat about half a day's journey from Philadelphia, on
which are good improvements and domestics, A single Woman of unsullied
Reputation, an affiable, cheerful, active and amiable Disposition;
cleanly, industrious, perfectly qualified to direct and manage the
female Concerns of country business, as raising small stock, dairying,
marketing, combing, carding, spinning, knitting, sewing, pickling,
preserving, etc., and occasionally to instruct two Young Ladies in
those Branches of Oeconomy, who, with their father, compose the
Family. Such a person will be treated with respect and esteem, and
meet with every encouragement due to such a character."

It is apparent that besides the work now commonly carried on in the
household, colonial women performed many a duty now abrogated to the
factory. In fact, so far are we removed from the industrial customs of
the era that many of the terms then common in every home have lost all
meaning for the average modern housewife. For nearly two centuries the
greater part of the preparation of material for clothing was done by the
family; the spinning, the weaving, the dyeing, the making of thread,
these and many similar domestic activities preceded the fashion of a
garment. When we remember that the sewing machine was unknown we may
comprehend to some extent the immense amount of labor performed by women
and girls of those early days. The possession of many slaves or servants
offered but little if any relief; for such ownership involved, of
course, the manufacture of additional clothing. Humphreys in her
_Catherine Schuyler_ presents this quotation commenting upon a skilled
housewife: "Notwithstanding they have so large a family to regulate
(from 50 to 60 blacks) Mrs. Schuyler seeth to the Manufacturing of
suitable Cloathing for all her family, all of which is the produce of
her plantation in which she is helped by her Mama & Miss Polly and the
whole is done with less Combustion & noise than in many Families who
have not more than 4 or 5 Persons in the whole Family."

_IV. Domestic Pride_

Of course the well-to-do Americans of the eighteenth century at length
adopted the custom of importing the finer cloth, silk, satin and
brocade; but after the middle of the century the anti-British sentiment
impelled even the wealthiest either to make or to buy the coarser
American cloth. Indeed, it became a matter of genuine pride to many a
patriotic dame that she could thus use the spinning wheel in behalf of
her country. Daughters of Liberty, having agreed to drink no tea and to
wear no garments of foreign make, had spinning circles similar to the
quilting bees of later days, and it was no uncommon sight between 1770
and 1785 to see groups of women, carrying spinning wheels through the
streets, going to such assemblies. See this bit of description of such a
meeting held at Rowley, Massachusetts: "A number of thirty-three
respectable ladies of the town met at sunrise with their wheels to spend
the day at the house of the Rev'd Jedekiah Jewell, in the laudable
design of a spinning match. At an hour before sunset, the ladies there
appearing neatly dressed, principally in homespun, a polite and generous
repast of American production was set for their entertainment...."[87]

If the modern woman had to labor for clothing as did her
great-great-grandmother, styles in dress would become astonishingly
simple. After the spinning and weaving, the cloth was dyed or
bleached, and this in itself was a task to try the fortitude of a
strong soul. Toward the middle of the eighteenth century the
importation of silks and finer materials somewhat lessened this form
of work; but even through the first decade of the nineteenth century
spinning and weaving continued to be a part of the work of many a
household. The Revolution, as we have seen, gave a new impetus to this
art, and the first ladies of the land proudly exhibited their skill.
As Wharton remarks in her _Martha Washington_: "Mrs. Washington, who
would not have the heart to starve her direst foe within her own
gates, heartily co-operated with her husband and his colleagues. The
spinning wheels and carding and weaving machines were set to work with
fresh spirit at Mt. Vernon.... Some years later, in New Jersey, Mrs.
Washington told a friend that she often kept sixteen spinning wheels
in constant operation, and at one time Lund Washington spoke of a
larger number. Two of her own dresses of cotton striped with silk Mrs.
Washington showed with great pride, explaining that the silk stripes
in the fabrics were made from the ravellings of brown silk stockings
and old crimson damask chair covers. Her coachman, footman, and maid
were all attired in domestic cloth, except the coachman's scarlet
cuffs, which she took care to state had been imported before the
war.... The welfare of the slaves, of whom one hundred and fifty had
been part of her dower, their clothing, much of which was woven and
made upon the estate, their comfort, especially when ill; and their
instruction in sewing, knitting and other housewifely arts, engaged
much of Mrs. Washington's time and thought."[88]

_V. Special Domestic Tasks_

So many little necessities to which we never give a second thought were
matters of grave concern in those old days. The matter, for instance, of
obtaining a candle or a piece of soap was one requiring the closest
attention and many an hour of drudgery. The supplying of the household
with its winter stock of candles was a harsh but inevitable duty in the
autumn, and the lugging about of immense kettles, the smell of tallow,
deer suet, bear's grease, and stale pot-liquor, and the constant demands
of the great fireplace must have made the candle season a period of
terror and loathing to many a burdened wife and mother. Then, too, the
constant care of the wood ashes and hunks of fat and lumps of grease for
soap making was a duty which no rural woman dared to neglect. Nor must
we forget that every housewife was something of a physician, and the
gathering and drying of herbs, the making of ointments and salve, the
distilling of bitters, and the boiling of syrups was then as much a part
of housework as it is to-day a part of a druggest's activities.

In a sense, however, the very nature of such work provided some phases
of that social life which authorities consider so lacking in colonial
existence. For those arduous tasks frequently required neighborly
co-operation, and social functions thus became mingled with industrial
activities. Quilting bees, spinning bees, knitting bees, sewing bees,
paring bees, and a dozen other types of "bees" served to lighten the
drudgery of such work and developed a spirit of neighborliness that is
perhaps a little lacking under modern social conditions. Ignoring the
crude methods of labor, and the other forms of hardship, we may look
back from the vantage point of two hundred years of progress and perhaps
admire and envy something of the quietness, orderliness, and simplicity
of those colonial homes. After all, however, doubtless many a colonial
mother now and then grew sick at heart over the conditions and problems
facing her. Confronted with the unsettled condition of a new country,
with society on a most insecure foundation, with privations, hardships,
and genuine toil always in view, and with the prospect of the terrible
strain of bearing and rearing an inexcusable number of children, the
wife of that era may not have been able to see all the romance which
modern novelists have perceived in the days that are no more.

_VI. The Size of the Family_

And this brings us once more to what was doubtless the most terrific
burden placed upon the colonial woman--the incessant bearing of
offspring. In those days large families were not a liability, but a
positive asset. With a vast wilderness teeming with potential wealth,
waiting only for a supply of workers, the only economic pressure on the
birth rate was the pressure to make it larger to meet the demand for
laborers. Every child born in the colonies was assured, through moderate
industry, of the comforts of life, and, through patience and shrewd
investments, of some degree of wealth. Boys and girls meant
workers--producers of wealth--the boys on farm or sea or in the shop,
the girls in the home. Since their wants were simple, since the
educational demands were not large, since much of the food or clothing
was produced directly by those who used it, children were not
unwelcome--at least to the fathers.

Yet, who can say what rebellion unconsciously arose sometimes in the
hearts of the women? Doubtless they strove to make themselves believe
that all the little ones were a blessing and welcome--the religion of
the day taught that any other thought was sinful--but still there must
have been many a woman, distant from medical aid, living amidst new, raw
environments, mothers already of many a child, who longed for liberty
from the inevitable return of the trial. Women bore many children--and
buried many. And mothers followed their children to the grave too
often--to rest with them. Cotton Mather, married twice, was father of
fifteen children; the two wives of Benjamin Franklin's father bore
seventeen; Roger Clap of Dorchester, Massachusetts, "begat" fourteen
children by one wife; William Phipps, a governor of Massachusetts, had
twenty-five brothers and sisters all by one mother. Catherine Schuyler,
a woman of superior intellect, gave birth to fourteen children. Judge
Sewall piously tells us in his _Diary_: "Jan. 6, 1701. This is the
Thirteenth child that I have offered up to God in Baptisme; my wife
having borne me Seven Sons and Seven Daughters." One of the children had
been born dead, and therefore had not received baptism. Ben Franklin
often boasted of the strong constitution of his mother and of the fact
that she nursed all of her own ten babes; but he does not tell us of the
constitution of the children or of the ages to which they lived. Five of
Sewall's children died in infancy, and only four lived beyond the age of
thirty. It seems never to have occurred to the pious colonial fathers
that it would be better to rear five to maturity and bury none, than to
rear five and bury five. The strain on the womanhood of the period
cannot be doubted; innumerable men were married twice or three times and
no small number four times.

Industry was the law of the day, and every child soon became a producer.
The burdens placed upon children naturally lightened as the colonies
progressed; but as late as 1775, if we may judge by the following
record, not many moments of childhood were wasted. This is an account of
her day's work jotted down by a young girl in that year: "Fix'd gown for
Prude,--Mend Mother's Riding-hood, Spun short thread,--Fix'd two gowns
for Welsh's girls,--Carded tow,--Spun linen,--Worked on
Cheese-basket,--Hatchel'd flax with Hannah, we did 51 lbs.
apiece,--Pleated and ironed,--Read a Sermon of Dodridge's,--Spooled a
piece--Milked the Cows,--Spun linen, did 50 knots,--Made a Broom of
Guinea wheat straw,--Spun thread to whiten,--Set a Red dye,--Had two
Scholars from Mrs. Taylor's,--I carded two pounds of whole wool and felt
Nationaly,--Spun harness twine,--Scoured the pewter,--Ague in my
face,--Ellen was spark'd last night,--spun thread to whiten--Went to Mr.
Otis's and made them a swinging visit--Israel said I might ride his jade
[horse]--Prude stayed at home and learned Eve's Dream by heart."[89]

_VII. Indian Attacks_

The children whose comment has just been quoted were probably safe from
all dangers except ague and sparking; but in the previous century women
and children daily faced possibilities that apparently should have kept
them in a continuous state of fright. Time after time mothers and babes
were stolen by the Indians, and the tales of their sufferings fill many
an interesting page in the diaries, records, and letters of the
seventeenth century and the early eighteenth. Hear these words from an
early pamphlet, _A Memorial of the Present Deplorable State of New
England_, inserted in Sewall's _Diary_:

"The Indians came upon the House of one Adams at Wells, and captived the
Man and his Wife, and assassinated the children.... The woman had Lain
in about Eight Days. They drag'd her out, and tied her to a Post, until
the House was rifled. They then loosed her, and bid her walk. She could
not stir. By the help of a Stick she got half a step forward. She look'd
up to God. On the sudden a new strength entered into her. She was up to
the Neck in Water five times that very Day in passing Rivers. At night
she fell over head and ears, into a Slough in a Swamp, and hardly got
out alive.... She is come home alive unto us."

The following story of Mrs. Bradley of Haverly, Massachusetts, was sworn
to as authentic:

     "She was now entered into a Second Captivity; but she had the
     great Encumbrance of being Big with Child, and within Six Weeks
     of her Time! After about an Hours Rest, wherein they made her put
     on Snow Shoes, which to manage, requires more than ordinary
     agility, she travelled with her Tawny Guardians all that night,
     and the next day until Ten a Clock, associated with one Woman
     more who had been brought to Bed but just one Week before: Here
     they Refreshed themselves a little, and then travelled on till
     Night; when they had no Refreshment given them, nor had they any,
     till after their having Travelled all the Forenoon of the Day
     Ensuing.... She underwent incredible Hardships and Famine: A
     Mooses Hide, as tough as you may Suppose it, was the best and
     most of her Diet. In one and twenty days they came to their
     Head-quarters.... But then her Snow-Shoes were taken from her;
     and yet she must go every step above the knee in Snow, with such
     weariness that her Soul often Pray'd _That the Lord would put an
     end unto her weary life_!"

     "...Here in the Night, she found herself ill." [Her child was
     born here].... There she lay till the next Night, with none but
     the Snow under her, and the Heaven over her, in a misty and rainy
     season. She sent then unto a French Priest, that he would speak
     unto her _Squaw Mistress_, who then, without condescending to
     look upon her, allow'd her a little Birch-Rind, to cover her Head
     from the Injuries of the Weather, and a little bit of dried
     Moose, which being boiled, she drunk the Broth, and gave it unto
     the Child."

     "In a Fortnight she was called upon to Travel again, with her
     child in her Arms: every now and then, a whole day together
     without the least Morsel of any Food, and when she had any, she
     fed only on Ground-nuts and Wild-onions, and Lilly-roots. By the
     last of May, they arrived at _Cowefick_, where they planted their
     Corn; wherein she was put into a hard Task, so that the Child
     extreamly Suffered. The Salvages would sometimes also please
     themselves, with casting _hot Embers_ into the Mouth of the
     Child, which would render the Mouth so sore that it could not
     Suck for a long while together, so that it starv'd and Dy'd...."

     "Her mistress, the squaw, kept her a Twelve-month with her, in a
     Squalid Wigwam: Where, in the following Winter, she fell sick of
     a Feavour; but in the very height and heat of her Paroxysms, her
     Mistress would compel her sometimes to Spend a Winters-night,
     which is there a very bitter one, abroad in all the bitter Frost
     and Snow of the Climate. She recovered; but Four Indians died of
     the Feavour, and at length her Mistress also.... She was made to
     pass the River on the Ice, when every step she took, she might
     have struck through it if she pleased."

     "...At last, there came to the fight of her a Priest from Quebeck
     who had known her in her former Captivity at Naridgowock.... He
     made the Indians sell her to a French Family.... where tho' she
     wrought hard, she Lived more comfortably and contented.... She
     was finally allowed to return to her husband."[90]

The account of Mary Rowlandson's captivity, long known to every New
England family, and perhaps secretly read by many a boy in lieu of the
present Wild West series, may serve as another vivid example of the
dangers and sufferings faced by every woman who took unto herself a
husband and went forth from the coast settlements to found a new home in
the wilderness. The narrative, as written by Mrs. Rowlandson herself,
tells of the attack by the Indians, the massacre of her relations, and
the capture of herself and her babe:

     "There remained nothing to me but one poor, wounded babe, and it
     seemed at present worse than death, that it was in such a pitiful
     condition, bespeaking compassion, and I had no refreshing for it,
     nor suitable things to revive it.... But now (the next morning) I
     must turn my back upon the town, and travel with them into the
     vast and desolate wilderness, I knew not whither. It is not my
     tongue or pen can express the sorrows of my heart, and bitterness
     of my spirit, that I had at this departure; but God was with me
     in a wonderful manner, carrying me along and bearing up my spirit
     that it did not quite fail."

     "One of the Indians carried my poor wounded babe upon a horse, it
     went moaning all along: 'I shall die, I shall die.' I went on
     foot after it, with sorrow that cannot be expressed. At length I
     took it off the horse and carried it in my arms, till my strength
     failed and I fell down with it. Then they set me upon a horse
     with my wounded child in my lap, and there being no furniture on
     the horse's back, as we were going down a steep hill we both fell
     over the horse's head, at which they, like inhuman creatures,
     laughed and rejoiced to see it, though I thought we should there
     have ended our days, overcome with so many difficulties."

They went farther and farther into the wilderness, and a few days after
leaving her home, her son Joseph joined her, having been captured by
another band of Indians. She tells how, having her Bible with her, she
and her son found it a continual help, reading it and praying.

     "After this it quickly began to snow, and when night came on they
     stopped: and now down I must sit in the snow by a little fire,
     and a few boughs behind me, with my sick child in my lap and
     calling much for water, (being now) through the wound fallen into
     a violent fever. My own wound also growing so stiff that I could
     scarce sit down or rise up, yet so it must be, that I must sit
     all this cold winter night, upon the cold snowy ground, with my
     sick child in my arms, looking that every hour would be the last
     of its life; and having no Christian friend near me, either to
     comfort or help me."

     "...Fearing the worst, I durst not send to my husband, though
     there were some thoughts of his coming to redeem and fetch me,
     not knowing what might follow...."

     "The Lord preserved us in safety that night, and raised us up
     again in the morning, and carried us along, that before noon we
     came to Concord. Now was I full of joy and yet not without
     sorrow: joy, to see such a lovely sight, so many Christians
     together; and some of them my neighbors. There I met with my
     brother, and brother-in-law, who asked me if I knew where his
     wife was. Poor heart! he had helped to bury her and knew it not;
     she, being shot down by the house, was partly burned, so that
     those who were at Boston ... who came back afterward and buried
     the dead, did not know her.... Being recruited with food and
     rainment, we went to Boston that day, where I met with my dear
     husband; but the thoughts of our dear children, one being dead,
     and the other we could not tell where, abated our comfort in each

And here is the brief story of the return of her daughter: "She was
travelling one day with the Indians, with her basket on her back; the
company of Indians were got before her and gone out of sight, all except
one squaw. She followed the squaw till night, and then both of them lay
down, having nothing over them but the heavens, nor under them but the
earth. Thus she traveled three days together, having nothing to eat or
drink but water and green whortle-berries. At last they came into
Providence, where she was kindly entertained by several of that town....
The Lord make us a blessing indeed to each other. Thus hath the Lord
brought me and mine out of the horrible pit, and hath set us in the
midst of tender-hearted and compassionate Christians. 'Tis the desire of
my soul that we may walk worthy of the mercies received, and which we
are receiving."

This carrying away of white children occurred with surprising frequency,
and we of a later generation can but wonder that their parents did not
wreak more terrific vengeance upon the red man than is recorded even in
the bloodiest pages of our early history. In 1755, after the close of
the war with Pontiac, a meeting took place in the orchard of the
Schuyler homestead at Albany, where many of such kidnapped children were
returned to their parents and relatives. Perhaps we can comprehend some
of the tragedy of this form of warfare when we read of this gathering as
described by an eye-witness:

     "Poor women who had traveled one hundred miles from the back
     settlements of Pennsylvania, and New England appeared here with
     anxious looks and aching hearts, not knowing whether their
     children were alive or dead, or how to identify their children if
     they should meet them...."

     "On a gentle slope near the Fort stood a row of temporary huts
     built by retainers to the troops; the green before these
     buildings was the scene of these pathetic recognitions which I
     did not fail to attend. The joy of the happy mothers was
     overpowering and found vent in tears; but not the tears of those
     who after long travel found not what they sought. It was
     affecting to see the deep silent sorrow of the Indian women and
     of the children, who knew no other mother, and clung fondly to
     their bosems from whence they were not torn without bitter
     shrieks. I shall never forget the grotesque figures and wild
     looks of these young savages; nor the trembling haste with which
     their mothers arrayed them in the new clothes they had brought
     for them, as hoping with the Indian dress they would throw off
     their habits and attachments...."[91]

Such distress caused by Indian raids did not, of course, cease with the
seventeenth century. During the entire period of the next century the
settlers on the western frontier lived under constant dread of such
calamities. It has been one of the chief elements in American
history--this ceaseless expectation of warfare with primitive savages.
In the settlement of the Ohio and Mississippi valleys, in the
establishment of the great states of the Plains, in the founding of
civilization on the Pacific slope, even down to the twentieth century,
the price of progress has been paid in this form of savage torture of
women and children. Even in the long settled communities of the
eighteenth century such dangers did not entirely disappear. As late as
1782, when an attempt was made by Burgoyne to capture General Schuyler,
the ancient contest between mother and Indian warrior once more
occurred. "Their guns were stacked in the hall, the guards being
outside and the relief asleep. Lest the small Philip (grandson of
General Schuyler) be tempted to play with the guns, his mother had them
removed. The guards rushed for their guns, but they were gone. The
family fled up stairs, but Margaret, remembering the baby in the cradle
below, ran back, seized the baby, and when she was half way up the
flight, an Indian flung his tomahawk at her head, which, missing her,
buried itself in the wood, and left its historic mark to the present

_VIII. Parental Training_

We sometimes hear the complaint that the training of the modern child is
left almost entirely to the mother or to the woman school teacher, and
that as a result the boy is becoming effeminate. The indications are
that this could not have been said of the colonial child; for, according
to the records of that day, there was admirable co-operation between man
and wife in the training of their little ones. Kindly Judge Sewall, who
so indiscriminately mingled his accounts of courtships, weddings,
funerals, visits to neighbors, notices of hangings, duties as a
magistrate, what not, often spared time from his activities among the
grown-ups to record such incidents as: "Sabbath-day, Febr. 14, 1685.
Little Hull speaks Apple plainly in the hearing of his grandmother and
Eliza Jane; this the first word."[93]

And hear what Samuel Mather in his _Life of Cotton Mather_ tells of the
famous divine's interest in the children of the household: "He began
betimes to entertain them with delightful stories, especially
scriptural ones; and he would ever conclude with some lesson of piety,
giving them to learn that lesson from the story.... And thus every day
at the table he used himself to tell some entertaining tale before he
rose; and endeavored to make it useful to the olive plants about the
table. When his children accidentally, at any time, came in his way, it
was his custom to let fall some sentence or other that might be monitory
or profitable to them.... As soon as possible he would make the children
learn to write; and, when they had the use of the pen, he would employ
then in writing out the most instructive, and profitable things he could
invent for them.... The first chastisement which he would inflict for
any ordinary fault was to let the child see and hear him in an
astonishment, and hardly able to believe that the child could do so base
a thing; but believing they would never do it again. He would never come
to give a child a blow excepting in case of obstinacy or something very
criminal. To be chased for a while out of his presence he would make to
be looked upon as the sorest punishment in his family. He would not say
much to them of the evil angels; because he would not have them
entertain any frightful fancies about the apparitions of devils. But yet
he would briefly let them know that there are devils to tempt to

Beside this tender picture we may place one of juvenile warfare in the
godly home of Judge Sewall, and of the effect such a rise of the Old
Adam had upon the soul of the conscientious magistrate: "Nov. 6, 1692.
Joseph threw a knob of Brass and hit his sister Betty on the forhead so
as to make it bleed and swell, upon which, and for his playing at
Prayer-time, and eating when Return Thanks, I whipd him pretty smartly.
When I first went in (call'd by his Grandmother) he sought to shadow and
hide himself from me behind the head of the Cradle: which gave me the
sorrowfull remembrance of Adam's carriage."[94]

Such turmoil was, of course, unusual in the Sewall or any other Puritan
home; but the spiritual paroxysms of his daughter Betty, as noted in
previous pages, were more characteristic, and probably not half so
alarming to the deeply religious father. There seems to be little
"sorrowfull remembrance" in the following note by the Judge; what would
have caused genuine alarm to a modern parent seemed to be almost a
source of secret satisfaction to him: "Sabbath, May 3, 1696. Betty can
hardly read her chapter for weeping; tells me she is afraid she is gone
back, does not taste that sweetness in reading the Word which once she
did; fears that what was once upon her is worn off. I said what I could
to her, and in the evening pray'd with her alone."[95]

Though more mention is made in the early records about the endeavors of
the father than of the efforts of the mother to lead the children
aright, we may, of course, take it for granted that the maternal care
and watchfulness were at least as strong as in our own day. Eliza
Pinckney, who had read widely and studied much, did not consider it
beneath her dignity to give her closest attention to the awakening
intellect of her babe. "Shall I give you the trouble, my dear madam,"
she wrote to a friend, "to buy my son a new toy (a description of which
I enclose) to teach him according to Mr. Locke's method (which I have
carefully studied) to play himself into learning. Mr. Pinckney, himself,
has been contriving a sett of toys to teach him his letters by the time
he can speak. You perceive we begin betimes, for he is not yet four
months old." Her consciousness of her responsibility toward her children
is also set forth in this statement: "I am resolved to be a good Mother
to my children, to pray for them, to set them good examples, to give
them good advice, to be careful both in their souls and bodys, to watch
over their tender minds, to carefully root out the first appearing and
budings of vice, and to instill piety.... To spair no paines or trouble
to do them good.... And never omit to encourage every Virtue I may see
dawning in them."[96] That her care brought forth good fruit is
indicated when she spoke, years later, of her boy as "a son who has
lived to near twenty-three years of age without once offending me."

Here and there we thus have directed testimony as to the part taken by
mothers in the mental and spiritual training of children. For instance,
in New York, according to Mrs. Grant, such instruction was left entirely
to the women. "Indeed, it was on the females that the task of religious
instruction generally devolved; and in all cases where the heart is
interested, whoever teaches at the same time learns.... Not only the
training of children, but of plants, such as needed peculiar care or
skill to rear them, was the female province."[97]

In New England, as we have seen, the parental love and care for the
little ones was at least as much a part of the father's domestic
activities as of the mother's; unfortunately the men were in the
majority as writers, and they generally wrote of what they themselves
did for their children. Abigail Adams was one of the exceptional women,
and her letters have many a reference to the training of her famous son.
Writing to him while he was with his father in Europe in 1778, she said:
"My dear Son.... Let me enjoin it upon you to attend constantly and
steadfastly to the precepts and instructions of your father, as you
value the happiness of your mother and your own welfare. His care and
attention to you render many things unnecessary for me to write ... but
the inadvertency and heedlessness of youth require line upon line and
precept upon precept, and, when enforced by the joint efforts of both
parents, will, I hope, have a due influence upon your conduct; for, dear
as you are to me, I would much rather you should have found your grave
in the ocean you have crossed, or that an untimely death crop you in
your infant years, than see you an immoral profligate, or graceless

Such quotations should prove that home life in colonial days was no
one-sided affair. The father and the mother were on a par in matters of
child training, and the influence of both entered into that strong race
of men who, through long years of struggle and warfare, wrested
civilization from savagery, and a new nation from an old one. What a
modern writer has written about Mrs. Adams might possibly be applicable
to many a colonial mother who kept no record of her daily effort to lead
her children in the path of righteousness and noble service: "Mrs.
Adams's influence on her children was strong, inspiring, vital.
Something of the Spartan mother's spirit breathed in her. She taught her
sons and daughter to be brave and patient, in spite of danger and
privation. She made them feel no terror at the thought of death or
hardships suffered for one's country. She read and talked to them of the
world's history.... Every night, when the Lord's prayer had been
repeated, she heard him [John Quincey] say the ode of Collins beginning,

    'How sleep the brave who sink to rest
    By all their country's wishes blest.'"[99]

_IX. Tributes to Colonial Mothers_

With such wives and mothers so common in the New World, it is but
natural that many a high tribute to them should be found in the old
records. Not for any particular or exactly named trait are these women
praised, but rather for that general, indescribable quality of
womanliness--that quality which men have ever praised and ever will
praise. Those noble words of Judge Sewall at the open grave of his
mother are an epitome of the patience, the love, the sacrifice, and the
nobility of motherhood: "Jany. 4th, 1700-1.... Nathan Bricket taking in
hand to fill the grave, I said, Forbear a little, and suffer me to say
that amidst our bereaving sorrows we have the comfort of beholding this
saint put into the rightful possession of that happiness of living
desir'd and dying lamented. She liv'd commendably four and fifty years
with her dear husband, and my dear father: and she could not well brook
the being divided from him at her death; which is the cause of our
taking leave of her in this place. She was a true and constant lover of
God's Word, worship and saints: and she always with a patient
cheerfulness, submitted to the divine decree of providing bread for her
self and others in the sweat of her brows. And now ... my honored and
beloved Friends and Neighbors! My dear mother never thought much of
doing the most frequent and homely offices of love for me: and lavished
away many thousands of words upon me, before I could return one word in
answer: And therefore I ask and hope that none will be offended that I
have now ventured to speak one word in her behalf; when she herself has
now become speechless."[100]

How many are the tributes to those "mothers in Israel"! Hear this
unusual one to Jane Turell: "As a wife she was dutiful, prudent and
diligent, not only content but joyful in her circumstances. She
submitted as is fit in the Lord, looked well to the ways of her
household.... She respected all her friends and relatives, and spake of
them with honor, and never forgot either their counsels or their
kindnesses.... I may not forget to mention the _strong and constant
guard she placed on the door of her lips_. Whoever heard her call an ill
name? or detract from anybody?"[101]

And, again, note the tone of this message to Alexander Hamilton from his
father-in-law, General Philip Schuyler, after the death of Mrs.
Schuyler: "My trial has been severe.... But after giving and receiving
for nearly half a century a series of mutual evidences of affection and
friendship which increased as we advanced in life, the shock was great
and sensibly felt, to be thus suddenly deprived of a beloved wife, the
mother of my children, and the soothing companion of my declining

The words of President Dirkland of Harvard upon the death of Mrs. Adams,
show how deeply women had come to influence the life of New England by
the time of the Revolution. His address was a sincere tribute not only
to this remarkable mother but to the thousands of unknown mothers who
reared their families through those days of distress and death: "Ye will
cease to mourn bereaved friends.... You do then bless the Giver of life,
that the course of your endeared and honored friend was so long and so
bright; that she entered so fully into the spirit of those injunctions
which we have explained, and was a minister of blessings to all within
her influence. You are soothed to reflect, that she was sensible of the
many tokens of divine goodness which marked her lot; that she received
the good of her existence with a cheerful and grateful heart; that, when
called to weep, she bore adversity with an equal mind; that she used the
world as not abusing it to excess, improving well her time, talents, and
opportunities, and, though desired longer in this world, was fitted for
a better happiness than this world can give."[102]

It is apparent that men were not so neglectful of praise nor so cautious
of good words for womankind in colonial days as the average run of books
on American history would have us believe. As noted above, womanliness
is the characteristic most commonly pictured in these records of good
women; but now and then some special quality, such as good judgment, or
business ability, or willingness to aid in a time of crisis is brought
to light. Thus Ben Franklin writes:

"We have an English proverb that says, 'He that would thrive must ask
his wife.' It was lucky for me that I had one as much dispos'd to
industry and frugality as myself. She assisted me chearfully in my
business, folding and stitching pamphlets, tending shop, purchasing old
linen rags for the paper makers, etc. We kept no idle servants, our
table was plain and simple, our furniture of the cheapest.... One
morning being call'd to breakfast, I found it in a china bowl with a
spoon of silver! They had been bought for me without my knowledge by my
wife.... She thought her husband deserv'd a silver spoon and china bowl
as well as any of his neighbors. This was the first appearance of plate
and China in our house, which afterwards in a course of years, as our
wealth increased, augmented gradually to several hundred pounds in

Again, he notes on going to England: "April 5, 1757. I leave Home and
undertake this long Voyage more chearful, as I can rely on your Prudence
in the Management of my Affairs, and education of my dear Child; and yet
I cannot forbear once more recommending her to you with a Father's
tenderest concern. My Love to all."[104]

Whether North or South the praise of woman's industry in those days is
much the same. John Lawson who made a survey journey through North
Carolina in 1760, wrote in his _History of North Carolina_ that the
women were the more industrious sex in this section, and made a great
deal of cloth of their own cotton, wool, and flax. In spite of the fact
that their families were exceedingly large, he noted that all went "very
decently appareled both with linens and woolens," and that because of
the labor of the wives there was no occasion to run into the merchant's
debt or lay out money on stores of clothing. And hundreds of miles north
old Judge Sewall had expressed in his _Diary_ his utmost confidence in
his wife's financial ability when he wrote: "1703-4 ... Took 24s in my
pocket, and gave my Wife the rest of my cash £4, 3-8 and tell her she
shall now keep the Cash; if I want I will borrow of her. She has a
better faculty than I at managing Affairs: I will assist her; and will
endeavour to live upon my salary; will see what it will doe. The Lord
give his blessing."[105]

And nearly seventy years later John Adams, in writing to Benjamin Rush,
declares a similar confidence in his help-meet and expresses in his
quiet way genuine pride in her willingness to meet all ordeals with him.
"May 1770. When I went home to my family in May, 1770 from the Town
Meeting in Boston ... I said to my wife, 'I have accepted a seat in the
House of Representatives, and thereby have consented to my own ruin, to
your ruin, and to the ruin of our children. I give you this warning that
you may prepare your mind for your fate.' She burst into tears, but
instantly cried in a transport of magnanimity, 'Well, I am willing in
this cause to run all risks with you, and be ruined with you, if you are
ruined.' These were times, my friend, in Boston which tried women's
souls as well as men's."

Surely men were not unmindful in those stern days of the strength and
devotion of those women who bore them valiant sons and daughters that
were to set a nation free. And, furthermore, from such tributes we may
justly infer that women of the type of Jane Turell, Eliza Pinckney,
Abigail Adams, Margaret Winthrop, and Martha Washington were wives and
mothers who, above all else, possessed womanly dignity, loved their
homes, yet sacrificed much of the happiness of this beloved home life
for the welfare of the public, were "virtuous, pious, modest, and
womanly," built homes wherein were peace, gentleness, and love, havens
indeed for their famous husbands, who in times of great national woes
could cast aside the burdens of public life, and retire to the rest so
well deserved. As the author of _Catherine Schuyler_ has so fittingly
said of the home life of her and her daughter, the wife of Hamilton:
"Their homes were centers of peace; their material considerations
guarded. Whatever strength they had was for the fray. No men were ever
better entrenched for political conflict than Schuyler and Hamilton....
The affectionate intercourse between children, parents, and
grand-parents reflected in all the correspondence accessible makes an
effective contrast to the feverish state of public opinion and the
controversies then raging. Nowhere would one find a more ideal
illustration of the place home and family ties should supply as an
alleviation for the turmoils and disappointments of public life."[106]

There are scores of others--Mercy Warren, Mrs. Knox, and women of their
type--whose benign influence in the colonial home could be cited. One
could scarcely overestimate the value of the loving care, forethought,
and sympathy of those wives and mothers of long ago; for if all were
known,--and we should be happy that in those days some phases of home
life were considered too sacred to be revealed--perhaps we should
conclude that the achievements of those famous founders of this nation
were due as much to their wives as to their own native powers. The
charming mingling of simplicity and dignity is a trait of those women
that has often been noted; they lived such heroic lives with such
unconscious patience and valor. For instance, hear the description of
Mrs. Washington as given by one of the ladies at the camp of
Morristown;--with what simplicity of manner the first lady of the land
aided in a time of distress:

     "Well, I will honestly tell you, I never was so ashamed in all my
     life. You see, Madame ----, and Madame ----, and Madame Budd, and
     myself thought we would visit Lady Washington, and as she was
     said to be so grand a lady, we thought we must put on our best
     bibbs and bands. So we dressed ourselfes in our most elegant
     ruffles and silks, and were introduced to her ladyship. And don't
     you think we found her _knitting and with a speckled (check)
     apron on!_ She received us very graciously, and easily, but after
     the compliments were over, she resumed her knitting. There we
     were without a stitch of work, and sitting in State, but General
     Washington's lady with her own hands was knitting stockings for
     herself and husband!"

     "And that was not all. In the afternoon her ladyship took
     occasion to say, in a way that we could not be offended at, that
     it was very important, at this time, that American ladies should
     be patterns of industry to their countrywomen, because the
     separation from the mother country will dry up the sources whence
     many of our comforts have been derived. We must become
     independent by our determination to do without what we cannot
     make ourselves. Whilst our husbands and brothers are examples of
     patriotism, we must be patterns of industry."[107]

_X. Interest in the Home_

Many indeed are the hints of gentle, loving home life presented in the
letters and records of the eighteenth century colonists. Domestic life
may have been rather severe in seventeenth century New England--our
histories make more of it than the original sources warrant--but the
little touches of courtesy, the considerate deeds of love, the words of
sympathy and confidence show that those early husbands and wives were
lovers even as many modern folk are lovers, and that in the century of
the Revolution they courted and married and laughed and sorrowed much as
we of the twentieth century do. Sometimes the hint is in a letter from
brother to sister, sometimes in the message from patriot to wife,
sometimes in the secret diary of mother or father; but, wherever found,
the words with their subtle meaning make us realize almost with a shock
that here were human hearts as much alive to joy and anguish as any that
now beat. Hear a message from the practical Franklin to his sister in
1772: "I have been thinking what would be a suitable present for me to
make and for you to receive, as I hear you are grown a celebrated
beauty. I had almost determined on a tea table, but when I considered
that the character of a good housewife was far preferable to that of
being only a gentle woman, I concluded to send you a spinning

And see in these notes from him in London to his wife the interest of
the philosopher and statesman in his home--his human longing that it
should be comfortable and beautiful. "In the great Case ... is contain'd
some carpeting for a best Room Floor. There is enough for one large or
two small ones; it is to be sow'd together, the Edges being first fell'd
down, and Care taken to make the Figures meet exactly: there is
Bordering for the same. This was my Fancy. Also two large fine Flanders
Bed Ticks, and two pair large superfine Blankets, 2 fine Damask Table
Cloths and Napkins, and 43 Ells of Ghentish Sheeting Holland.... There
is also 56 Yards of Cotton, printed curiously from Copper Plates, a new
Invention, to make Bed and Window Curtains; and 7 yards Chair

"The same box contains 4 Silver Salt Ladles, newest, but ugliest
Fashion; a little Instrument to core Apples; another to make little
Turnips out of great ones; six coarse diaper Breakfast Cloths, they are
to spread on the Tea Table, for nobody Breakfasts here on the naked
Table; but on the cloth set a large Tea Board with the Cups...."
"London, Feb. 14, 1765. Mrs. Stevenson has sent you ... Blankets,
Bedticks.... The blue Mohair Stuff is for the Curtains of the Blue
Chamber. The Fashion is to make one Curtain only for each Window. Hooks
are sent to fix the Rails by at the Top so that they might be taken down
on Occasion...."[110]

It does the soul good and warms the heart toward old Benjamin to see him
stopping in the midst of his labors for America to write his wife: "I
send you some curious Beans for your Garden," and "The apples are
extreamly welcome, ... the minced pies are not yet come to hand.... As
to our lodging [she had evidently inquired] it is on deal featherbeds,
in warm blankets, and much more comfortable than when we lodged at our

Surely, too, the home touch is in this message of Thomas Jefferson at
Paris to Mrs. Adams in London. After telling her how happy he was to
order shoes for her in the French capital, he continues: "To show you
how willingly I shall ever receive and execute your commissions, I
venture to impose one upon you. From what I recollect of the diaper and
damask we used to import from England, I think they were better and
cheaper than here.... If you are of the same opinion I would trouble you
to send me two sets of table cloths & napkins for twenty covers
each."[112] And again he turns aside from his heavy duties in France to
write his sister that he has sent her "two pieces of linen, three gowns,
and some ribbon. They are done in paper, sealed and packed in a

And what of old Judge Sewall of the previous century--he of a number of
wives and innumerable children? Even in his day, when Puritanism was at
its worst, or as he would say, at its best, acts of thoughtfulness and
mutual love between man and wife were apparently not forgotten. The
wonderful _Diary_ offers the proof: "June 20, 1685: Carried my Wife to
Dorchester to eat Cherries, Raspberries, chiefly to ride and take the
Air. The time my Wife and Mrs. Flint spent in the Orchard, I spent in
Mr. Flint's Study, reading Calvin on the Psalms...."[114] "July 8, 1687.
Carried my wife to Cambridge to visit my little Cousin Margaret...."[115]
"I carry my two sons and three daughters in the Coach to Danford, the
Turks head at Dorchester; eat sage Cheese, drunk Beer and Cider and came

Thus human were those grave fathers of the nation. History and fiction
often conspire to portray them as always walking with solemnity, talking
with deep seriousness, and looking upon all mortals and all things with
chilling gloom; but, after all, they seem, in domestic life at least, to
have gone about their daily round of duties and pleasures in much the
same spirit as we, their descendants, work and play. As Wharton in her
_Through Colonial Doorways_ says: "The dignified Washington becomes to
us a more approachable personality when, in a letter written by Mrs.
John M. Bowers, we read that when she was a child of six he dandled her
on his knee and sang to her about 'the old, old man and the old, old
woman who lived in the vinegar bottle together,' ... or again, when
General Greene writes from Middlebrook, 'We had a little dance at my
quarters. His Excellency and Mrs. Greene danced upwards of three hours
without once sitting down. Upon the whole we had a pretty little frisk."

And does not John Adams lose some of his aloofness when we see the
picture his wife draws of him, submitting to be driven about the room by
means of a switch in the hands of his little grandchild? In the
eighteenth century home life was evidently just as free from unnecessary
dignity as it is to-day, and possibly wives had even more genuine
affection and esteem for their husbands than is the case in the
twentieth century. Mrs. Washington's quiet rebuke to her daughter and
some lady guests who came down to breakfast in dressing gowns and curl
papers, may be cited as at least one proof of consideration for the
husband. Seeing some French officers approaching the house, the young
people begged to be excused; but Mrs. Washington shook her head
decisively and answered, "No, what is good enough for General Washington
is good enough for any of his guests." Indeed much of this famous man's
success must be attributed to the noble encouragement, the
considerateness, and the unsparing industry of his wife. The story is
often told of how the painter, Peale, when he hesitated to call at seven
in the morning, the hour for the first sitting for her portrait, found
that even then she had already attended morning worship, had given her
niece a music lesson, and had read the newspaper.

Brooke in _Dames and Daughters of Colonial Days_ furnishes another
example of the kindly consideration so common among colonial husbands
and wives. Mrs. John Adams, who was afflicted with headaches, believed
that green tea brought relief, and wrote her husband to send her a
canister. Some time afterwards she visited Mrs. Samuel Adams, who
refreshed her with this very drink:

     "The scarcity of the article made me ask where she got it. She
     replied that her sweetheart sent it to her by Mr. Gerry. I said
     nothing, but thought my sweetheart might have been equally kind
     considering the disease I was visited with, and that was
     recommended as a bracer."

     "But in reality 'Goodman' John had not been so unfeeling as he
     appeared. For when he read his wife's mention of that pain in her
     head he had been properly concerned and straightway, he says,
     'asked Mrs. Yard to send a pound of green tea to you by Mr.
     Gerry.' Mrs. Yard readily agreed. 'When I came home at night,'
     continues the much 'vexed' John, I was told Mr. Gerry was gone. I
     asked Mrs. Yard if she had sent the canister. She said Yes and
     that Mr. Gerry undertook to deliver it with a great deal of
     pleasure. From that time I flattered myself you would have the
     poor relief of a dish of good tea, and I never conceived a single
     doubt that you had received it until Mr. Gerry's return. I asked
     him accidently whether he had delivered it, and he said, 'Yes; to
     Mr. Samuel Adams's lady.'"[117]

American letters of the eighteenth century abound in expressions of love
and in mention of gifts sent home as tokens of that love. Thus, Mrs.
Washington writes her brother in 1778: "Please to give little Patty a
kiss for me. I have sent her a pair of shoes--there was not a doll to be
got in the city of Philadelphia, or I would have sent her one (the shoes
are in a bundle for my mamma)."[118] And again from New York in 1789 she
writes: "I have by Mrs. Sims sent for a watch, it is one of the cargoe
that I have so often mentioned to you, that was expected, I hope is such
a one as will please you--it is of the newest fashion, if that has any
influence in your taste.... The chain is of Mr. Lear's choosing and such
as Mrs. Adams the vice President's Lady and those in the polite circle
wares and will last as long as the fashion--and by that time you can get
another of a fashionable kind--I send to dear Maria a piece of chintz to
make her a frock--the piece of muslin I hope is long enough for an apron
for you, and in exchange for it, I beg you will give me the worked
muslin apron you have like my gown that I made just before I left home
of worked muslin as I wish to make a petticoat of the two aprons,--for
my gown ... kiss Maria I send her two little handkerchiefs to wipe her

_XI. Woman's Sphere_

With all their evidence of love and confidence in their wives, these
colonial gentlemen were not, however, especially anxious to have
womankind dabble in politics or other public affairs. The husbands were
willing enough to explain public activities of a grave nature to their
help-meets, and sometimes even asked their opinion on proposed
movements; but the men did not hesitate to think aloud the theories that
the home was woman's sphere and domestic duties her best activities.
Governor Winthrop spoke in no uncertain terms for the seventeenth
century when he wrote the following brief note in his _History of New

(1645) "Mr. Hopkins, the governour of Hartford upon Connecticut, came
to Boston and brought his wife with him (a godly young woman, and of
special parts), who was fallen into a sad infirmity, the loss of her
understanding and reason, which had been growing upon her divers years,
by occasion of her giving herself wholly to reading and writing, and had
written many books. If she had attended to her household affairs, and
such things as belong to women, and not gone out of her way and calling
to meddle in such things as are proper for men, whose minds are
stronger, etc., she had kept her wits, and might have improved them
usefully and honorably in the place God had set her."

Thomas Jefferson, writing from Paris in 1788 to Mrs. Bingham, spoke in
less positive language but perhaps just as clearly the opinion of the
eighteenth century: "The gay and thoughtless Paris is now become a
furnace of politics. Men, women, children talk nothing else & you know
that naturally they talk much, loud & warm.... You too have had your
political fever. But our good ladies, I trust, have been too wise to
wrinkle their foreheads with politics. They are contented to soothe &
calm the minds of their husbands returning ruffled from political
debate. They have the good sense to value domestic happiness above all
others. There is no part of the earth where so much of this is enjoyed
as in America. You agree with me in this; but you think that the
pleasures of Paris more than supply its wants; in other words, that a
Parisian is happier than an American. You will change your opinion, my
dear madam, and come over to mine in the end. Recollect the women of
this capital, some on foot, some on horses, & some in carriages hunting
pleasure in the streets in routes, assemblies, & forgetting that they
have left it behind them in their nurseries & compare them with our own
country women occupied in the tender and tranquil amusements of domestic
life, and confess that it is a comparison of Americans and angels."[120]

And Franklin writes thus to his wife from London in 1758: "You are very
prudent not to engage in party Disputes. Women never should meddle with
them except in Endeavors to reconcile their Husbands, Brothers, and
Friends, who happen to be of contrary Sides. If your Sex can keep cool,
you may be a means of cooling ours the sooner, and restoring more
speedily that social Harmony among Fellow Citizens that is so desirable
after long and bitter Dissension."[121] Again, he writes thus to his
sister: "Remember that modesty, as it makes the most homely virgin
amiable and charming, so the want of it infallably renders the perfect
beauty disagreeable and odious. But when that brightest of female
virtues shines among other perfections of body and mind in the same
mind, it makes the woman more lovely than angels."[122]

What seems rather strange to the twentieth century American, the women
of colonial days apparently agreed with such views. So few avenues of
activity outside the home had ever been open to them that they may have
considered it unnatural to desire other forms of work; but, be that as
it may, there are exceedingly few instances in those days, of neglect of
home for the sake of a career in public work. Abigail Adams frequently
expressed it as her belief that a woman's first business was to help
her husband, and that a wife should desire no greater pleasure. "To be
the strength, the inmost joy, of a man who within the conditions of his
life seems to you a hero at every turn--there is no happiness more
penetrating for a wife than this."[123]

Women like Eliza Pinckney, Mercy Warren, Jane Turell, Margaret Winthrop,
Catherine Schuyler, and Elizabeth Hamilton most certainly believed this,
and their lives and the careers of their husbands testify to the success
of such womanly endeavors. Mercy Warren was a writer of considerable
talent, author of some rather widely read verse, and of a History of the
Revolution; but such literary efforts did not hinder her from doing her
best for husband and children; while Eliza Pinckney, with all her wide
reading, study of philosophy, agricultural investigations, experiments
in the production of indigo and silk, was first of all a genuine
homemaker. In fact, some times the manner in which these true-hearted
women stood by their husbands, whether in prosperity or adversity, has a
touch of the tragic in it. Beautiful Peggy Shippen, for instance, wife
of Benedict Arnold--what a life of distress was hers! Little more than a
year of married life had passed when the disgrace fell upon her.
Hamilton in a letter to his future wife tells how Mrs. Arnold received
the news of her husband's guilt: "She for a considerable time entirely
lost her self control. The General went up to see her. She upbraided him
with being in a plot to murder her child. One moment she raved, another
she melted into tears. Sometimes she pressed her infant to her bosom and
lamented its fate, occasioned by the imprudence of its father, in a
manner that would have pierced insensibility itself." "Could I forgive
Arnold for sacrificing his honor, reputation, duty, I could not forgive
him for acting a part that must have forfeited the esteem of so fine a
woman. At present she almost forgets his crime in his misfortunes; and
her horror at the guilt of the traitor is lost in her love of the

Her friends whispered it about New York and Philadelphia that she would
gladly forsake her husband and return to her father's home; but there is
absolutely no proof of the truth of such a statement, and it was
probably passed about to protect her family. No such choice, however,
was given her; for within a month there came to her an official notice
that decisively settled the matter:

     "Philadelphia, Friday, Oct. 27, 1780.

     "The Council taking into consideration the case of Mrs. Margaret
     Arnold (the wife of Benedict Arnold, an attainted traitor with
     the enemy at New York), whose residence in this city has become
     dangerous to the public safety, and this Board being desirous as
     much as possible to prevent any correspondence and intercourse
     being carried on with persons of disaffected character in this
     State and the enemy at New York, and especially with the said
     Benedict Arnold: therefore

     "RESOLVED, That the said Margaret Arnold depart this State within
     fourteen days from the date hereof, and that she do not return
     again during the continuance of the present war."

It is highly probable that she would ultimately have followed her
husband, anyhow; but this notice caused her to join him immediately in
New York, and from this time forth she was ever with him, bore him four
children, and was his only real friend and comforter throughout the
remainder of his life.

_XII. Women in Business_

Despite the popular theory about woman's sphere, men of the day
frequently trusted business affairs to her. A number of times we have
noted the references to the confidence of colonial husbands in their
wives' bravery, shrewdness, and general ability. Such belief went beyond
mere words; it was not infrequently expressed in the freedom granted the
women in business affairs during the absence of the husband. More will
be said later about the capacity of the colonial woman to take the
initiative; but a few instances may be cited at this point to show how
genuinely important affairs were often intrusted to the women for long
periods of time. We have seen Sewall's comment concerning the financial
ability of his wife, and have heard Franklin's declaration that he was
the more content to be absent some time because of the business sense of
Mrs. Franklin. Indeed, several letters from Franklin indicate his
confidence in her skill in such affairs. In 1756, while on a trip
through the colonies, he wrote her: "If you have not Cash sufficient,
call upon Mr. Moore, the Treasurer, with that Order of the Assembly, and
desire him to pay you £100 of it.... I hope a fortnight ... to make a
Trip to Philadelphia, and send away the Lottery Tickets.... and pay off
the Prizes, etc., tho' you may pay such as come to hand of those sold in
Philadelphia, of my signing.... I hope you have paid Mrs. Stephens for
the Bills."[125]

Again, in 1767, he writes her concerning the marriage of their daughter:
"London, June 22.... It seems now as if I should stay here another
Winter, and therefore I must leave it to your Judgment to act in the
Affair of your Daughter's Match, as shall seem best. If you think it a
suitable one, I suppose the sooner it is compleated the better.... I
know very little of the Gentleman [Richard Bache] or his Character, nor
can I at this Distance. I hope his expectations are not great of any
Fortune to be had with our Daughter before our Death. I can only say,
that if he proves a good Husband to her, and a good Son to me, he shall
find me as good a Father as I can be:--but at present I suppose you
would agree with me, that we cannot do mere than fit her out handsomely
in deaths and Furniture, not exceeding the whole Five Hundred Pounds of
Value. For the rest, they must depend as you and I did, on their own
Industry and Care: as what remains in our Hands will be barely
sufficient for our Support, and not enough for them when it comes to be
divided at our Decease...."[126]

Much has been written of the shrewdness, carefulness, industry, as well
as general womanliness of Abigail Adams. For years she was deprived of
her husband's presence and help; but under circumstances that at times
must have been appalling, she not only kept her family in comfort, but
by her practical judgment laid the foundation for that easy condition of
life in which she and her husband spent their later years. But there
were days when she evidently knew not which way to turn for relief from
real financial distress. In 1779 she wrote to her husband: "The safest
way, you tell me, of supplying my wants is by drafts; but I cannot get
hard money for bills. You had as good tell me to procure diamonds for
them; and, when bills will fetch but five for one, hard money will
exchange ten, which I think is very provoking; and I must give at the
rate of ten and sometimes twenty for one, for every article I purchase.
I blush while I give you a price current;--all butcher's meat from a
dollar to eight shillings per pound: corn is twenty-five dollars; rye
thirty per bushel; flour fifty pounds per hundred; potatoes ten dollars
per bushel; butter twelve shillings a pound; sugar twelve shillings a
pound; molasses twelve dollars per gallon; ... I have studied and do
study every method of economy in my power; otherwise a mint of money
would not support a family."[127]

Thus we have had a rather varied group of views of home life in colonial
days. In public there may have been a certain primness or aloofness in
the relations of man and woman, but it would seem that in the home there
was at least as much tender affection and mutual confidence as in the
modern family. In all probability, wives and mothers gave much closer
heed to the needs and tastes of husbands and children than is their case
to-day; for woman's only sphere in that period was her home, and her
whole heart and soul were in its success. Probably, too, women more
thoroughly believed then that her chief mission in life was to aid some
man in his public affairs by keeping always in preparation for him a
haven of comfort, peace, and love. On the other hand, the father of
colonial days undoubtedly gave much more attention to the rearing and
training of his children than does the modern father; for the present
public school has largely lessened the responsibilities of parenthood.
Both husband and wife were much more "home bodies" than are the modern
couple. There were but few attractions to draw the husband away from the
family hearth at night, and hard physical labor, far more common than
now, made the restful home evenings and Sundays exceedingly welcome.

Due to the crude household implements and the large families, the wife
and mother undoubtedly endured far more physical strain and hardships
than fall to the lot of the modern woman. The life of colonial woman,
with the incessant childbearing and preparation of a multitude of things
now made in factories, probably wasted an undue amount of nervous
energy; but it is doubtful whether the modern woman, with her numerous
outside activities and nerve-racking social requirements has any
advantage in this phase of the matter. The colonial wife was indeed a
power in the affairs of home, and thus indirectly exerted a genuine
influence over her husband. And not only the mother but the father was
vitally interested in domestic affairs that many a man of to-day, and
many a woman too, would consider too petty for their attention.

In spite of all the colonial disadvantages, as we view them, it seems
undeniably true that those wives who have left any written record of
their lives were truly happy. Perhaps their intensely busy existence
left them but little time to brood over wrongs or fancied ills; more
probably their deep love for the strong, level-headed and generally
clean-hearted men who established this nation made life exceedingly
worth while. Surely, the sanity, order, and stability of those homes of
long ago have had much to do with the physical and moral excellence that
have been so generally characteristic of the American people.


[75] _Several Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning_,

[76] _Letters of A. Adams_, pp. 10, 89, 93.

[77] Brown: _Mercy Warren_, pp. 73, 95.

[78] Brown: _Mercy Warren_, p. 98.

[79] Wharton: _Martha Washington_, p. 85.

[80] Smyth: _Writings of B. Franklin_, Vol. III, p. 245.

[81] Ravenel: _Eliza Pinckney_, pp. 93, 175.

[82] Bassett: _Writings of Col. William Byrd_, pp. 356-358.

[83] Wharton: _Martha Washington_, p. 153.

[84] Page 242.

[85] _English Garner_, Vol. II, p. 584.

[86] Earle: _Home Life in Colonial Days_, p. 160.

[87] Earle: _Home Life in Colonial Days_, p. 183.

[88] Page 71.

[89] Fisher: _Men, Women & Manners of Col. Days_, p. 275.

[90] Sewall: _Diary_, Vol. I, p. 59, ff.

[91] Humphreys: _Catherine Schuyler_, p. 123.

[92] Humphreys: _Catherine Schuyler_, p. 193.

[93] Vol. I, p. 122.

[94] _Diary_, Vol. I, p. 369.

[95] Vol. I, p. 423.

[96] Ravenel: _Eliza Pinckney_, p. 17.

[97] _Memoirs of an American Lady_, p. 29.

[98] _Letters_, p. 93.

[99] Brooks: _Dames and Daughters of Colonial Days_, p. 197.

[100] Sewall: _Diary_, Vol. II, p. 31.

[101] Ebenezer Turell in _Memoirs of the Life and Death of Mrs. Jane

[102] _Letters of A. Adams_, p. 57.

[103] _Letters of Franklin_, Vol. I, p. 324.

[104] _Letters of Franklin_, Vol. III, p. 378.

[105] Vol. II, p. 93.

[106] Humphreys: _Catherine Schuyler_, p. 228.

[107] Wharton: _Martha Washington_, p. 116.

[108] Smyth: _Writings of B. Franklin_, Vol. II, p. 87.

[109] Smyth: _Writings of B. Franklin_, Vol. III, p. 431.

[110] Smyth: _Writings of Franklin_, Vol. IV, p. 359.

[111] Smyth: _Writings of Franklin_, Vol. III, p. 325.

[112] Ford: _Writings of Jefferson_, Vol. IV, p. 101.

[113] _Ibid._, Vol. IV, p. 208.

[114] Vol. I, p. 83.

[115] _Ibid._, Vol. I, p. 170.

[116] _Ibid._, Vol. I, p. 492.

[117] Pp. 188-9.

[118] Wharton: _M. Washington_, p. 127.

[119] Wharton: Martha Washington, p. 205.

[120] Ford: _Writings of Jefferson_, Vol. III, p. 8.

[121] Smyth: _Writings of Franklin_, Vol. III, p. 438.

[122] _Ibid._, Vol. II, p. 87.

[123] Wharton: _Martha Washington_, p. 86.

[124] Humphreys: _Catherine Schuyler_, p. 183.

[125] Smyth: _Writings of Franklin_, Vol. III, p. 323.

[126] Smyth: _Writings of Franklin_, Vol. I, p. 31.

[127] _Letters of A. Adams_, p. 104.



_I. Dress Regulation by Law_

Who would think of writing a book on woman without including some
description of dress? Apparently the colonial woman, like her modern
sister, found beautiful clothing a subject near and dear to the heart;
but evidently the feminine nature of those old days did not have such
hunger so quickly or so thoroughly answered as in our own times. The
subject certainly did not then receive the printed notice now granted
it, and it is rather clear that a much smaller proportion of the bread
winner's income was used on gay apparel. And yet we shall note the same
hue and cry among colonial men that we may hear to-day--that women are
dress-crazy, and that the manner and expense of woman's dress are
responsible for much of the evil of the world.

We should not be greatly surprised, then, to discover that early in the
history of the colonies the magistrates tried zealously to regulate the
style and cost of female clothing. The deluded Puritan elders, who
believed that everything could and should be controlled by law, even
attempted until far into the eighteenth century to decide just how women
should array themselves. But the eternal feminine was too strong for the
law makers, and they ultimately gave up in despair. Both in Virginia
and New England such rules were early given a trial. Thus, in the old
court records we run across such statements as the following: "Sep. 27,
1653, the wife of Nicholas Maye of Newbury, Conn., was presented for
wearing silk cloak and scarf, but cleared proving her husband was worth
more than £200." In some of the Southern settlements the church
authorities very shrewdly connected fine dress with public spiritedness
and benevolence, and declared that every unmarried man must be assessed
in church according to his own apparel, and every married man according
to his own and his wife's apparel.[128] Again in 1651 the Massachusetts
court expressed its "utter detestation that men and women of meane
condition, education and calling should take upon them the garbe of
gentlemen by wearinge of gold or silver lace or buttons or poynts at
their knees, or walke in great boots, or women of the same ranke to wear
silke or tiffany hoods or scarfs."

A large number of persons were indeed "presented" under this law, and it
is plain that the officers of the times were greatly worried over this
form of earthly pride; but as the settlements grew older the people
gradually silenced the magistrates, and each person dressed as he or
she, especially the latter, chose.

_II. Contemporary Descriptions_

The result is that we find more references to dress in the eighteenth
century than in the previous one. The colonists had become more
prosperous, a little more worldly, and certainly far less afraid of the
wrath of God and the judges. As travel to Europe became safer and more
common, visitors brought new fashions, and provincialism in manner,
style, and costume became much less apparent. Madame Knight, who wrote
an account of her journey from Boston to New York in 1704, has left some
record of dress in the different colonies. Of the country women in
Connecticut she says: "They are very plain in their dress, throughout
all the colony, as I saw, and follow one another in their modes; that
you may know where they belong, especially the women, meet them where
you will." And see her description of the dress of the Dutch women of
New York: "The English go very fashionable in their dress. But the
Dutch, especially the middling sort, differ from our women in their
habit, go loose, wear French muches, which are like a cap and a head
band in one, leaving their ears bare, which are set out with jewels of a
large size, and many in number; and their fingers hooked with rings,
some with large stones in them of many colors, as were their pendants in
their ears, which you should see very old women wear as well as young."

As Mrs. Knight was so observant of how others dressed, let us take a
look at her own costume, as described in Brooks' _Dames and Daughters of
Colonial Days_: "Debby looked with curious admiring eyes at the new
comer's costume, the scarlet cloak and little round cap of Lincoln
green, the puffed and ruffled sleeves, the petticoat of green-drugget
cloth, the high heeled leather shoes, with their green ribbon bows, and
the riding mask of black velvet which Debby remembered to have heard,
only ladies of the highest gentility wore."[129]

The most famous or most dignified of colonial gentlemen were not above
commenting upon woman's dress. Old Judge Sewall mingled with his
accounts of courts, weddings, and funerals such items as: "Apr. 5, 1722.
My Wife wore her new Gown of sprig'd Persian." Again, we note the
philosopher-statesman, Franklin, discoursing rather fluently to his wife
about dress, and, from what we glean, he seems to have been pretty well
informed on matters of style. Thus in 1766 he wrote: "As the Stamp Act
is at length repeal'd, I am willing you should have a new Gown, which
you may suppose I did not send sooner, as I knew you would not like to
be finer than your neighbours, unless in a Gown of your own spinning.
Had the trade between the two Countries totally ceas'd, it was a Comfort
to me to recollect, that I had once been cloth'd from Head to Foot in
Woolen and Linnen of my Wife's Manufacture, that I never was prouder of
any Dress in my Life, and that she and her Daughter might do it again if
it was necessary.... Joking apart, I have sent you a fine Piece of
Pompadore Sattin, 14 Yards, cost 11 shillings a Yard; a silk Negligee
and Petticoat of brocaded Lutestring for my dear Sally, with two dozen

A letter dated from London, 1758, reads: ... "I send also 7 yards of
printed Cotton, blue Ground, to make you a Gown. I bought it by
Candle-Light, and lik'd it then, but not so well afterwards. If you do
not fancy it, send it as a present from me to sister Jenny. There is a
better Gown for you, of flower'd Tissue, 16 yards, of Mrs. Stevenson's
Fancy, cost 9 Guineas and I think it a great Beauty. There was no more
of the sort or you should have had enough for a Negligee or Suit."[131]

And again: "Had I been well, I intended to have gone round among the
shops and bought some pretty things for you and my dear, good Sally
(whose little hands you say eased your headache) to send by this ship,
but I must now defer it to the next, having only got a crimson satin
cloak for you, the newest fashion, and the black silk for Sally; but
Billy sends her a scarlet feather, muff, and tippet, and a box of
fashionable linen for her dress...."[132]

He sends her also in 1758 "a newest fashion'd white Hat and Cloak and
sundery little things, which I hope will get safe to hand. I send a pair
of Buckles, made of French Paste Stones, which are next in Lustre to

Abigail Adams also has left us rather detailed descriptions of her
dresses prepared for various special occasins. Thus, after being
presented at the English Court, she wrote home: "Your Aunt then wore a
full dress court cap without the lappets, in which was a wreath of white
flowers, and blue sheafs, two black and blue flat feathers, pins, bought
for Court, and a pair of pearl earings, the cost of them--no matter
what--less than diamonds, however. A sapphire blue demi-saison with a
satin stripe, sack and petticoat trimmed with a broad black lace; crape
flounce, & leave made of blue ribbon, and trimmed with white floss;
wreaths of black velvet ribbon spotted with steel beads, which are much
in fashion, and brought to such perfection as to resemble diamonds;
white ribbon also in the van dyke style, made up of the trimming, which
looked very elegant, a full dress handkerchief, and a bouquet of
roses.... Now for your cousin: A small, white leghorn hat, bound with
pink satin ribbon; a steel buckle and band which turned up at the side,
and confined a large pink bow; large bow of the same kind of ribbon
behind; a wreath of full-blown roses round the crown, and another of
buds and roses within side the hat, which being placed at the back of
the hair brought the roses to the edge; you see it clearly; one red and
black feather, with two white ones, compleated the head-dress. A gown
and coat of chamberi gauze with a red satin stripe over a pink waist,
and coat flounced with crape, trimmed with broad point and pink ribbon;
wreaths of roses across the coat; gauze sleeves and ruffles."[134]

Although it is absolutely impossible for a man to form the picture, this
sounds as though it were elegant. Again she writes: "Cousin's dress is
white, ... like your aunts, only differently trimmed and ornamented; her
train being wholly of white crape, and trimmed with white ribbon; the
petticoat, which is the most showy part of the dress, covered and drawn
up in what are called festoons, with light wreaths of beautiful flowers;
the sleeves white crape, drawn over silk, with a row of lace round the
sleeve near the shoulder, another half way down the arm, and a third
upon the top of the ruffle, a little flower stuck between; a kind of
hat-cap, with three large feathers, and a bunch of flowers; a wreath of
flowers upon the hair."[135]

It is apparent that no large amount of Puritanical scruples about fine
array had passed over into eighteenth century America. Whether in New
England, the Middle Colonies, or the South, the natural longing of woman
for ornamentation and beautiful adornment had gained supremacy, and from
the records we may judge that some ladies of those days expended an
amount on clothing not greatly out of proportion with the amount spent
to-day by the well-to-do classes. For instance, in Philadelphia, we find
a Miss Chambers adorned as follows: "On this evening, my dress was white
brocade silk, trimmed with silver, and white silk high-heeled shoes,
embroidered with silver, and a light-blue sash with silver and tassel,
tied at the left side. My watch was suspended at the right, and my hair
was in its natural curls. Surmounting all was a small white hat and
white ostrich feather, confined by brilliant band and buckle."[136]

_III. Raillery and Scolding_

Of course, the colonial man found woman's dress a subject for jest; what
man has not? Certainly in America the custom is of long standing. Old
Nathaniel Ward, writing in 1647 in his _Simple Cobbler of Aggawam_,
declares: "It is a more common than convenient saying that nine tailors
make a man; it were well if nineteen could make a woman to her mind. If
tailors were men indeed well furnished, but with more moral principles,
they would disdain to be led about like apes by such mimic marmosets. It
is a most unworthy thing for men that have bones in them to spend their
lives in making fiddle-cases for futilous women's fancies; which are the
very pettitoes of infirmity, the giblets of perquisquilian toys.... It
is no little labor to be continually putting up English women into
outlandish casks; who if they be not shifted anew once in a few months
grow too sour for their husbands.... He that makes coats for the moon
had need take measure every noon, and he that makes for women, as often
to keep them from lunacy."

Indeed Ward becomes genuinely excited over the matter, and says some
really bitter things: "I shall make bold for this once to borrow a
little of their long-waisted but short skirted patience.... It is beyond
the ken of my understanding to conceive, how those women should have any
true grace, or valuable virtue, that have so little wit as to disfigure
themselves with such exotic garbes, as not only dismantle their native
lovely lustre, but transclouts them into gant-bar-geese, ill
shapen-shotten-shell-fish, Egyptian Hyeroglyphics, or at the best French
flirts of the pastery, which a proper English woman should scorn with
her heels...."

The raillery became more frequent and certainly much more good-natured
in the eighteenth century. Philip Fithian, a Virginia tutor, writing in
1773, said in his _Diary_: "Almost every Lady wears a red Cloak; and
when they ride out they tye a red handkerchief over their Head and face,
so that when I first came into Virginia, I was distressed whenever I saw
a Lady, for I thought she had the toothache."

In fact, the subject sometimes inspired the men to poetry, as may be
seen from the following specimen:

      "Young ladies, in town, and those that live 'round,
        Let a friend at this season advise you;
      Since money's so scarce, and times growing worse,
        Strange things may soon hap and surprise you.

      "First, then, throw aside your topknots of pride,
        Wear none but your own country linen,
      Of Economy boast, let your pride be the most,
        To show clothes of your own make and spinning.

      "What if home-spun, they say, is not quite so gay
        As brocades, yet be not in a passion,
      For when once it is known, this is much worn in town,
        One and all will cry out--''Tis the fashion.'

             *       *       *       *       *

      "Throw aside your Bohea and your Green Hyson tea,
        And all things with a new-fashion duty;
      Procure a good store of the choice Labrador
        For there'll soon be enough here to suit you.

      "These do without fear, and to all you'll appear
        Fair, charming, true, lovely, and clever,
      Tho' the times remain darkish, your men may be sparkish,
        And love you much stronger than ever."[137]

A perusal of extracts from newspapers of those days makes it clear that
a good many men were of the opinion that more simplicity in dress would
indeed make women "fair, charming, true, lovely, and clever." The _Essex
Journal_ of Massachusetts of the late eighteenth century, commenting
upon the follies common to "females"--vanity, affectation,
talkativeness, etc.,--adds the following remarks on dress: "Too great
delight in dress and finery by the expense of time and money which they
occasion in some instances to a degree beyond all bounds of decency and
common sense, tends naturally to sink a woman to the lowest pitch of
contempt amongst all those of either sex who have capacity enough to put
two thoughts together. A creature who spends its whole time in
dressing, prating, gaming, and gadding, is a being--originally indeed of
the rational make, but who has sunk itself beneath its rank, and is to
be considered at present as nearly on a level with the monkey

Even pamphlets and small books were written on the subject by ireful
male citizens, and the publisher of the _Boston News Letter_ braved the
wrath of womankind by inserting the following advertisement in his
paper: "Just published and Sold by the Printer hereof, HOOP PETTICOATS,
Arraigned and condemned by the Light of Nature and Law of God."[138]
Many a scribbler hiding behind some Latin pen name, such as Publicus,
poured forth in those early papers his spleen concerning woman's
costume. Thus in 1726 the _New England Weekly Journal_ published a
series of essays on the vanities of females, and the writer evidently
found much relief in delivering himself on those same hoop skirts: "I
shall not busy myself with the ladies' shoes and stockings at all, but I
can't so easily pass over the Hoop when 'tis in my way, and therefore I
must beg pardon of my fair readers if I begin my attack here. 'Tis now
some years since this remarkable fashion made a figure in the world and
from its first beginning divided the public opinion as to its
convenience and beauty. For my part I was always willing to indulge it
under some restrictions: that is to say if 'tis not a rival to the dome
of St. Paul's to incumber the way, or a tub for the residence of a new
Diogenes. If it does not eclipse too much beauty above or discover too
much below. In short, I am for living in peace, and I am afraid a fine
lady with too much liberty in this particular would render my own
imagination an enemy to my repose."

Perhaps, however, in this particular instance, men had some excuse for
their tirade; it may have come as a matter of self-preservation. We can
more readily understand their feelings when we learn the size of the
cause of it. In October, 1774, after Margaret Hutchinson had been
presented at the Court of St. James, she wrote her sister: "We called
for Mrs. Keene, but found that one coach would not contain more than two
such mighty hoops; and papa and Mr. K. were obliged to go in another

But hoops and bonnets and other extravagant forms of dress were not the
only phases of woman's adornment that startled the men and fretted their
souls. The very manner in which the ladies wore their hair caused their
lords and masters to run to the newspaper with a fresh outburst of
contempt. In 1731 some Massachusetts citizen with more wrath than
caution expressed himself thus: "I come now to the Head Dress--the very
highest point of female eloquence, and here I find such a variety of
modes, such a medley of decoration, that 'tis hard to know where to fix,
lace and cambrick, gauze and fringe, feathers and ribbands, create such
a confusion, occasion such frequent changes that it defies art,
judgement, or taste to recommend them to any standard, or reduce them to
any order. That ornament of the hair which is styled the Horns, and has
been in vogue so long, was certainly first calculated by some
good-natured lady to keep her spouse in countenance."[139]

This last statement proved too much; it was the straw that broke the
camel's back; even the meek colonial women could not suffer this to go
unanswered. In the next number of the same paper appeared the following,
written probably by some high-spirited dame: "You seem to blame us for
our innovations and fleeting fancy in dress which you are most
notoriously guilty of, who esteem yourselves the mighty, wise, and head
of the species. Therefore, I think it highly necessary that you show us
the example first, and begin the reformation among yourselves, if you
intend your observations shall have any with us. I leave the world to
judge whether our petticoat resembles the dome of St. Paul's nearer than
you in your long coats do the Monument. You complain of our masculine
appearance in our riding habits, and indeed we think it is but
reasonable that we should make reprisals upon you for the invasion of
our dress and figure, and the advances you make in effeminency, and your
degeneracy from the figure of man. Can there be a more ridiculous
appearance than to see a smart fellow within the compass of five feet
immersed in a huge long coat to his heels with cuffs to the arm pits,
the shoulders and breast fenced against the inclemencies of the weather
by a monstrous cape, or rather short cloak, shoe toes, pointed to the
heavens in imitation of the Lap-landers, with buckles of a harnass size?
I confess the beaux with their toupee wigs make us extremely merry, and
frequently put me in mind of my favorite monkey both in figure and
apishness, and were it not for a reverse of circumstances, I should be apt
to mistake it for Pug, and treat him with the same familiarity."[140]

_IV. Extravagance in Dress_

To all appearances it was less safe in colonial days for mere man to
comment on female attire than at present; for the typical gentlemen
before 1800 probably wore as many velvets, brocades, satins, laces, and
wigs as any woman of the day or since. Each sex, however, wasted more
than enough of both time and money on the matter. Grieve, the translator
of Chastellux, the Frenchman who made rather extensive observations in
America at the close of the Revolution, says in a footnote to
Chastellux's _Travels_: "The rage for dress amongst the women in
America, in the very height of the miseries of the war, was beyond all
bounds; nor was it confined to the great towns; it prevailed equally on
the sea coasts and in the woods and solitudes of the vast extent of
country from Florida to New Hampshire. In travelling into the interior
parts of Virginia I spent a delicious day at an inn, at the ferry of the
Shenandoah, or the Catacton Mountains, with the most engaging,
accomplished and voluptuous girls, the daughters of the landlord, a
native of Boston transplanted thither, who with all the gifts of nature
possessed the arts of dress not unworthy of Parisian milliners, and went
regularly three times a week to the distance of seven miles, to attend
the lessons of one DeGrace, a French dancing master, who was making a
fortune in the country."[141]

Such a statement must not, of course, be taken too seriously; for, as we
have seen, many women, such as Mrs. Washington, Abigail Adams, and Eliza
Pinckney, were almost parsimonious in dress during the great strife.
Doubtless there were many, however, particularly in the cities, who
could not or would not restrain their love of finery, especially when so
many handsome and gaily uniformed British officers were at hand. But
long before and after the Revolution there seems to have been no lack of
fashionable clothing. The old diaries and account books tell the tale.
Thus, Washington has left us an account of articles ordered from London
for his wife. Among these were "a salmon-colored tabby velvet of the
enclosed pattern, with satin flowers, to be made in a sack and coat,
ruffles to be made of Brussels lace or Point, proper to be worn with the
above _negligee_, to cost £20; 2 pairs of white silk hose; 1 pair of
white satin shoes of the smallest fives; 1 fashionable hat or bonnet; 6
pairs woman's best kid gloves; 6 pairs mitts; 1 dozen breast-knots; 1
dozen most fashionable cambric pocket handkerchiefs; 6 pounds perfumed
powder; a puckered petticoat of fashionable color; a silver tabby velvet
petticoat; handsome breast flowers;..." For little Miss Custis was
ordered "a coat made of fashionable silk, 6 pairs of white kid gloves,
handsome egrettes of different sorts, and one pair of pack thread

These may seem indeed rather strange gifts for a mere girl; but we
should remember that children of that day wore dresses similar to those
of their mothers, and such items as high-heeled shoes, heavy stays, and
enormous hoop petticoats were not at all unusual. Many things unknown to
the modern child were commonly used by the daughters of the wealthier
parents, such as long-armed gloves and complexion masks, made of linen
or velvet, and sun-bonnets sewed through the hair and under the
neck--all this to ward off every ray of the sun, and thus preserve the
delicate complexion of childhood.

That we may judge of the quality and quantity of a girl's apparel in
those fastidious days, examine this list of clothes sent by Colonel John
Lewis of Virginia in 1727 to be used by his ward, in an English school:

  "A cap ruffle and tucker, the lace 5 shillings per yard,
  1 pair White Stays,
  8 pair White Kid gloves,
  2 pair coloured kid gloves,
  2 pair worsted hose,
  3 pair thread hose,
  1 pair silk shoes laced,
  1 pair morocco shoes,
  1 Hoop Coat,
  1 Hat,
  4 pair plain Spanish shoes,
  2 pair calf shoes,
  1 mask,
  1 fan,
  1 necklace,
  1 Girdle and buckle,
  1 piece fashionable calico,
  4 yards ribbon for knots,
  1-1/2 yd. Cambric,
  1 mantua and coat of lute-string."[143]

One New England miss, sent to a finishing school at Boston, had twelve
silk gowns, but her teacher "wrote home that she must have another gown
of a 'recently imported rich fabric,' which was at once bought for her
because it was suitable for her rank and station."[144] Even the frugal
Ben Franklin saw to it that his wife and daughter dressed as well as the
best of them in rich gowns of silk. In the _Pennsylvania Gazette_ of
1750 there appeared the following advertisement: "Whereas on Saturday
night last the house of Benjamin Franklin of this city, Printer, was
broken open, and the following things feloniously taken away, viz., a
double necklace of gold beads, a woman's long scarlet cloak almost new,
with a double cape, a woman's gown, of printed cotton of the sort
called brocade print, very remarkable, the ground dark, with large red
roses, and other large and yellow flowers, with blue in some of the
flowers, with many green leaves; a pair of women's stays covered with
white tabby before, and dove colour'd tabby behind...."

It seems that in richness of dress Philadelphia led the colonial world,
even outrivaling the expenditure of the wealthy Virginia planters for
this item. While Philadelphia was the political and social center of the
day this extravagance was especially noticeable; but when New York
became the capital the Quaker city was almost over-shadowed by the
gaiety displayed in dress by the Dutch city. "You will find here the
English fashions," says St. John de Crevecoeur. "In the dress of the
women you will see the most brilliant silks, gauzes, hats and borrowed
hair.... If there is a town on the American continent where English
luxury displayed its follies it was in New York."[145]

All the blame, however, must not be placed upon the shoulders of
colonial dames. What else could the women do? They felt compelled to
make an appearance at least equal to that of the men, and probably
Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed as one of these men. Even the
conservative Washington appeared on state occasions in "black velvet, a
silver or steel hilted small sword at his left side, pearl satin
waistcoat, fine linen and lace, hair full powdered, black silk hose, and
bag."[146] Such finery was not limited to the ruling classes of the
land; a Boston printer of the days immediately following the Revolution
appeared in a costume that surpassed the most startling that Boston of
our times could display. "He wore a pea-green coat, white vest, nankeen
small clothes, white silk stockings, and pumps fastened with silver
buckles which covered at least half the foot, from instep to toe. His
small clothes were tied at the knees with ribbon of the same color in
double bows, the ends reaching down to the ankles. His hair in front was
well loaded with pomatum, frizzled or craped and powdered. Behind, his
natural hair was augmented by the addition of a large queue called
vulgarly a false tail, which, enrolled in some yards of black ribbon,
hung half way down his back."[147]

Surely this is enough of the men; let us return to the women. See the
future Dolly Madison at her first meeting with the "great, little Mr.
Madison." She had lived a Quaker during her girlhood, but she grew
bravely over it. "Her gown of mulberry satin, with tulle kerchief folded
over the bosom, set off to the best advantage the pearly white and
delicate rose tints of that complexion which constituted the chief
beauty of Dolly Todd."[148] The ladies of the Tory class evidently tried
to outshine those of the patriot party, and when there was a British
function of any sort,--as was often the case at Philadelphia--the scene
was indeed gay, with richly gowned matrons and maids on the arms of
English officers, brave with gold lace and gold buttons. One great fête
or festival known as the "Meschianza," given at Philadelphia, was so
gorgeous a pageant that years afterwards society of the capital talked
about it. Picture the costume of Miss Franks of Philadelphia on that
occasion: "The dress is more ridiculous and pretty than anything I ever
saw--great quantity of different colored feathers on the head at a time
besides a thousand other things. The Hair dress'd very high in the shape
Miss Vining's was the night we returned from Smiths--the Hat we found in
your Mother's Closet wou'd be of a proper size. I have an afternoon cap
with one wing--tho' I assure you I go less in the fashion than most of
the Ladies--none being dress'd without a hoop...."[149]

And, again, perhaps the modern woman can appreciate the following
description of a costume seen at the inaugural ball of 1789: "It was a
plain celestial blue satin gown, with a white satin petticoat. On the
neck was worn a very large Italian gauze handkerchief, with border
stripes of satin. The head-dress was a pouf of satin in the form of a
globe, the creneaux or head-piece which was composed of white satin,
having a double wing in large pleats and trimmed with a wreath of
artificial roses. The hair was dressed all over in detached curls, four
of which in two ranks, fell on each side of the neck and were relieved
behind by a floating chignon."[150]

Unlike the other first ladies of the day, Martha Washington made little
effort toward ostentation, and her plain manner of dress was sometimes
the occasion of astonishment and comment on the part of wives of foreign
representatives. Says Miss Chambers concerning this contrast between
European women and Mrs. Washington, as shown at a birthday ball tendered
the President in 1795: "She was dressed in a rich silk, but entirely
without ornament, except the animation her amiable heart gives to her
countenance. Next her were seated the wives of the foreign ambassadors,
glittering from the floor to the summit of their head-dress. One of the
ladies wore three large ostrich feathers, her brow encircled by a
sparkling fillet of diamonds; her neck and arms were almost covered with
jewels, and two watches were suspended from her girdle, and all
reflecting the light from a hundred directions."[151]

Nor was this richness of dress among foreign visitors confined to the
women. Sally McKean, who became the wife of the Spanish minister to
America, wore at one state function, "a blue satin dress, trimmed with
white crape and flowers, and petticoat of white crape richly embroidered
and across the front a festoon of rose color, caught up with flowers";
but her future husband had "his hair powdered like a snow ball; with
dark striped silk coat lined with satin, black silk breeches, white silk
stockings, shoes and buckles. He had by his side an elegant hilted
small-sword, and his chapeau tipped with white feathers, under his

There were, of course, no fashion plates in that day, nor were there any
"living models" to strut back and forth before keen-eyed customers; but
fully dressed dolls were imported from France and England, and sent from
town to town as examples of properly attired ladies. Eliza Southgate
Bowne, after seeing the dolls in her shopping expeditions, wrote to a
friend: "Caroline and I went a-shopping yesterday, and 'tis a fact that
the little white satin Quaker bonnets, cap-crowns, are the most
fashionable that are worn--lined with pink or blue or white--but I'll
not have one, for if any of my old acquaintance should meet me in the
street they would laugh.... Large sheer-muslin shawls, put on as Sally
Weeks wears hers, are much worn; they show the form through and look
pretty. Silk nabobs, plaided, colored and white are much worn--very
short waists--hair very plain."

Of course, the men of the day, found a good deal of pleasure in poking
fun at woman's use of dress and ornaments as bait for entrapping lovers,
and many a squib expressing this theory appeared in the newspapers.
These cynical notes no more represented the general opinion of the
people than do similar satires in the comic sheets of to-day; but they
are interesting at least, as showing a long prevailing weakness among
men. The following sarcastic advertisement, for instance, was written by
John Trumbull:

     "To Be Sold at Public Vendue,
     The Whole Estate of
     Isabella Sprightly, Toast and Coquette,
     (Now retiring from Business)

     "Imprimis, all the tools and utensils necessary for carrying on
     the trade, viz.: several bundles of darts and arrows well pointed
     and capable of doing great execution. A considerable quantity of
     patches, paint, brushes and cosmetics for plastering, painting,
     and white-washing the face; a complete set of caps, "a la mode a
     Paris," of all sizes, from five to fifteen inches in height; with
     several dozens of cupids, very proper to be stationed on a ruby
     lip, a diamond eye, or a roseate cheek.

     "Item, as she proposes by certain ceremonies to transform one of
     her humble servants into a husband and keep him for her own use,
     she offers for sale, Florio, Daphnis, Cynthio, and Cleanthes,
     with several others whom she won by a constant attendance on
     business during the space of four years. She can prove her
     indisputable right thus to dispose of them by certain deeds of
     gifts, bills of sale, and attestation, vulgarly called love
     letters, under their own hands and seals. They will be offered
     very cheap, for they are all of them broken-hearted, consumptive,
     or in a dying condition. Nay, some of them have been dead this
     half year, as they declare and testify in the above mentioned

     "N.B. Their hearts will be sold separately."

When all the above implements and wiles failed to entrap a lover, and
the coquette was left as a "wall-flower," as the Germans express it, the
men of the day satirized the unfortunate one just as mercilessly. Read,
for example, a few lines from the _Progress of Dullness_, thought to be
a very humorous poem in its time:

    "Poor Harriett now hath had her day;
    No more the beaux confess her sway;
    New beauties push her from the stage;
    She trembles at the approach of age,
    And starts to view the altered face
    That wrinkles at her in her glass.

           *       *       *       *       *

    "Despised by all and doomed to meet
    Her lovers at her rivals' feet,
    She flies assemblies, shuns the ball,
    And cries out vanity, on all;

           *       *       *       *       *

    "Now careless grown of airs polite
    Her noon-day night-cap meets the sight;
    Her hair uncombed collects together
    With ornaments of many a feather.

           *       *       *       *       *

    "She spends her breath as years prevail
    At this sad wicked world to rail,
    To slander all her sex impromptu,
    And wonder what the times will come to."

During the earlier years of the seventeenth century, as we have noted,
this deprecatory opinion by men concerning woman's garb was not confined
to ridicule in journals and books, but was even incorporated into the
laws of several towns and colonies. Women were compelled to dress in a
certain manner and within fixed financial limits, or suffered the
penalties of the courts. Many were the "presentations," as such cases
were called, of our colonial ancestors. As material wealth increased,
however, dress became more and more elaborate until in the era shortly
before and after the Revolution fashions were almost extravagant. Costly
satins, silks, velvets, and brocades were among the common items of
dress purchased by even the moderately well-to-do city and planter folk.
If space permitted, many quotations by travellers from abroad,
accustomed to the splendor of European courts, could be presented to
show the surprising quality and good taste displayed in the garments of
the better classes of the New World. To their honor, however, it may be
remembered that these same American women in the days of tribulation
when their husbands were battling for a new nation were willing to cast
aside such indications of wealth and pride, and don the humble homespun
garments made by their own hands.


[128] Fiske: _Old Virginia_, Vol. I, p. 246.

[129] Page 76.

[130] Smyth: _Writings of B. Franklin_, Vol. IV, p. 449.

[131] _Ibid._ Vol. III, p. 431.

[132] _Ibid._ Vol. III, p. 419.

[133] _Ibid._ Vol. III, p. 438.

[134] _Letters of A. Adams_, p. 282.

[135] _Letters of A. Adams_, p. 250.

[136] Wharton: _Martha Washington_, p. 227.

[137] Buckingham: _Reminiscences_, Vol. I, p. 34.

[138] Buckingham. Vol. I, p. 88.

[139] Buckingham, Vol. I, p. 115.

[140] _Ibid._

[141] Vol. II, p. 115.

[142] Wharton: _Martha Washington_, p. 59.

[143] Quoted in Earle: _Home Life in Colonial Days_, p. 290.

[144] Earle: _Home Life in Colonial Days_, p. 291.

[145] Wharton: _Through Colonial Doorways_, p. 89.

[146] Wharton: _M. Washington_, p. 225.

[147] Earle: _Home Life in Colonial Days_, p. 294.

[148] Goodwin: _Dolly Madison_, p. 54.

[149] Wharton: _Through Colonial Doorways_, p. 219.

[150] Wharton: _Through Colonial Doorways_, p. 79.

[151] Wharton: _Martha Washington_, p. 230.

[152] Crawford: _Romantic Days in the Early Republic_, p. 53.



_I. Southern Isolation and Hospitality_

In the earlier part of the seventeenth century the social life of the
colonists, at least in New England, was what would now be considered
monotonous and dull. Aside from marriages, funerals, and church-going
there was little to attract the Puritans from their steady routine of
farming and trading. In New York the Dutch were apparently contented
with their daily eating, drinking, smoking, and walking along the
Battery or out the country road, the Bowery. In Virginia life, as far as
social activities were concerned, was at first dull enough, although
even in the early days of Jamestown there was some display at the
Governor's mansion, while the sessions of court and assemblies brought
planters and their families to town for some brief period of balls,
banquets, and dancing.

As the seventeenth century progressed, however, visiting, dinner
parties, dances, and hunts in the South became more and more gay, and
the balls in the plantation mansions became events of no little
splendor. Wealth, gained through tobacco, increased rapidly in this
section, and the best that England and France could offer was not too
expensive for the luxurious homes of not only Virginia but Maryland and
South Carolina. The higher Dutch families of New York also began to show
considerable vigor socially; Philadelphia forgot the staid dignity of
its founder; and even New England, especially Boston, began to use
accumulated wealth in ways of levity that would have shocked the Puritan

In the eighteenth-century South we find accounts of a carefree,
pleasure-loving, joyous mode of life that read almost like stories of
some fairy world. The traditions of the people, among whom was an
element of Cavalier blood, the genial climate, the use of slave labor,
the great demand for tobacco, all united to develop a social life much
more unbounded and hospitable than that found in the northern colonies.
But this constant raising of tobacco soon exhausted the soil; and the
planters, instead of attempting to enrich their lands, found it more
profitable constantly to advance into the forest wilderness to the west,
where the process of gaining wealth at the expense of the soil might be
repeated. This was well for American civilization, but not immediately
beneficial to the intellectual growth of the people. The mansions were
naturally far apart; towns were few in number; schools were almost
impossible; and successful newspapers were for many years simply out of
the question. Washington's estate at Mt. Vernon contained over four
thousand acres; many other farms were far larger; each planter lived in
comparative isolation. Those peculiar advantages arising from living
near a city were totally absent. As late as 1740 Eliza Pinckney wrote a
friend in England: "We are 17 miles by land and 6 by water from Charles

Thus, each large owner had a tendency to become a petty feudal lord,
controlling large numbers of slaves and unlimited resources of soil and
labor within an arbitrary grasp. As there were numerous navigable
streams, many of the planters possessed private wharfs where tobacco
could be loaded for shipment and goods from abroad delivered within a
short distance of the mansion. Such an economic scheme made trading
centers almost unnecessary and tended to keep the population scattered.
"In striking contrast to New England was the absence of towns, due
mainly to two reasons--first, the wealth of the water courses, which
enabled every planter of means to ship his products from his own wharf,
and, secondly, the culture of tobacco, which scattered the people in a
continual search for new and richer lands. This rural life, while it
hindered co-operation, promoted a spirit of independence among the
whites of all classes which counter-acted the aristocratic form of

Channing, writing of conditions in 1800, the close of this period, says:
"The great Virginia plantations were practically self-sustaining, so far
as the actual necessaries of life were concerned; the slaves had to be
clothed and fed whether tobacco and wheat could be sold or not, but they
produced, with the exception of the raw material for making their
garments, practically all that was essential to their well being. The
money which the Virginia planters received for their staple products was
used to purchase articles of luxury--wine for the men, articles of
apparel for the women, furnishings for the house, and things of that
kind, and to pay the interest on the load of indebtedness which the
Virginia aristocracy owed at home and broad."[154]

Again, the same historian says: "The plenty of everything made
hospitality universal, and the wealth of the country was greatly
promoted by the opening of the forests. Indeed, so contented were the
people with their new homes (1652) that ... 'seldom (if ever) any that
hath continued in Virginia any time will or do desire to live in
England, but post back with what expedition they can, although many are
landed men in England, and have good estates there, and divers ways of
preferments propounded to them, to entice and perswade their

Now, this comparative isolation of the plantation life made visiting and
neighborliness doubly grateful and, hospitality and the spirit of
kindness became almost proverbial in Virginia. As far back as 1656 John
Hammond of Virginia and Maryland noted this fact with no little pride in
his _Leah and Rachel_; for, said he, "If any fall sick and cannot
compasse to follow his crope, which if not followed, will soon be lost,
the adjoyning neighbors will either voluntarily or upon a request joyn
together, and work in it by spels, untill the honour recovers, and that
gratis, so that no man by sicknesse lose any part of his years worke....
Let any travell, it is without charge, and at every house is
entertainment as in a hostelry, and with it hearty welcome are strangers
entertained.... In a word, Virginia wants not good victuals, wants not
good dispositions, and as God hath freely bestowed it, they as freely
impart with it, yet are there as well bad natures as good."

This spirit of brotherhood and hospitality, was, of course, very
necessary in the first days of colonization, and the sudden increase of
wealth prevented its becoming irksome in later days. Naturally, too, the
poorer classes copied after the aristocracy, and thus the custom became
universal along the Southern coast. As mentioned above, there was a
Cavalier strain throughout the section. As Robert Beverly observed in
his _History of Virginia_, written in 1705: "In the time of the
rebellion in England several good cavalier families went thither with
their effects, to escape the tyranny of the usurper, or acknowledgement
of his title." Such people had long been accustomed to rather lavish
expenditures and entertainment, and, as Beverly testifies, they did not
greatly change their mode of life after reaching America:

     "For their recreation, the plantations, orchards and gardens
     constantly afford them fragrant and delightful walks. In their
     woods and fields, they have an unknown variety of vegetables, and
     other varieties of Nature to discover. They have hunting, fishing
     and fowling, with which they entertain themselves an hundred
     ways. There is the most good nature and hospitality practised in
     the world, both towards friends and strangers; but the worst of
     it is, this generosity is attended now and then with a little too
     much intemperance."

     "The inhabitants are very courteous to travelers, who need no
     other recommendation but the being human creatures. A stranger
     has no more to do, but to enquire upon the road, where any
     gentleman or good housekeeper lives, and there he may depend upon
     being received with hospitality. This good nature is so general
     among their people, that the gentry, when they go abroad, order
     their principal servant to entertain all visitors, with
     everything the plantation affords. And the poor planters, who
     have but one bed, will very often sit up, or lie upon a form or
     couch all night, to make room for a weary traveler, to repose
     himself after his journey...."

Many other statements, not only by Americans, but by cultured foreigners
might be presented to show the charm of colonial life in Virginia. The
Marquis de Chastellux, one of the French Revolutionary generals, a man
who had mingled in the best society of Europe, was fascinated with the
evidence of luxury, culture and, feminine refinement of the Old
Dominion, and declared that Virginia women might become excellent
musicians if the fox-hounds would stop baying for a little while each
day. He met several ladies who sang well and "played on the
harpsichord"; he was delighted at the number of excellent French and
English authors he found in the libraries; and, above all, he was
surprised at the natural dignity of many of the older men and women, and
at the evidences of domestic felicity found in the great homes.

_II. Splendor in the Southern Home_

Of these vast, rambling mansions numerous descriptions have been handed
down to our day. The following, written in 1774, is an account recorded
in his diary by the tutor, Philip Fithian, in the family of a Virginia

     "Mr. Carter has chosen for the place of his habitation a high
     spot of Ground in Westmoreland County ... where he has erected a
     large, Elegant House, at a vast expense, which commonly goes by
     the name of Nomini-Hall. This House is built with Brick but the
     bricks have been covered with strong lime Mortar, so that the
     building is now perfectly white (erected in 1732). It is
     seventy-six Feet long from East to West; & forty-four wide from
     North to South, two stories high; ... It has five stacks of
     Chimneys, tho' two of these serve only for ornaments."

     "There is a beautiful Jutt, on the South side, eighteen feet
     long, & eight Feet deep from the wall which is supported by three
     pillars--On the South side, or front, in the upper story are four
     Windows each having twenty-four Lights of Glass. In the lower
     story are two Windows each having forty-two Lights of Glass, &
     two Doors each having Sixteen Lights. At the east end the upper
     story has three windows each with 18 lights; & below two windows
     both with eighteen lights & a door with nine...."

     "The North side I think is the most beautiful of all. In the
     upper story is a row of seven windows with 18 lights a piece; and
     below six windows, with the like number of lights; besides a
     large Portico in the middle, at the sides of which are two
     windows each with eighteen lights.... At the west end are no
     Windows--The number of lights in all is five hundred, & forty
     nine. There are four Rooms on a Floor, disposed of in the
     following manner. Below is a dining Room where we usually sit;
     the second is a dining-room for the Children; the third is Mr.
     Carters study, and the fourth is a Ball-Room thirty Feet long.
     Above stairs, one room is for Mr. & Mrs. Carter; the second for
     the young Ladies; & the other two for occasional Company. As this
     House is large, and stands on a high piece of Land it may be seen
     a considerable distance."

Nor were these houses less elegantly furnished than magnificently
built. Chastellux was astounded at the taste and richness of the
ornaments and permanent fixtures, and declared of the Nelson Home at
Yorktown that "neither European taste nor luxury was excluded; a chimney
piece and some bas-reliefs of very fine marble exquisitely sculptured
were particularly admired." As Fisher says of such mansions, in his
interesting _Men, Women and Manners in Colonial Times:_ "They were
crammed from cellar to garret with all the articles of pleasure and
convenience that were produced in England: Russia leather chairs, Turkey
worked chairs, enormous quantities of damask napkins and table-linen,
silver and pewter ware, candle sticks of brass, silver and pewter,
flagons, dram-cups, beakers, tankards, chafing-dishes, Spanish tables,
Dutch tables, valuable clocks, screens, and escritoires."[156]

_III. Social Activities_

In such an environment a gay social life was eminently fitting, and how
often we may read between the lines of old letters and diaries the story
of such festive occasions. For instance, scan the records of the life of
Eliza Pinckney, and her beautiful daughter, one of the belles of
Charleston, and note such bits of information as the following:

"Governor Lyttelton will wait on the ladies at Belmont" (the home of
Mrs. Pinckney and her daughter); "Mrs. Drayton begs the pleasure of your
company to spend a few days"; "Lord and Lady Charles Montague's Compts
to Mrs. and Miss Pinckney, and if it is agreeable to them shall be glad
of their Company at the Lodge"; "Mrs. Glen presents her Compts to Mrs.
Pinckney and Mrs. Hyrne, hopes they got no Cold, and begs Mrs. Pinckney
will detain Mrs. Hyrne from going home till Monday, and that they
(together with Miss Butler and the 3 young Lady's) will do her the
favour to dine with her on Sunday." (Mr. Pinckney had been dead for
several years.)[157]

And again, in a letter written in her girlhood to her brother about
1743, Eliza Pinckney says of the people of Carolina:

     "The people in genl are hospitable and honest, and the better
     sort add to these a polite gentile behaviour. The poorer sort are
     the most indolent people in the world or they could never be
     wretched in so plentiful a country as this. The winters here are
     very fine and pleasant, but 4 months in the year is extreamly
     disagreeable, excessive hott, much thunder and lightening and
     muskatoes and sand flies in abundance."

     "Crs Town, the Metropolis, is a neat, pretty place. The
     inhabitants polite and live in a very gentile manner. The streets
     and houses regularly built--the ladies and gentlemen gay in their
     dress; upon the whole you will find as many agreeable people of
     both sexes for the size of the place as almost any

Companies great enough to give the modern housewife nervous prostration
were often entertained at dinners, while many of the planters kept such
open house that no account was kept of the number of guests who came and
went daily and who commonly made themselves so much at home that the
host or hostess often scarcely disturbed them throughout their entire
stay. Several years after the Revolution George Washington recorded in
his diary the surprising fact that for the first time since he and
Martha Washington had returned to Mount Vernon, they had dined alone. As
Wharton says in her _Martha Washington_, "Warm hearted, open-handed
hospitality was constantly exercised at Mount Vernon, and if the master
humbly recorded that, although he owned a hundred cows, he had sometimes
to buy butter for his family, the entry seems to have been made in no
spirit of fault finding." Of this same Washingtonian hospitality one
French traveller, Brissot de Warville, wrote: "Every thing has an air of
simplicity in his [Washington's] house; his table is good, but not
ostentatious; and no deviation is seen from regularity and domestic
economy. Mrs. Washington superintends the whole, and joins to the
qualities of an excellent housewife that simple dignity which ought to
characterize a woman whose husband has acted the greatest part on the
theater of human affairs; while she possesses that amenity and manifests
that attention to strangers which renders hospitality so charming."[159]

With such hospitality there seemed to go a certain elevation in the
social life of Virginia and South Carolina entirely different from the
corrupt conditions found in Louisiana in the seventeenth century, and
also in contrast with the almost cautious manner in which the New
Englanders of the same period tasted pleasure. In those magnificent
Southern houses--Quincey speaks of one costing £8000, a sum fully equal
in modern buying capacity to $100,000--there was much stately dancing,
almost an extreme form of etiquette, no little genuine art, and music
of exceptional quality. The Charleston St. Cecilia Society, organized in
1737, gave numerous amateurs opportunities to hear and perform the best
musical compositions of the day, and its annual concerts, continued
until 1822, were scarcely ever equalled elsewhere in America, during the
same period. In the aristocratic circles formal balls were frequent, and
were exceedingly brilliant affairs. Eliza Pinckney, describing one in
1742, says: "...The Govr gave the Gentn a very gentile entertainment
at noon, and a ball at night for the ladies on the Kings birthnight, at
wch was a Crowded Audience of Gentn and ladies. I danced a minuet with
yr old acquaintance Capt Brodrick who was extreamly glad to see one so
nearly releated to his old friend...."[160] Ravenel in her _Eliza
Pinckney_ reconstructs from her notes a picture of one of those
dignified balls or fêtes in the olden days:

     "On such an occasion as that referred to, a reception for the
     young bride who had just come from her own stately home of Ashley
     Hall, a few miles down the river, the guests naturally wore all
     their braveries. Their dresses, brocade, taffety, lute-string,
     etc., were well drawn up through their pocket holes. Their
     slippers, to match their dresses, had heels even higher and more
     unnatural than our own.... With bows and courtesies, and by the
     tips of their fingers, the ladies were led up the high stone
     steps to the wide hall, ... and then up the stair case with its
     heavy carved balustrade to the panelled rooms above.... Then, the
     last touches put to the heads (too loftily piled with cushions,
     puffs, curls, and lappets, to admit of being covered with
     anything more than a veil or a hood).... Gay would be the

     "The old silver, damask and India china still remaining show how
     these feasts were set out.... Miss Lucas has already told us
     something of what the country could furnish in the way of good
     cheer, and we may be sure that venison and turkey from the
     forest, ducks from the rice fields, and fish from the river at
     their doors, were there.... Turtle came from the West Indies,
     with 'saffron and negroe pepper, very delicate for dressing it.'
     Rice and vegetables were in plenty--terrapins in every pond, and
     Carolina hams proverbially fine. The desserts were custards and
     creams (at a wedding always bride cake and floating island),
     jellies, syllabubs, puddings and pastries.... They had port and
     claret too ... and for suppers a delicious punch called 'shrub,'
     compounded of rum, pineapples, lemons, etc., not to be commended
     by a temperance society."

     "The dinner over, the ladies withdrew, and before very long the
     scraping of the fiddlers would call the gentlemen to the
     dance,--pretty, graceful dances, the minuet, stately and
     gracious, which opened the ball; and the country dance,
     fore-runner of our Virginia reel, in which every one old, and
     young joined."[161]

It is little wonder that Eliza Pinckney, upon returning from just such a
social function to take up once more the heavy routine of managing three
plantations, complained: "At my return thither every thing appeared
gloomy and lonesome, I began to consider what attraction there was in
this place that used so agreeably to soothe my pensive humor, and made
me indifferent to everything the gay world could boast; but I found the
change not in the place but in myself."[162]

The domestic happiness found in these plantation mansions was apparently
ideal. Families were generally large; there was much inter-marriage,
generation after generation, within the aristocratic circle; and thus
everybody was related to everybody. This gave an excuse for an amount of
informal and prolonged visiting that would be almost unpardonable in
these more practical and in some ways more economical days. There was
considerable correspondence between the families, especially among the
women, and by means of the numerous references to visits, past or to
come, we may picture the friendly cordial atmosphere of the time.
Washington, for instance, records that he "set off with Mrs. Washington
and Patsy, Mr. [Warner] Washington and wife, Mrs. Bushrod and Miss
Washington, and Mr. Magowen for 'Towelston,' in order to stand for Mr.
B. Fairfax's third son, which I did with my wife, Mr. Warner Washington
and his lady." "Another day he returns from attending to the purchase of
western lands to find that Col. Bassett, his wife and children, have
arrived during his absence, 'Billy and Nancy and Mr. Warner Washington
being here also.' The next day the gentlemen go a-hunting together, Mr.
Bryan Fairfax having joined them for the hunt and the dinner that

Again, we find Mrs. Washington writing, with her usual unique spelling
and sentence structure, to her sister:

     "Mt. Vernon Aug 28 1762.

     "MY DEAR NANCY,--I had the pleasure to receive your kind letter
     of the 25 of July just as I was setting out on a visit to Mr.
     Washington in Westmoreland where I spent a weak very agreabley. I
     carried my little patt with me and left Jackey at home for a
     trial to see how well I could stay without him though we ware
     gone but won fortnight I was quite impatient to get home. If I at
     aney time heard the doggs barke or a noise out, I thought thair
     was a person sent for me....

     "We are daly expect(ing) the kind laydes of Maryland to visit us.
     I must begg you will not lett the fright you had given you
     prevent you comeing to see me again--If I coud leave my children
     in as good Care as you can I would never let Mr. W----n come down
     without me--Please to give my love to Miss Judy and your little
     babys and make my best compliments to Mr. Bassett and Mrs.

       "I am with sincere regard
                          "dear sister
                   "yours most affectionately
                     "MARTHA WASHINGTON."[163]

Because of the lack of good roads and the apparently great distances,
the mere matter of travelling was far more important in social
activities than is the case in our day of break-neck speed. A
ridiculously small number of miles could be covered in a day; there were
frequent stops for rest and refreshment; and the occupants of the heavy,
rumbling coaches had ample opportunity for observing the scenery and the
peculiarities of the territory traversed. Martha Washington's grandson
has left an account of her journey from Virginia to New York, and
recounts how one team proved balky, delayed the travellers two hours,
and thus upset all their calculations. But the kindness of those they
met easily offset such petty irritations as stubborn horses and slow
coaches. Note these lines from the account:

     "We again set out for Major Snowden's where we arrived at 4
     o'clock in the evening. The gate (was) hung between 2 trees which
     were scarcely wide enough to admit it. We were treated with great
     hospitality and civility by the major and his wife who were plain
     people and made every effort to make our stay as agreeable as

     "May 19th. This morning was lowering and looked like rain--we
     were entreated to stay all day but to no effect we had made our
     arrangements & it was impossible.... Majr Snowden accompanied us
     10 or a dozen miles to show a near way and the best road.... We
     proceeded as far as Spurriers ordinary and there refreshed
     ourselves and horses.... Mrs. Washington shifted herself here,
     expecting to be met by numbers of gentlemen out of
     B----re--(Baltimore) in which time we had everything in
     reddiness, the carriage, horses, etc., all at the door in

The story of that journey, now made in a few hours, is filled with
interesting light upon the ways of the day:--the numerous accidents to
coaches and horses, the dangers of crossing rivers on flimsy ferries,
the hospitality of the people, who sent messengers to insist that the
party should stop at the various homes, the strange mingling of the
uncouth, the totally wild, and the highly civilized and cultured.
Probably at no other time in the world's history could so many stages of
man's progress and conquest of nature be seen simultaneously as in
America of the eighteenth century.

_IV. New England Social Life_

Turning to New England, we find of course that under the early Puritan
régime amusements were decidedly under the ban. We have noted under the
discussion of the home the strictness of New England views, and how this
strictness influenced every phase of public and private life. Indeed, at
this time life was largely a preparation for eternity, and the ethical
demands of the day gave man an abnormally tender and sensitive
conscience. When Nathaniel Mather declared in mature years that of all
his manifold sins none so stuck upon him as that, when a boy, he
whittled on the Sabbath day, and did it behind the door--"a great
reproach to God"--he was but illustrating the strange atmosphere of
fear, reverence, and narrowness of his era.

And yet, those earlier settlers of Plymouth and Boston were a kindly,
simple-hearted, good-natured people. It is evident from Judge Sewall's
_Diary_ that everybody in a community knew everybody else, was genuinely
interested in everyone's welfare, and was always ready with a helping
hand in days of affliction and sorrow. All were drawn together by common
dangers and common ties; it was an excellent example of true community
interest and co-operation. This genuine solicitude for others, this
desire to know how other sections were getting along, this natural
curiosity to inquire about other people's health, defences against
common dangers, and advancement in agriculture, trade and manufacturing,
led to a form of inquisitiveness that astonished and angered foreigners.
Late in the eighteenth century even Americans began to notice this
proverbial Yankee trait. Samuel Peters, writing in 1781 in his _General
History of Connecticut_, said: "After a short acquaintance they become
very familiar and inquisitive about news. 'Who are you, whence come you,
where going, what is your business, and what your religion?' They do not
consider these and similar questions as impertinent, and consequently
expect a civil answer. When the stranger has satisfied their curiosity
they will treat him with all the hospitality in their power."

Fisher in his _Men, Women, & Manners in Colonial Times_ declares:
"A ... Virginian who had been much in New England in colonial times used
to relate that as soon as he arrived at an inn he always summoned the
master and mistress, the servants and all the strangers who were about,
made a brief statement of his life and occupation, and having assured
everybody that they could know no more, asked for his supper; and
Franklin, when travelling in New England, was obliged to adopt the same

Old Judge Sewall, a typical specimen of the better class Puritan,
certainly possessed a kindly curiosity about his neighbors' welfare, and
many are his references to visits to the sick or dying, or to attendance
at funerals. While there were no great balls nor brilliant fêtes, as in
the South, his _Diary_ emphatically proves that there were many pleasant
visits and dinner parties and a great deal of the inevitable courting.
Thus, we note the following:

     "Tuesday, January 12. I dine at the Governour's: where Mr. West,
     Governour of Carolina, Capt. Blackwell, his Wife and Daughter,
     Mr. Morgan, his Wife and Daughter Mrs. Brown, Mr. Eliakim
     Hutchinson and Wife.... Mrs. Mercy sat not down, but came in
     after dinner well dressed and saluted the two Daughters. Madm
     Bradstreet and Blackwell sat at the upper end together, Governour
     at the lower end."[166]

     "Dec. 20, 1676 ... Mrs. Usher lyes very sick of an Inflammation
     in the Throat.... Called at her House coming home to tell Mr.
     Fosterling's Receipt, i.e. A Swallows Nest (the inside) stamped
     and applied to the throat outwardly."[167]

     "Satterday, June 5th, 1686. I rode to Newbury, to see my little
     Hull, and to keep out of the way of the Artillery Election, on
     which day eat Strawberries and Cream with Sister Longfellow at
     the Falls."[168]

     "Monday, July 11. I hire Ems's Coach in the Afternoon, wherein
     Mr. Hez. Usher and his wife, and Mrs. Bridget her daughter, my
     Self and wife ride to Roxbury, visit Mr. Dudley, and Mr. Eliot,
     the Father who blesses them. Go and sup together at the Grayhound
     Tavern with boil'd Bacon and rost Fowls. Came home between 10 and
     11 brave Moonshine, were hinder'd an hour or two by Mr. Usher,
     else had been in good season."[169]

     "Thorsday, Oct. 6, 1687 ... On my Unkle's Horse after Diner, I
     carry my wife to see the Farm, where we eat Aples and drank
     Cider. Shew'd her the Meeting-house.... In the Morn Oct. 7th
     Unkle and Goodm. Brown come our way home accompanying of us. Set
     out after nine, and got home before three. Call'd no where by the
     way. Going out, our Horse fell down at once upon the Neck, and
     both fain to scramble off, yet neither receiv'd any

Nearly a century later Judge Pynchon records a social life similar,
though apparently much more liberal in its views of what might enter
into legitimate entertainment:

     "Saturday, July 7, 1784. Dine at Mr. Wickkham's, with Mrs. Browne
     and her two daughters.... In the afternoon Mrs. Browne and I, the
     Captain, Blaney, and a number of gentlemen and ladies, ride, and
     some walk out, some to Malbon's Garden, some to Redwood's,
     several of us at both; are entertained very agreeably at each
     place; tea, coffee, cakes, syllabub, and English beer, etc.,
     punch and wine. We return at evening; hear a song of Mrs. Shaw's,
     and are highly entertained; the ride, the road, the prospects,
     the gardens, the company, in short, everything was most
     agreeable, most entertaining--was admirable."[171]

     "Thursday, October 25, 1787 ... Mrs. Pynchon, Mrs. Orne, and
     Betsy spend the evening at Mrs. Anderson's; musick and

     "Monday, November 10, 1788 ... Mrs. Gibbs, Curwen, Mrs. Paine,
     and others spend the evening here, also Mr. Gibbs, at

     "Friday, April 19 1782. Some rain. A concert at night; musicians
     from Boston, and dancing."[174]

     "June 24, Wednesday, 1778. Went with Mrs. Orne [his daughter] to
     visit Mr. Sewall and lady at Manchester, and returned on

_V. Funerals as Recreations_

Even toward the close of the eighteenth century, however, lecture days
and fast days were still rather conscientiously observed, and such
occasions were as much a part of New England social activities as were
balls and receptions in Virginia. Judge Pynchon makes frequent note of
such religious meetings; as,--"April 25, Thursday, 1782. Fast Day.
Service at Church, A.M.; none, P.M."[176] "Thursday, July 20, 1780. Fast
Day; clear."[177] Funerals and weddings formed no small part of the
social interests of the day, and indeed the former apparently called for
much more display and formality than was ever the case in the South.
There seems to have been among the Puritans a certain grim pleasure in
attending a burial service, and in the absence of balls, dancing, and
card playing, the importance of the New England funeral in early social
life can scarcely be overestimated. During the time of Sewall the burial
was an occasion for formal invitation cards; gifts of gloves, rings, and
scarfs were expected for those attending; and the air of depression so
common in a twentieth century funeral was certainly not conspicuous. It
may have been because death was so common; for the death rate was
frightfully high in those good old days, and in a community so thinly
populated burials were so extremely frequent that every one from
childhood was accustomed to the sight of crepe and coffin. Man is a
gregarious creature and craves the assembly, and as church meetings,
weddings, executions, and funerals were almost the sole opportunities
for social intercourse, the flocking to the house of the dead was but
normal and natural. Sewall seems to have been in constant attendance at
such gatherings:

     "Midweek, March 23, 1714-5. Mr. Addington buried from the
     Council-Chamber ... 20 of the Council were assisting, it being
     the day for Appointing Officers. All had Scarvs. Bearers Scarvs,
     Rings, Escutcheons...."[178]

     "My Daughter is Inter'd.... Had Gloves and Rings of 2 pwt and
     1/2. Twelve Ministers of the Town had Rings, and two out of

     "Tuesday, 18, Novr. 1712. Mr. Benknap buried. Joseph was invited
     by Gloves, and had a scarf given him there, which is the

     "Feria sexta, April 8, 1720. Govr. Dudley is buried in his father
     Govr. Dudley's Tomb at Roxbury. Boston and Roxbury Regiments were
     under Arms, and 2 or 3 Troops.... Scarves, Rings, Gloves,
     Escutcheons.... Judge Dudley in a mourning Cloak led the Widow;
     ... Were very many People, spectators out of windows, on Fences
     and Trees, like Pigeons...."[181]

     "July 25th, 1700. Went to the Funeral of Mrs. Sprague, being
     invited by a good pair of Gloves."[182]

This comment is made upon the death of Judge Sewall's father:

     "May 24th.... My Wife provided Mourning upon my Letter by Severs.
     All went in mourning save Joseph, who staid at home because his
     Mother lik'd not his cloaths...."[183]

     "Febr. 1, 1700. Waited on the Lt. Govr. and presented him with a
     Ring in Remembrance of my dear Mother, saying, Please to accept
     in the Name of one of the Company your Honor is preparing to

     "July 15, 1698.... On death of John Ive.... I was not at his
     Funeral. Had Gloves sent me, but the knowledge of his notoriously
     wicked life made me sick of going ... and so I staid at home, and
     by that means lost a Ring...."[185]

     "Friday, Feb. 10, 1687-8. Between 4 and 5 I went to the Funeral
     of the Lady Andros, having been invited by the Clerk of the South
     Company. Between 7 and 8 Lechus (Lynchs? i.e. links or torches)
     illuminating the cloudy air. The Corps was carried into the Herse
     drawn by Six Horses. The Souldiers making a Guard from the
     Governour's House down the Prison Lane to the South
     Meeting-house, there taken out and carried in at the western
     dore, and set in the Alley before the pulpit, with Six Mourning
     Women by it.... Was a great noise and clamor to keep people out
     of the House, that might not rush in too soon.... On Satterday
     Feb. 11, the mourning cloth of the Pulpit is taken off and given
     to Mr. Willard."[186]

     "Satterday, Nov. 12, 1687. About 5 P.M. Mrs. Elisa Saffen is
     entombed.... Mother not invited."[187]

In the earlier days of the New England colonies the gift of scarfs,
gloves, and rings for such services was almost demanded by social
etiquette; but before Judge Sewall's death the custom was passing. The
following passages from his _Diary_ illustrate the change:

     "Decr. 20, feria sexta.... Had a letter brought me of the Death
     of Sister Shortt.... Not having other Mourning I look'd out a
     pair of Mourning Gloves. An hour or 2 later Mr. Sergeant, sent me
     and Wife Gloves; mine are so little I can't wear them."[188]

     "August 7r 16, 1721. Mrs. Frances Webb is buried, who died of the
     Small Pox. I think this is the first public Funeral without

The Puritans were not the only colonists to celebrate death with pomp
and ceremony; but no doubt the custom was far more nearly universal
among them than among the New Yorkers or Southerners. Still, in New
Amsterdam a funeral was by no means a simple or dreary affair; feasting,
exchange of gifts, and display were conspicuous elements at the burial
of the wealthy or aristocratic. The funeral of William Lovelace in 1689
may serve as an illustration:

"The room was draped with mourning and adorned with the escutcheons of
the family. At the head of the body was a pall of death's heads, and
above and about the hearse was a canopy richly embroidered, from the
centre of which hung a garland and an hour-glass. At the foot was a
gilded coat of arms, four feet square, and near by were candles and
fumes which were kept continually burning. At one side was placed a
cupboard containing plate to the value of £200. The funeral procession
was led by the captain of the company to which deceased belonged,
followed by the 'preaching minister,' two others of the clergy, and a
squire bearing the shield. Before the body, which was borne by six
'gentlemen bachelors,' walked two maidens in white silk, wearing gloves
and 'Cyprus scarves,' and behind were six others similarly attired,
bearing the pall.... Until ten o'clock at night wines, sweet-meats, and
biscuits were served to the mourners."[190]

_VI. Trials and Executions_

Whenever normal pleasures are withdrawn from a community that community
will undoubtedly indulge in abnormal ones. We should not be surprised,
therefore, to find that the Puritans had an itching for the details of
the morbid and the sensational. The nature of revelations seldom, if
ever, grew too repulsive for their hearing, and if the case were one of
adultery or incest, it was sure to be well aired. There was a
possibility that if an offender made a thorough-going confession before
the entire congregation or community, he might escape punishment, and on
such occasions it would seem that the congregation sat listening closely
and drinking in all the hideous facts and minutiæ. The good fathers in
their diaries and chronicles not only have mentioned the crimes and the
criminals, but have enumerated and described such details as fill a
modern reader with disgust. In fact, Winthrop in his _History of New
England_ has cited examples and circumstances so revolting that it is
impossible to quote them in a modern book intended for the general
public, and yet Winthrop himself seemed to see nothing wrong in offering
cold-bloodedly the exact data. Such indulgence in the morbid or _risque_
was not, however, limited to the New England colonists; it was entirely
too common in other sections; but among the Puritan writers it seemed to
offer an outlet for emotions that could not be dissipated otherwise in
legitimate social activities.

To-day the spectacle or even the very thought of a legal execution is so
horrible to many citizens that the state hedges such occasions about
with the utmost privacy and absence of publicity; but in the seventeenth
century the Puritan seems to have found considerable secret pleasure in
seeing how the victim faced eternity. Condemned criminals were taken to
church on the day of execution, and there the clergyman, dispensing with
the regular order of service, frequently consumed several hours
thundering anathema at the wretch and describing to him his awful crime
and the yawning pit of hell in which even then Satan and his imps were
preparing tortures. If the doomed man was able to face all this without
flinching, the audience went away disappointed, feeling that he was
hard-hearted, stubborn, "predestined to be damned"; but if with loud
lamentation and wails of terror he confessed his sin and his fear of
God's vengeance, his hearers were pleased and edified at the fall of one
more of the devil's agents. Often times a similar scene was enacted at
the gallows, where a host of men, women, and even children crowded close
to see and hear all. Judge Sewall has recorded for us just such an

"Feria Sexta, June 30, 1704.... After Diner, about 3 P.M. I went to see
the Execution.... Many were the people that saw upon Bloughton's Hill.
But when I came to see how the River was cover'd with People, I was
amazed! Some say there were 100 Boats, 150 Boats and Canoes, saith
Cousin Moody of York. He told them. Mr. Cotton Mather came with Capt.
Quelch and six others for Execution from the Prison to Scarlet's Wharf,
and from thence.... When the scaffold was hoisted to a due height, the
seven Malefactors went up; Mr. Mather pray'd for them standing upon the
Boat. Ropes were all fasten'd to the Gallows (save King, who was
Repriev'd). When the Scaffold was let to sink, there was such a Schreech
of the Women that my wife heard it sitting in our Entry next the
Orchard, and was much surprised at it; yet the wind was sou-west. Our
house is a full mile from the place."[191]

This also from the kindly judge indicates the interest in the last
service for the condemned one:

"Thursday, March 11, 1685-6. Persons crowd much into the Old
Meeting-House by reason of James Morgan ... and before I got thither a
crazed woman cryed the Gallery of Meetinghouse broke, which made the
people rush out, with great Consternation, a great part of them, but
were seated again.... Morgan was turned off about 1/2 hour past five.
The day very comfortable, but now 9 o'clock rains and has done a good
while.... Mr. Cotton Mather accompanied James Morgan to the place of
Execution, and prayed with him there."[192]

It would seem that the Puritan woman might have used her influence by
refusing to attend such assemblies. Let us not, however, be too severe
on her; perhaps, if such a confession were scheduled for a day in our
twentieth century the confessor might not face empty seats, or simply
seats occupied by men only. In our day, moreover, with its multitude of
amusements, there would be far less excuse; for the monotony of life in
the old days must have set nerves tingling for something just a little
unusual, and such barbarous occasions were among the few opportunities.

Gradually amusements of a more normal type began to creep into the New
England fold. Judge Sewall makes the following comment: "Tuesday, Jan.
7, 1719. The Govr has a ball at his own House that lasts to 3 in the
Morn;"[193] but he does not make an additional note of his
attending--sure proof that he did not go. Doubtless the hour of closing
seemed to him scandalous. Then, too, early in the eighteenth century the
dancing master invaded Boston, and doubtless many of the older members
of the Puritan families were shocked at the alacrity with which the
younger folk took to this sinful art. It must have been a genuine
satisfaction to Sewall to note in 1685 that "Francis Stepney, the
Dancing Master, runs away for Debt. Several Attachments out after
him."[194] But scowl at it as the older people did, they had to
recognize the fact that by 1720 large numbers of New England children
were learning the graceful, old-fashioned dances of the day, and that,
too, with the consent of the parents.

_VII. Special "Social" Days_

"Lecture Day," generally on Thursday, was another means of breaking the
monotony of New England colonial existence. It resembled the Sabbath in
that there was a meeting and a sermon at the church, and very little
work done either on farm or in town. Commonly banns were published then,
and condemned prisoners preached to or at. For instance, Sewall notes:
"Feb. 23, 1719-20. Mr. Cooper comes in, and sits with me, and asks that
he may be published; Next Thorsday was talk'd of, at last, the first
Thorsday in March was consented to."[195] On Lecture Day, as well as on
the Sabbath, the beautiful custom was followed of posting a note or bill
in the house of God, requesting the prayers of friends for the sick or
afflicted, and many a fervent petition arose to God on such occasions.
Several times Sewall refers to such requests, and frequently indeed he
felt the need of such prayers for himself and his.

"Satterday, Augt. 15. Hambleton and my Sister Watch (his eldest daughter
was ill). I get up before 2 in the Morning of the L(ecture) Day, and
hearing an earnest expostulation of my daughter, I went down and finding
her restless, call'd up my wife.... I put up this Note at the Old (First
Church) and South, 'Prayers are desired for Hanah Sewall as drawing Near
her end.'"[196]

And when his wife was ill, he wrote: "Oct. 17, 1717. Thursday, I asked
my wife whether 'twere best for me to go to Lecture: She said, I can't
tell: so I staid at home. Put up a Note.... It being my Son's Lecture,
and I absent, twas taken much notice of."[197]

As the editor of the famous _Diary_ comments: "Judge Sewall very seldom
allowed any private trouble or sorrow, and he never allowed any matter
of private business, to prevent his attendance upon 'Meeting,' either on
the Lord's Day, or the Thursday Lecture. On this day, on account of the
alarming illness of his wife--which proved to be fatal--he remains with
her, furnishing his son, who was to preach, with a 'Note' to be 'put
up,' asking the sympathetic prayers of the congregation in behalf of the
family. He is touched and gratified on learning how much feeling was
manifested on the occasion. The incident is suggestive of one of the
beautiful customs once recognized in all the New England churches, in
town and country, where all the members of a congregation, knit together
by ties and sympathies of a common interest, had a share in each other's
private and domestic experiences of joy and sorrow."

Such customs added to the social solidarity of the people, and gave each
New England community a neighborliness not excelled in the far more
vari-colored life of the South. Fast days and days of prayer, observed
for thanks, for deliverance from some danger or affliction, petitions
for aid in an hour of impending disaster, or even simply as a means of
bringing the soul nearer to God, were also agencies in the social
welfare of the early colonists and did much to keep alive community
spirit and co-operation. Turning again to Sewall, we find him recording
a number of such special days:

     "Wednesday, Oct. 3rd, 1688. Have a day of Prayer at our House;
     One principal reason as to particular, about my going for
     England. Mr. Willard pray'd and preach'd excellently....
     Intermission. Mr. Allen pray'd, and then Mr. Moodey, both very
     well, then 3d-7th verses of the 86th Ps., sung Cambridge Short
     Tune, which I set...."[198]

     "Febr. 12. I pray'd God to accept me in keeping a privat day of
     Prayer with Fasting for That and other Important Matters: ...
     Perfect what is lacking in my Faith, and in the faith of my dear
     Yokefellow. Convert my children; especially Samuel and Hanah;
     Provide Rest and Settlement for Hanah; Recover Mary, Save Judity,
     Elisabeth and Joseph: Requite the Labour of Love of my Kinswoman,
     Jane Tappin, Give her health, find out Rest for her. Make David a
     man after thy own heart, Let Susan live and be baptised with the
     Holy Ghost, and with fire...."[199]

     "Third-day, Augt. 13, 1695. We have a Fast kept in our new

In New England Thanksgiving and Christmas were observed at first only to
a very slight extent, and not at all with the regularity and ceremony
common to-day. In the South, Christmas was celebrated without fail with
much the same customs as those known in "Merrie Old England"; but among
the earlier Puritans a large number frowned upon such special days as
inclining toward Episcopal and Popish ceremonials, and many a Christmas
passed with scarcely a notice. Bradford in his so-called _Log-Book_
gives us this description of such lack of observance of the day:

"The day called Christmas Day ye Govr cal'd them out to worke (as was
used) but ye moste of this new company excused themselves, and said yt
went against their consciences to work on yt day. So ye Govr tould them
that if they made it mater of conscience, he would spare them till they
were better informed. So he led away ye rest and left them; but when
they came home at noon from their work he found them in ye street at
play openly, some pitching ye bar, and some at stool-ball and such like
sports. So he went to them and took away their implements and tould them
it was against his conscience that they should play and others work."

And Sewall doubtless would have agreed with "ye Govr"; for he notes:

     "Dec. 25, 1717. Snowy Cold Weather; Shops open as could be for
     the Storm; Hay, wood and all sorts of provisions brought to

     "Dec. 25, Friday, 1685. Carts come to Town and shops open as is
     usual. Some somehow observe the day; but are vexed I believe that
     the body of the people profane it, and blessed be God no
     authority yet to Compell them to keep it."[202]

     "Tuesday, Decr. 25, 1722-3. Shops are open, and Carts came to
     Town with Wood, Hoop-Poles, Hay & as at other Times; being a
     pleasant day, the street was fill'd with Carts and Horses."[203]

     "Midweek, Decr. 25, 1718-9. Shops are open, Hay, Hoop-poles,
     Wood, Faggots, Charcole, Meat brought to Town."[204]

Nearly a century later all that Judge Pynchon records is:

     "Fryday, December 25, 1778. Christmas. Cold continued."[205]

     "Monday, December 25, 1780. Christmas, and rainy. Dined at Mr.
     Wetmore's (his daughter's home) with Mr. Goodale and family, John
     and Patty. Mr. Barnard and Prince at church; the music good, and
     Dr. Steward's voice above all."[206]

All that Sewall has to say about Thanksgiving is: "Thorsday, Novr. 25.
Public Thanksgiving,"[207] and again: "1714. Novr. 25. Thanks-giving
day; very cold, but not so sharp as yesterday. My wife was sick, fain to
keep the Chamber and not be at Diner."

_VIII. Social Restrictions_

Many of the restraints imposed by Puritan lawmakers upon the ordinary
hospitality and cordial overtures of citizens seem ridiculous to a
modern reader; but perhaps the "fathers in Israel" considered such
strictness essential for the preservation of the saints. Josselyn
travelling in New England in 1638, observed in his _New England's
Rareties_ their customs rather keenly, criticized rather severely some
of their views, and commended just as heartily some of their virtues.
"They that are members of their churches have the sacraments
administered to them, the rest that are out of the pale as they phrase
it are denied it. Many hundred souls there be amongst them grown up to
men and women's estate that were never christened.... There are many
strange women too, (in Solomon's sense), more the pity; when a woman
hath lost her chastity she hath no more to lose. There are many sincere
and religious people amongst them.... They have store of children and
are well accommodated with servants; many hands make light work, many
hands make a full fraught, but many mouths eat up all, as some old
planters have experienced."

Approximately a century later the keen-eyed Sarah Knight visited New
Haven, and commented in her _Journal_ upon the growing laxity of rules
and customs among the people of the quaint old town:

     "They are governed by the same laws as we in Boston (or little
     differing), throughout this whole colony of Connecticut ... but a
     little too much independent in their principles, and, as I have
     been told, were formerly in their zeal very rigid in their
     administrations towards such as their laws made offenders, even
     to a harmless kiss or innocent merriment among young people....
     They generally marry very young: the males oftener, as I am told,
     under twenty than above: they generally make public weddings, and
     have a way something singular (as they say) in some of them,
     viz., just before joining hands the bride-groom quits the place,
     who is soon followed by the bridesmen, and as it were dragged
     back to duty--being the reverse to the former practice among us,
     to steal mistress bride....

     "They (the country women) generally stand after they come in a
     great while speechless, and sometimes don't say a word till they
     are asked what they want, which I impute to the awe they stand in
     of the merchants, who they are constantly almost indebted to; and
     must take that they bring without liberty to choose for
     themselves; but they serve them as well, making the merchants
     stay long enough for their pay...."

But even as late as 1780 Samuel Peters states in his _General History of
Connecticut_ that he found the restrictions in Connecticut so severe
that he was forced to state that "dancing, fishing, hunting, skating,
and riding in sleighs on the ice are all the amusements allowed in this

In Massachusetts for many years in the seventeenth century a wife, in
the absence of her husband, was not allowed to lodge men even if they
were close relatives. Naturally such an absurd law was the source of
much bickering on the part of magistrates, and many were the amusing
tilts when a wife was not permitted to remain with her father, but had
to be sent home to her husband, or a brother was compelled to leave his
own sister's house. Of course, we may turn successfully to Sewall's
_Diary_ for an example: "Mid-week, May 12, 1714. Went to Brewster's. The
Anchor in the Plain; ... took Joseph Brewster for our guide, and went to
Town. Essay'd to be quarter'd at Mr. Knight's, but he not being at home,
his wife refused us."[208] When a judge, himself, was refused ordinary
hospitality, we may surmise that the law was rather strictly followed.
But many other rules of the day seem just as ridiculous to a modern
reader. As Weeden in his _Economic and Social History of New England_
says of restrictions in 1650:

     "No one could run on the Sabbath day, or walk in his garden or
     elsewhere, except reverently to and from meeting. No one should
     travel, cook victuals, make beds, sweep house, cut hair, or shave
     on the Sabbath day. No woman should kiss her child on the Sabbath
     or fasting day. Whoever brought cards into the dominion paid a
     fine of £5. No one could make minced pies, dance, play cards, or
     play on any instrument of music, except the drum, trumpet, and

     "None under 21 years, nor any not previously accustomed to it,
     shall take tobacco without a physician's certificate. No one
     shall take it publicly in the street, or the fields, or the
     woods, except on a journey of at least ten miles, or at dinner.
     Nor shall any one take it in any house in his own town with more
     than one person taking it at the same time."[209]

We must not, however, reach the conclusion that life in old New England
was a dreary void as far as pleasures were concerned. Under the
discussion of home life we have seen that there were barn-raisings,
log-rolling contests, quilting and paring bees, and numerous other forms
of community efforts in which considerable levity was countenanced.
Earle's _Home Life in Colonial Days_ copies an account written in 1757,
picturing another form of entertainment yet popular in the rural

"Made a husking Entertainm't. Possibly this leafe may last a Century and
fall into the hands of some inquisitive Person for whose Entertainm't I
will inform him that now there is a Custom amongst us of making an
Entertainm't at husking of Indian Corn where to all the neighboring
Swains are invited and after the Corn is finished they like the
Hottentots give three Cheers or huzza's, but cannot carry in the husks
without a Rhum bottle; they feign great Exertion but do nothing till
Rhum enlivens them, when all is done in a trice, then after a hearty
Meal about 10 at Night they go to their pastimes."[210]

_IX. Dutch Social Life_

In New York, among the Dutch, social pleasures were, of course, much
less restricted; indeed their community life had the pleasant
familiarity of one large family. Mrs. Grant in her _Memoirs of an
American Lady_ pictures the almost sylvan scene in the quaint old town,
and the quiet domestic happiness so evident on every hand:

"Every house had its garden, well, and a little green behind; before
every door a tree was planted, rendered interesting by being co-eval
with some beloved member of the family; many of their trees were of a
prodigious size and extraordinary beauty, but without regularity, every
one planting the kind that best pleased with him, or which he thought
would afford the most agreeable shade to the open portion at his door,
which was surrounded by seats, and ascended by a few steps. It was in
these that each domestic group was seated in summer evenings to enjoy
the balmy twilight or the serenely clear moon light. Each family had a
cow, fed in a common pasture at the end of the town. In the evening the
herd returned all together ... with their tinkling bells ... along the
wide and grassy street to their wonted sheltering trees, to be milked at
their master's doors. Nothing could be more pleasing to a simple and
benevolent mind than to see thus, at one view, all the inhabitants of
the town, which contained not one very rich or very poor, very knowing,
or very ignorant, very rude, or very polished, individual; to see all
these children of nature enjoying in easy indolence or social

    'The cool, the fragrant, and the dusky hour,'

clothed in the plainest habits, and with minds as undisguised and
artless.... At one door were young matrons, at another the elders of the
people, at a third the youths and maidens, gaily chatting or singing
together while the children played round the trees."[211]

With little learning save the knowledge of how to enjoy life, under no
necessity of pretending to enjoy a false culture, conforming to no false
values and artificialities, these simple-hearted people went their quiet
round of daily duties, took a normal amount of pleasure, and in their
old-fashioned way, probably lived more than any modern devotee of the
Wall Street they knew so well. Madam Knight in her _Journal_ comments
upon them in this fashion: "Their diversion in the winter is riding
sleighs about three or four miles out of town, where they have houses of
entertainment at a place called the Bowery, and some go to friends'
houses, who handsomely treat them. Mr. Burroughs carried his spouse and
daughter and myself out to one Madam Dowes, a gentlewoman that lived at
a farm house, who gave us a handsome entertainment of five or six
dishes, and choice beer and metheglin cider, etc., all of which she said
was the produce of her farm. I believe we met fifty or sixty sleighs;
they fly with great swiftness, and some are so furious that they will
turn out of the path for none except a loaded cart. Nor do they spare
for any diversion the place affords, and sociable to a degree, their
tables being as free to their neighbors as to themselves."

And Mrs. Grant has this to say of their love of children and
flowers--probably the most normal loves in the human soul: "Not only the
training of children, but of plants, such as needed peculiar care or
skill to rear them, was the female province.... I have so often beheld,
both in town and country, a respectable mistress of a family going out
to her garden, in an April morning, with her great calash, her little
painted basket of seeds, and her rake over her shoulder to her garden
labors.... A woman in very easy circumstances and abundantly gentle in
form and manner would sow and plant and rake incessantly. These fair
gardners were also great florists."[212]

Doubtless the whole world has heard of that other Dutch love--for good
things on the table. This epicurean trait perhaps has been exaggerated;
Mrs. Grant herself had her doubts at first; but she, like most visitors,
soon realized that a Dutchman's "tea" was a fair banquet. Hear again her
own words:

     "They were exceedingly social, and visited each other frequently,
     besides the regular assembling together in their porches every

     "If you went to spend a day anywhere, you were received in a
     manner we should think very cold. No one rose to welcome you; no
     one wondered you had not come sooner, or apologized for any
     deficiency in your entertainment. Dinner, which was very early,
     was served exactly in the same manner as if there were only the
     family. The house was so exquisitely neat and well regulated that
     you could not surprise these people; they saw each other so often
     and so easily that intimates made no difference. Of strangers
     they were shy; not by any means of want of hospitality, but from
     a consciousness that people who had little to value themselves on
     but their knowledge of the modes and ceremonies of polished life
     disliked their sincerity and despised their simplicity....

     "Tea was served in at a very early hour. And here it was that the
     distinction shown to strangers commenced. Tea here was a perfect
     regale, being served up with various sorts of cakes unknown to
     us, cold pastry, and great quantities of sweet meats and
     preserved fruits of various kinds, and plates of hickory and
     other nuts ready cracked. In all manner of confectionery and
     pastry these people excelled."[213]

To the Puritan this manner of living evidently seemed ungodly, and
perhaps the citizens of New Amsterdam were a trifle lax not only in
their appetite for the things of this world, but also in their
indifference toward the Sabbath. As Madam Knight observes in her
_Journal_: "There are also Dutch and divers conventicles, as they call
them, viz., Baptist, Quaker, etc. They are not strict in keeping the
Sabbath, as in Boston and other places where I had been, but seemed to
deal with exactness as far as I see or deal with."

But the kindly sociableness of these Dutch prevented any decidedly
vicious tendency among them, and went far toward making amends for any
real or supposed laxity in religious principles. Even as children, this
social nature was consciously trained among them, and so closely did the
little ones become attached to one another that marriage meant not at
all the abrupt change and departure from former ways that it is rather
commonly considered to mean to-day. Says Mrs. Grant:

"The children of the town were all divided into companies, as they
called them, from five or six years of age, till they became
marriageable. How these companies first originated or what were their
exact regulations, I cannot say; though I belonging to nine occasionally
mixed with several, yet always as a stranger, notwithstanding that I
spoke their current language fluently. Every company contained as many
boys as girls. But I do not know that there was any limited number; only
this I recollect, that a boy and girl of each company, who were older,
cleverer, or had some other pre-eminence above the rest, were called
heads of the company, and, as such, were obeyed by the others.... Each
company, at a certain time of the year, went in a body to gather a
particular kind of berries, to the hill. It was a sort of annual
festival, attended with religious punctuality.... Every child was
permitted to entertain the whole company on its birthday, and once
besides, during the winter and spring. The master and mistress of the
family always were bound to go from home on these occasions, while some
old domestic was left to attend and watch over them, with an ample
provision of tea, chocolate, preserved and dried fruits, nuts and cakes
of various kinds, to which was added cider, or a syllabub.... The
consequence of these exclusive and early intimacies was that, grown up,
it was reckoned a sort of apostacy to marry out of one's company, and
indeed it did not often happen. The girls, from the example of their
mothers, rather than any compulsion, very early became notable and
industrious, being constantly employed in knitting stockings and making
clothes for the family and slaves; they even made all the boys'

Childhood in New England meant, as we have seen, a good deal of
down-right hard toil; in Virginia, for the better class child, it meant
much dressing in dainty clothes, and much care about manners and
etiquette; but the Dutch childhood and even young manhood and womanhood
meant an unusual amount of carefree, whole-hearted, simple pleasure.
There were picnics in the summer, nut gatherings in the Autumn, and
skating and sleighing in the winter.

     "In spring eight or ten of one company, young men and maidens,
     would set out together in a canoe on a kind of rural
     excursion.... They went without attendants.... They arrived
     generally by nine or ten o'clock.... The breakfast, a very
     regular and cheerful one, occupied an hour or two; the young men
     then set out to fish or perhaps to shoot birds, and the maidens
     sat busily down to their work.... After the sultry hours had been
     thus employed, the boys brought their tribute from the river....
     After dinner they all set out together to gather wild
     strawberries, or whatever fruit was in season; for it was
     accounted a reproach to come home empty-handed...."

     "The young parties, or some times the elder ones, who set out on
     this woodland excursion had no fixed destination, ... when they
     were tired of going on the ordinary road, they turned into the
     bush, and wherever they saw an inhabited spot ... they went into
     it with all the ease of intimacy.... The good people, not in the
     least surprised at this intrusion, very calmly opened the
     reserved apartments.... After sharing with each other their food,
     dancing or any other amusement that struck their fancy succeeded.
     They sauntered about the bounds in the evening, and returned by

     "In winter the river ... formed the principal road through the
     country, and was the scene of all these amusements of skating and
     sledge races common to the north of Europe. They used in great
     parties to visit their friends at a distance, and having an
     excellent and hearty breed of horses, flew from place to place
     over the snow or ice in these sledges with incredible rapidity,
     stopping a little while at every house they came to, where they
     were always well received, whether acquainted with the owners or
     not. The night never impeded these travellers, for the atmosphere
     was so pure and serene, and the snow so reflected the moon and
     starlight, that the nights exceeded the days in beauty."[215]

All this meant so much more for the growth of normal children and the
creation of a cheerful people than did the Puritan attendance at
executions and funerals. Those quaint old-time Dutch probably did not
love children any more dearly than did the New Englanders; but they
undoubtedly made more display of it than did the Puritans. "Orphans were
never neglected.... You never entered a house without meeting children.
Maidens, bachelors, and childless married people all adopted orphans,
and all treated them as if they were their own."[216]

Since we have mentioned such subjects as funerals and orphans, perhaps
it would not be out of place to notice the peculiar funeral customs
among the Dutch. Even a burial was not so dreary an affair with them.
The following bill of 1763, found among the Schuyler papers, gives a
hint of the manner in which the service was conducted, and perhaps
explains why the women scarcely ever attended the funeral in the "dead
room," as it was called, but remained in an upper room, where they could
at least hear what was said, if they could not "partake" of the

  "Tobacco                              2.
  Fonda for Pipes                          14s.
   2 casks wine 69 gal.                11.
  12 yds. Cloath                        6.
   2 barrels strong beer                3.
  To spice from Dr. Stringer
  To the porters                            2s.
  12 yds. Bombazine                     5. 17s.
   2 Tammise                            1.
   1 Barcelona handkerchief                10s.
   2 pr. black chamios Gloves
   6 yds. crape
   5 ells Black Shalloon

  Paid Mr. Benson his fee for opinion on will £9."[217a]

Certainly the custom of making the funeral as pleasant as possible for
the visitors had not passed away even as late as the days of the
Revolution; for during that war Tench Tilghman wrote the following
description of a burial service attended by him in New York City: "This
morning I attended the funeral of old Mr. Doer.... This was something
in a stile new to me. The Corpse was carried to the Grave and interred
with out any funeral Ceremony, the Clergy attended. We then returned to
the home of the Deceased where we found many tables set out with
Bottles, cool Tankards, Candles, Pipes & Tobacco. The Company sat
themselves down and lighted their Pipes and handed the Bottles &
Tankards pretty briskly. Some of them I think rather too much so. I
fancy the undertakers had borrowed all the silver plate of the
neighborhood. Tankards and Candle Sticks were all silver plated."[217b]

_X. British Social Influences_

With the increase of the English population New York began to depart
from its normal, quiet round of social life, and entered into far more
flashy, but far less healthful forms of pleasure. There was wealth in
the old city before the British flocked to it, and withal an atmosphere
of plenty and peaceful enjoyment of life. The description of the
Schuyler residence, "The Flatts," presented in Grant's _Memoirs_,
probably indicates at its best the home life of the wealthier natives,
and gives hints of a wholesome existence which, while not showy, was
full of comfort:

     "It was a large brick house of two, or rather three stories (for
     there were excellent attics), besides a sunk story.... The lower
     floor had two spacious rooms, ... on the first there were three
     rooms, and in the upper one, four. Through the middle of the
     house was a very wide passage, with opposite front and back
     doors, which in summer admitted a stream of air peculiarly
     grateful to the languid senses. It was furnished with chairs and
     pictures like a summer parlor.... There was at the side a large
     portico, with a few steps leading up to it, and floored like a
     room; it was open at the sides and had seats all round. Above was
     ... a slight wooden roof, painted like an awning, or a covering
     of lattice work, over which a transplanted wild vine spread its
     luxuriant leaves...."

     "At the back of the large house was a smaller and lower one, so
     joined to it as to make the form of a cross. There one or two
     lower and smaller rooms below, and the same number above,
     afforded a refuge to the family during the rigors of winter, when
     the spacious summer rooms would have been intolerably cold, and
     the smoke of prodigious wood fires would have sullied the
     elegantly clean furniture."[218]

But before 1760, as indicated above, the English element in New York was
making itself felt, and a curious mingling of gaiety and economy began
to be noticeable. William Smith, writing in his _History of the Province
of New York_, in 1757, points this out:

     "In the city of New York, through our intercourse with the
     Europeans, we follow the London fashions; though, by the time we
     adopt them, they become disused in England. Our affluence during
     the late war introduced a degree of luxury in tables, dress, and
     furniture, with which we were before unacquainted. But still we
     are not so gay a people as our neighbors in Boston and several of
     the Southern colonies. The Dutch counties, in some measure,
     follow the example of New York, but still retain many modes
     peculiar to the Hollanders."

     "New York is one of the most social places on the continent. The
     men collect themselves into weekly evening clubs. The ladies in
     winter are frequently entertained either at concerts of music or
     assemblies, and make a very good appearance. They are comely and
     dress well...."

     "Tinctured with the Dutch education, they manage their families
     with becoming parsimony, good providence, and singular neatness.
     The practice of extravagant gaming, common to the fashionable
     part of the fair sex in some places, is a vice with which my
     country women cannot justly be charged. There is nothing they so
     generally neglect as reading, and indeed all the arts for the
     improvement of the mind--in which, I confess we have set them the
     example. They are modest, temperate, and charitable, naturally
     sprightly, sensible, and good-humored; and, by the helps of a
     more elevated education, would possess all the accomplishments
     desirable in the sex."

With the coming of the Revolution, and the consequent invasion of the
city by the British, New York became far more gay than ever before; but
even then the native Dutch conservativeness so restrained social affairs
that Philadelphia was more brilliant. When, however, the capital of the
national government was located in New York then indeed did the city
shine. Foreigners spoke with astonishment at the display of luxury and
down-right extravagance. Brissot de Warville, for example, writing in
1788, declared: "If there is a town on the American continent where
English luxury displays its follies, it is New York." And James
Pintard, after attending a New Year levee, given by Mrs. Washington,
wrote his sister: "You will see no such formal bows at the Court of St.
James." If we may judge by the dress of ladies attending such
gatherings, as one described in the _New York Gazette_ of May 15, 1789,
we may safely conclude that expense was not spared in the upper classes
of society. Hear some descriptions:

     "A plain celestial blue satin with a white satin petticoat. On
     the neck a very large Italian gauze handkerchief with white satin
     stripes. The head-dress was a puff of gauze in the form of a
     globe on a foundation of white satin, having a double wing in
     large plaits, with a wreath of roses twined about it. The hair
     was dressed with detached curls, four each side of the neck and a
     floating _chignon_ behind."

     "Another was a periot made of gray Indian taffetas with dark
     stripes of the same color with two collars, one white, one yellow
     with blue silk fringe, having a reverse trimmed in the same
     manner. Under the periot was a yellow corset of cross blue
     stripes. Around the bosom of the periot was a frill of white
     vandyked gauze of the same form covered with black gauze which
     hangs in streamers down her back. Her hair behind is a large
     braid with a monstrous crooked comb."

We cannot say that the society of the new capital was notable for its
intellect or for the intellectual turn of its activities. John Adams'
daughter declared that it was "quite enough dissipated," and indeed
costly dress, card playing, and dancing seem to have received an undue
amount of society's attention. The Philadelphia belle, Miss Franks,
wrote home: "Here you enter a room with a formal set courtesy, and after
the 'How-dos' things are finished, all a dead calm until cards are
introduced when you see pleasure dancing in the eyes of all the matrons,
and they seem to gain new life; the maidens decline for the pleasure of
making love. Here it is always leap year. For my part I am used to
another style of behavior." And, continues Miss Franks: "They (the
Philadelphia girls) have more cleverness in the turn of the eye than
those of New York in their whole composition." But blunt, old Governor
Livingston, on the other hand, wrote his daughter Kitty that "the
Philadelphia flirts are equally famous for their want of modesty and
want of patriotism in their over-complacence to red coats, who would not
conquer the men of the country, but everywhere they have taken the women
almost without a trial--damm them."[219]

But there can be no doubt that the whirl of life was a little too giddy
in New York, during the last years of the eighteenth century; and that,
as a visiting Frenchman declared: "Luxury is already forming in this
city, a very dangerous class of men, namely, the bachelors, the
extravagance of the women makes them dread marriage."[220] As mentioned
above, there was much card playing among the women, and on the then
fashionable John Street married women sometimes lost as high as $400 in
a single evening of gambling. To some of the older men who had suffered
the hardships of war that the new nation might be born, such frivolity
and extravagance seemed almost a crime, and doubtless these veterans
would have agreed with Governor Livingston when he complained: "My
principal Secretary of State, who is one of my daughters, has gone to
New York to shake her heels at the balls and assemblies of a metropolis
which might be better employed, more studious of taxes than of
instituting expensive diversions."[221]

_XI. Causes of Display and Frivolity_

What else could be expected, for the time being at least? For, the war
over, the people naturally reacted from the dreary period of hardships
and suspense to a period of luxury and enjoyment. Moreover, here was a
new nation, and the citizens of the capital felt impelled to uphold the
dignity of the new commonwealth by some display of riches, brilliance,
and power. Then, too, the first President of the young nation was not
niggardly in dress or expenditure, and his contemporaries felt,
naturally enough, that they must meet him at least half way. Washington
apparently was a believer in dignified appearances, and there was
frequently a wealth of livery attending his coach. A story went the
round, no doubt in an exaggerated form, that shows perhaps too much
punctiliousness on the part of the Father of His Country:

"The night before the famous white chargers were to be used they were
covered with a white paste, swathed in body clothes, and put to sleep on
clean straw. In the morning this paste was rubbed in, and the horses
brushed until their coats shone. The hoofs were then blacked and
polished, the mouths washed, and their teeth picked. It is related that
after this grooming the master of the stables was accustomed to flick
over their coats a clean muslin handkerchief, and if this revealed a
speck of dust the stable man was punished."[222]

Perhaps Washington himself rather enjoyed the stateliness and a certain
aloofness in his position; but to Martha Washington, used to the freedom
of social mingling on the Virginia plantation, the conditions were
undoubtedly irksome. "I lead," she wrote, "a very dull life and know
nothing that passes in the town. I never go to any public place--indeed
I think I am more like a state prisoner than anything else, there is a
certain bound set for me which I must not depart from and as I cannot
doe as I like I am obstinate and stay home a great deal." To some of the
more democratic patriots all this dignity and formality and display were
rather disgusting, and some did not hesitate to express themselves in
rather sarcastic language about the customs. For instance, gruff old
Senator Maclay of Pennsylvania, who was not a lover of Washington
anyway, recorded in his _Journal_ his impressions of one of the
President's decidedly formal dinners:

     "First was the soup; fish roasted and boiled; meats, gammon
     (smoked ham), fowls, etc. This was the dinner. The middle of the
     table was garnished in the usual tasty way, with small images,
     artificial flowers, etc. The dessert was first apple-pies,
     pudding, etc., then iced creams, jellies, etc., then
     water-melons, musk-melons, apples, peaches, nuts.... The
     President and Mrs. Washington sat opposite each other in the
     middle of the table; the two secretaries, one at each end....

     "It was the most solemn dinner ever I sat at. Not a health
     drank, scarce a word said until the cloth was taken away. Then
     the President, filling a glass of wine, with great formality
     drank to the health of every individual by name around the table.
     Everybody imitated him and changed glasses and such a buzz of
     'health, sir,' and 'health, madam,' and 'thank you, sir,' and
     'thank you, madam' never had I heard before.... The ladies sat a
     good while and the bottles passed about; but there was a dead
     silence almost. Mrs. Washington at last withdrew with the ladies.

     "I expected the men would now begin but the same stillness
     remained. He (the President) now and then said a sentence or two
     on some common subject and what he said was not amiss. Mr. Jay
     tried to make a laugh by mentioning the Duchess of Devonshire
     leaving no stone unturned to carry Fox's election. There was a
     Mr. Smith who mentioned how _Homer_ described Æneas leaving his
     wife and carrying his father out of flaming Troy. He had heard
     somebody (I suppose) witty on the occasion; but if he had ever
     read it he would have said _Virgil_. The President kept a fork in
     his hand, when the cloth was taken away, I thought for the
     purpose of picking nuts. He ate no nuts, however, but played with
     the fork, striking on the edge of the table with it. We did not
     sit long after the ladies retired. The President rose, went
     up-stairs to drink coffee; the company followed. I took my hat
     and came home."

After all, it was well that our first President and his lady were
believers in a reasonable amount of formality and dignity. They
established a form of social etiquette and an insistence on certain
principles of high-bred procedure genuinely needed in a country the
tendency of which was toward a crude display of raw, hail-fellow-well-met
democracy. With an Andrew Jackson type of man as its first President,
our country would soon have been the laughing stock of nations, and
could never have gained that prestige which neither wealth nor power can
bring, but which is obtained only through evidences of genuine
civilization and culture. As Wharton says in her _Martha Washington_:
"An executive mansion presided over by a man and woman who combined with
the most ardent patriotism a dignity, elegance, and moderation that
would have graced the court of any Old World sovereign, saved the social
functions of the new nation from the crudeness and bald simplicity of
extreme republicanism, as well as from the luxury and excess that often
mark the sudden elevation to power and place of those who have spent
their early years in obscurity."[223]

Even after the removal of the capital from New York the city was still
the scene of unabated gaiety. Elizabeth Southgate, who became the wife
of Walter Bowne, mayor of the metropolis, left among her letters the
following bits of helpful description of the city pastimes and
fashionable life: "Last night we were at the play--'The Way to Get
Married.' Mr. Hodgkinson in _Tangen_ is inimitable. Mrs. Johnson, a
sweet, interesting actress, in _Julia_, and Jefferson, a great comic
player, were all that were particularly pleasing.... I have been to two
of the gardens: Columbia, near the Battery--a most romantic, beautiful
place--'tis enclosed in a circular form and little rooms and boxes all
around--with tables and chairs--these full of company.... They have a
fine orchestra, and have concerts here sometimes.... We went on to the
Battery--this is a large promonade by the shore of the North River--very
extensive; rows and clusters of trees in every part, and a large walk
along the shore, almost over the water.... Here too, they have music
playing on the water in boats of a moonlight night. Last night we went
to a garden a little out of town--Mount Vernon Garden. This, too, is
surrounded by boxes of the same kind, with a walk on top of them--you
can see the gardens all below--but 'tis a summer play-house--pit and
boxes, stage and all, but open on top."

_XII. Society in Philadelphia_

As has been indicated, New York was not the only center of brilliant
social activity in colonial America. Philadelphia laid claim to having
even more charming society and vastly more "exclusive" social functions,
and it is undoubtedly true that for some years before the war, and even
after New York became the capital, Philadelphia "set the social pace."
And, when the capital was removed to the Quaker City, there was indeed a
brilliance in society that would have compared not unfavorably with the
best in England during the same years. Unfortunately few magazine
articles or books picturing the life in the city at that time remain;
but from diaries, journals, and letters we may gain many a hint. Before
and during the Revolution there were at Philadelphia numerous wealthy
Tory families, who loved the lighter side of life, and when the town was
occupied by the British these pro-British citizens offered a welcome
both extended and expensive. As Wharton says in her _Through Colonial

"The Quaker City had, at the pleasure of her conqueror, doffed her
sober drab and appeared in festal array.... The best that the city
afforded was at the disposal of the enemy, who seem to have spent their
days in feasting and merry-making, while Washington and his army endured
all the hardships of the severe winter of 1777-8 upon the bleak
hill-sides of Valley Forge. Dancing assemblies, theatrical
entertainments, and various gaieties marked the advent of the British in
Philadelphia, all of which formed a fitting prelude to the full-blown
glories of the Meschianza, which burst upon the admiring inhabitants on
that last-century May day."[224]

This, however, was not a sudden outburst of reckless joy on the part of
the Philadelphians; for long before the coming of Howe the wealthier
families had given social functions that delighted and astonished
foreign visitors. We are sure that as early as 1738 dancing was taught
by Theobald Hackett, who offered to instruct in "all sorts of
fashionable English and French dances, after the newest and politest
manner practiced in London, Dublin, and Paris, and to give to young
ladies, gentlemen, and children, the most graceful carriage in dancing
and genteel behaviour in company that can possibly be given by any
dancing master, whatever."

Before the middle of the eighteenth century balls, or "dancing
assemblies" had become popular in Philadelphia, and, being sanctioned by
no less authority than the Governor himself, were frequented by the best
families of the city. In a letter by an influential clergyman, Richard
Peters, we find this reference to such fashionable meetings: "By the
Governor's encouragement there has been a very handsome assembly once a
fortnight at Andrew Hamilton's house and stores, which are tenanted by
Mr. Inglis (and) make a set of rooms for such a purpose and consist of
eight ladies and as many gentlemen, one half appearing every Assembly
Night." There were a good many strict rules regulating the conduct of
these balls, among them being one that every meeting should begin
promptly at six and close at twelve. The method of obtaining admission
is indicated in the following notice from the _Pennsylvania Journal_ of
1771: "The Assembly will be opened this evening, and as the receiving
money at the door has been found extremely inconvenient, the managers
think it necessary to give the public notice that no person will be
admitted without a ticket from the directors which (through the
application of a subscriber) may be had of either of the managers."

As card-playing was one of the leading pastimes of the day, rooms were
set aside at these dancing assemblies for those who preferred "brag" and
other fashionable games with cards. But far the greater number preferred
to dance, and to those who did, the various figures and steps were
seemingly a rather serious matter, not to be looked upon as a source of
mere amusement. The Marquis de Chastellux has left us a description of
one of these assemblies attended by him during the Revolution, and, if
his words are true, such affairs called for rather concentrated

"A manager or master of ceremonies presides at these methodical
amusements; he presents to the gentlemen and ladies dancers billets
folded up containing each a number; thus, fate decided the male or
female partner for the whole evening. All the dances are previously
arranged and the dancers are called in their turns. These dances, like
the toasts we drink at table, have some relation to politics; one is
called the Success of the Campaign, another the Defeat of Burgoyne, and
a third Clinton's Retreat.... Colonel Mitchell was formerly the manager,
but when I saw him he had descended from the magistracy and danced like
a private citizen. He is said to have exercised his office with great
severity, and it is told of him that a young lady who was figuring in a
country dance, having forgotten her turn by conversing with a friend,
was thus addressed by him, 'Give over, miss, mind what you are about. Do
you think you come here for your pleasure?'"

_XIII. The Beauty of Philadelphia Women_

Any investigator of early American social life may depend on Abigail
Adams for spicy, keen observations and interesting information. Her
letters picture happily the activities of Philadelphia society during
the last decade of the eighteenth century. For instance, she writes in
1790: "On Friday last I went to the drawing room, being the first of my
appearance in public. The room became full before I left it, and the
circle very brilliant. How could it be otherwise when the dazzling Mrs.
Bingham and her beautiful sisters were there: the Misses Allen, and the
Misses Chew; in short a constellation of beauties? If I were to accept
one-half the invitations I receive I should spend a very dissipated
winter. Even Saturday evening is not excepted, and I refused an
invitation of that kind for this evening. I have been to one assembly.
The dancing was very good; the company the best; the President and
Madam, the Vice-President and Madam, Ministers of State and their
Madames, etc."

The mention of Mrs. Bingham leads us to some notice of her and her
environment, as an aid to our perception of the real culture and
brilliance found in the higher social circles of colonial Philadelphia
and New York. One of the most beautiful women of the day, Mrs. Bingham,
added to a good education, the advantage of much travel abroad, and a
lengthy visit at the Court of Louis XVI. Her beauty and elegance were
the talk of Paris, The Hague, and London, and Mrs. Adams' comment from
London voiced the general foreign sentiment about her: "She is coming
quite into fashion here, and is very much admired. The hair-dresser who
dresses us on court days inquired ... whether ... we knew the lady
so much talked of here from America--Mrs. Bingham. He had heard of
her ... and at last speaking of Miss Hamilton he said with a twirl of
his comb, 'Well, it does not signify, but the American ladies do beat
the English all to nothing.'"

An English traveller, Wansey, visited her in her Philadelphia home, and
wrote: "I dined this day with Mrs. Bingham.... I found a magnificent
house and gardens in the best English style, with elegant and even
superb furniture. The chairs of the drawing room were from Seddons in
London, of the newest taste--the backs in the form of a lyre with
festoons of crimson and yellow silk; the curtains of the room a festoon
of the same; the carpet one of Moore's most expensive patterns. The room
was papered in the French taste, after the the style of the Vatican at

Such a woman was, of course, destined to be a social leader, and while
her popularity was at its height, she introduced many a foreign custom
or fad to the somewhat unsophisticated society of America. One of these
was that of having a servant announce repeatedly the name of the visitor
as he progressed from the outside door to the drawing room, and this in
itself caused considerable ridiculous comment and sometimes embarrassing
blunders on the part of Americans ignorant of foreign etiquette. One
man, hearing his name thus called a number of times while he was taking
off his overcoat, bawled out repeatedly, "Coming, coming," until at
length, his patience gone, he shouted, "Coming, just as soon as I can
get my great-coat off!"

The beauty and brilliance of Philadelphia were not without honor at
home, and this recognition of local talent caused some rather spiteful
comparisons to be made with the New York belles. Rebecca Franks, to whom
we have referred several times, declared: "Few New York ladies know how
to entertain company in their own houses, unless they introduce the card
table.... I don't know a woman or girl that can chat above half an hour
and that on the form of a cap, the color of a ribbon, or the set of a
hoop, stay, or gapun. I will do our ladies, that is in Philadelphia, the
justice to say they have more cleverness in the turn of an eye than the
New York girls have in their whole composition. With what ease have I
seen a Chew, a Penn, Oswald, Allen, and a thousand other entertain a
large circle of both sexes and the conversation, without aid of cards,
not flagg or seem in the least strained or stupid."

_XIV. Social Functions_

While the beauty of the Philadelphia women was notable--the Duke
Rochefoucauld-Liancourt declared that it was impossible to meet with
what is called a plain woman--the lavish use of wealth was no less
noticeable. The equipage, the drawing room, the very kitchens of some
homes were so extravagantly furnished that foreign visitors marvelled at
the display. Indeed, some spiteful people of the day declared that the
Bingham home was so gaudy and so filled with evidence of wealth that it
lacked a great deal of being comfortable. The trappings of the horses,
the furnishings of the family coaches, the livery of the footmen,
drivers, and attendants apparently were equal to those possessed by the
most aristocratic in London and Paris.

Probably one of the most brilliant social occasions was the annual
celebration of Washington's birthday, and while the first President was
in Philadelphia, he was, of course, always present at the ball, and made
no effort to conceal his pleasure and gratitude for this mark of esteem.
The entire day was given over to pomp and ceremony. According to a
description by Miss Chambers, "The morning of the 'twenty-second' was
ushered in by the discharge of heavy artillery. The whole city was in
commotion, making arrangements to demonstrate their attachment to our
beloved President. The Masonic, Cincinnati, and military orders united
in doing him honor." In describing the hall, she says: "The seats were
arranged like those of an amphitheatre, and cords were stretched on each
side of the room, about three feet from the floor, to preserve
sufficient space for the dances. We were not long seated when General
Washington entered and bowed to the ladies as he passed round the
room.... The dancing soon after commenced."[225]

There can be little doubt that Mrs. Washington enjoyed her stay in
Philadelphia far more than the period spent in New York. In Philadelphia
there was a very noticeable atmosphere of hospitality and easy
friendliness; here too were many Southern visitors and Southern customs;
for in those days of difficult travel Philadelphia seemed much nearer to
Virginia than did New York. Even with such a congenial environment
Martha Washington, with her innate domesticity, was constantly thinking
of life at Mount Vernon, and in the midst of festivities and assemblies
of genuine diplomatic import, would stop to write to her niece at home
such a thoroughly housewifely message as: "I do not know what keys you
have--it is highly necessary that the beds and bed clothes of all kinds
should be aired, if you have the keys I beg you will make Caroline put
all the things of every kind out to air and brush and clean all the
places and rooms that they were in."

But Mrs. Washington was not alone in Philadelphia in this domestic
tendency; many of those women who dazzled both Americans and foreigners
with their beauty and social graces were most careful housekeepers, and
even expert at weaving and sewing. Sarah Bache, for example, might
please at a ball, but the next morning might find her industriously
working at the spinning wheel. We find her writing her father, Ben
Franklin, in 1790: "If I was to mention to you the prices of the common
necessaries of life, it would astonish you. I should tell you that I
had seven tablecloths of my own spinning." Again, she shrewdly requests
her father in Paris to send her various articles of dress which are
entirely too expensive in America, but the old gentleman's answer seems
still more shrewd, especially when we remember what a delightful time he
was just then having with several sprightly French dames: "I was charmed
with the account you gave me of your industry, the tablecloths of your
own spinning, and so on; but the latter part of the paragraph that you
had sent for linen from France ... and you sending for ... lace and
feathers, disgusted me as much as if you had put salt into my
strawberries. The spinning, I see, is laid aside, and you are to be
dressed for the ball! You seem not to know, my dear daughter, that of
all the dear things in this world idleness is the dearest, except

Her declaration in her letter that "there was never so much pleasure and
dressing going on" is corroborated by the statement of an officer
writing to General Wayne: "It is all gaiety, and from what I can
observe, every lady endeavors to outdo the other in splendor and
show.... The manner of entertaining in this place has likewise undergone
its change. You cannot conceive anything more elegant than the present
taste. You can hardly dine at a table but they present you with three
courses, and each of them in the most elegant manner."

_XV. Theatrical Performances_

The dinners and balls seem to have been expensive enough, but another
demand for expenditure, especially in items of dress, arose from the
constantly increasing popularity of the theatre. In Philadelphia the
first regular theatre season began in 1754, and from this time forth the
stage seems to have filled an important part in the activities of
society. We find that Washington attended such performances at the early
South Street Theatre, and was especially pleased with a comedy called
_The Young Quaker; or the Fair Philadelphian_ by O'Keefe, a sketch that
was followed by a pantomimic ballet, a musical piece called _The
Children in the Wood_, a recitation of Goldsmith's _Epilogue_ in the
character of Harlequin, and a "grand finale" by some adventuresome actor
who made a leap through a barrel of fire! Truly vaudeville began early
in America.

Mrs. Adams from staid old Massachusetts, where theatrical performances
were not received cordially for many a year, wrote from Philadelphia in
1791: "The managers of the theatre have been very polite to me and my
family. I have been to one play, and here again we have been treated
with much politeness. The actors came and informed us that a box was
prepared for us.... The house is equal to most of the theatres we meet
with out of France.... The actors did their best; the 'School for
Scandal' was the play. I missed the divine Farran, but upon the whole it
was very well performed."

The first theatrical performance given in New York is said to have been
acted in a barn by English officers and shocked beyond all measure the
honest Dutch citizens whose lives hitherto had gone along so peacefully
without such ungodly spectacles. As Humphreys writes in her _Catherine
Schuyler_, "Great was the scandal in the church and among the burghers.
Their indictment was searching.... Moreover, they painted their faces
which was against God and nature.... They had degraded manhood by
assuming female habits."[226]

But in most sections of the Middle Colonies, as well as in Virginia and
South Carolina, the colonists took very readily to the theatre, and in
both Pennsylvania and Virginia, where the curtain generally rose at six
o'clock, such crowds attended that the fashionable folk commonly sent
their negroes ahead to hold the seats against all comers. Williamsburg,
Virginia, had a good play house as early as 1716; Charleston just a
little later, and Annapolis had regular performances in 1752. Baltimore
first opened the theatre in 1782, and did the thing "in the fine style,"
by presenting Shakespeare's _King Richard_. Society doubtless tingled
with excitement when that first theatrical notice appeared in the
Baltimore papers.

     Will Open, This Evening, being the 15th of January ...

         *       *       *       *       *

     to which will be added a FARCE,

         *       *       *       *       *

     "Boxes: One Dollar: Pit Five Shillings: Galleries 9d. Doors to be
     open at Half-past Four, and will begin at Six o'clock.

     "No persons can be admitted without Tickets, which may be had at
     the coffee House in Baltimore, and at Lindlay's Coffee House on

     "No Persons will on any pretence be admitted behind the Scenes."

This last sentence was indeed a necessary one; for during the earlier
days of the American theatre many in the audience frequently invaded the
stage, either to congratulate the actors or to express in fistic combat
their disgust over the play or the acting. It was not uncommon, too, for
eggs to be thrown from the gallery, and both this and the rushing upon
the stage was expressly forbidden at length by the authorities of
several towns. Every class in colonial days seems to have found its own
peculiar way of enjoying itself, whether by fascinating through beauty
and brilliance the supposedly sophisticated French dukes, or by pelting
barn-storming actors with eggs and other missiles.

The limits of one volume force us to omit many an interesting social
feature of colonial days, especially of the cities. How much might be
said of the tavern life of New York City and the vicinity, how much of
those famous resorts, Vauxhall and Ranelagh, where many a device to
arouse the wonder of the fashionable guests was invented and
constructed! Then, too, much might be related about the popular "fish
dinners" of New York and Annapolis, the horse races in Virginia and
Maryland, the militia parades and pageants at Charleston. But sufficient
has been offered to prove that the prevalent idea of a dreary atmosphere
that lasted throughout the entire colonial period is false; certainly
during the eighteenth century at least, the average American colonist
obtained as much pleasure out of life as the rushing, ever-busy American
of our own day.

_XVI. Strange Customs in Louisiana_

It should be noted that most of these pleasures were in the main
healthful and normal, and, in the eyes of the Anglo-Saxon colonists at
least, made a most commendable contrast to the recreations indulged in
by the French colonists of Louisiana. There can be but little doubt that
during the last years of the eighteenth century moral conditions in this
far southern colony might have been far better. Although Louis XIV, the
Grand Monarch, had been dead practically a century, he had left as a
heritage a passion for pleasure and merry-making that was causing the
French nobility to revel in profligacy and vice. It must be admitted
that many of the French colonists in America were apt pupils of their
European relatives, while the Creole population, born of at least an
unmoral union, was, to say the least, in no wise a hindrance to
pleasures of a rather lax character. Then, too, there was the negro, or
more accurately the mulatto, who if he or, again more accurately, _she_
had any moral scruples, had little opportunity as a slave or servant to
exercise them.

The settlers of Louisiana had an active trade with the West Indies, and
a percentage of the population was composed of West Indians, a people
then notorious for their lack of moral restraint. The traders travelling
between Louisiana and these islands were frequently unprincipled
ruffians, and their companions on shore were commonly sharpers,
desperadoes, pirates, and criminals steeped in vice. Tiring of the raw
life of the sea or sometimes fleeing from justice in northern cities,
such men looked to New Orleans for that peculiar type of free and easy
civilization which most pleased their nature. Hence, although some
better class families of culture and refinement resided in the city,
there was but little in common, socially at least, between it and such
centers as Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. As a sea-port looking to
those eighteenth century fens of wickedness, the West Indies; as a river
port toward which traders, trappers, and planters of the Mississippi
Valley looked as a resort for relieving themselves of accumulated thirst
and passion; as the home of mixed races, some of which were but a few
decades removed from savagery; this city could not avoid its reputation
for lax principles, and free-and-easy vice.

Berquin-Duvallon, writing in 1803, gave what he doubtless considered an
accurate picture of social conditions during that year, and, although
this is a little later than the period covered in our study, still it is
hardly likely that conditions were much better twenty years earlier; if
anything, they were probably much worse. Of one famous class of
Louisiana women he has this to say: "The Creoles of Louisiana are blond
rather than brunette. The women of this country who may be included
among the number of those whom nature has especially favored, have a
skin which without being of extreme whiteness, is still beautiful enough
to constitute one of their charms; and features which although not very
regular, form an agreeable whole; a very pretty throat; a stature that
indicates strength and health; and (a peculiar and distinguishing
feature) lively eyes full of expression, as well as a magnificent head
of hair."[227]

Such women, as well as the negro and mulatto girls, were an ever present
temptation to men whose passion had never known restraint. Thus
Berquin-Duvallon declares that concubinage was far more common than
marriage: "The rarity of marriage must necessarily be attributed to the
causes we have already assigned, to that state of celibacy, to that
monkish life, the taste for which is extending here more and more among
the men. In witness of what I advance on this matter, one single
observation will suffice, as follows: For the two and one-half years
that I have been in this colony not thirty marriages at all notable have
occurred in New Orleans and for ten leagues about it. And in this
district there are at least six hundred white girls of virtuous estate,
of marriageable age, between fourteen and twenty-five or thirty years."

This early observer receives abundant corroboration from other
travellers of the day. Paul Alliott, drawing a contrast between New
Orleans and St. Louis, another city with a considerable number of French
inhabitants, says: "The inhabitants of the city of St. Louis, like those
old time simple and united patriarchs, do not live at all in debauchery
as do a part of those of New Orleans. Marriage is honored there, and the
children resulting from it share the inheritance of their parents
without any quarrelling."[228] But, says Berquin-Duvallon, among a large
percentage of the colonists about New Orleans, "their taste for women
extends more particularly to those of color, whom they prefer to the
white women, because such women demand fewer of those annoying
attentions which contradict their taste for independence. A great
number, accordingly, prefer to live in concubinage rather than to marry.
They find in that the double advantage of being served with the most
scrupulous exactness, and in case of discontent or unfaithfulness, of
changing their housekeeper (this is the honorable name given to that
sort of woman)." Of course, such a scheme of life was not especially
conducive to happiness among white women, and, although as Alliott
declares, the white men "have generally much more regard for (negro
girls) in their domestic economy than they do for their legitimate
wives.... the (white) women show the greatest contempt and aversion for
that sort of women."

When moral conditions could shock an eighteenth century Frenchman they
must have been exceptionally bad; but the customs of the New Orleans
men were entirely too unprincipled for Berquin-Duvallon and various
other French investigators. "Not far from the taverns are obscene
bawdy houses and dirty smoking houses where the father on one side,
and the son on the other go, openly and without embarassment as well
as without shame, ... to revel and dance indiscriminately and for
whole nights with a lot of men and women of saffron color or quite
black, either free or slave. Will any one dare to deny this fact? I
will only designate, in support of my assertion (and to say no more),
the famous house of Coquet, located near the center of the city, where
all that scum is to be seen publicly, and that for several

Naturally, as a matter of mere defense, the women of pure white blood
drew the color line very strictly, and would not knowingly mingle
socially to the very slightest degree with a person of mixed negro or
Indian blood. Such severe distinctions led to embarrassing and even
cruel incidents at social gatherings; and on many occasions, if
cool-headed social leaders had not quickly ejected guests of tainted
lineage, there undoubtedly would have been bloodshed. Berquin-Duvallon
describes just such a scene: "The ladies' ball is a sanctuary where no
woman dare approach if she has even a suspicion of mixed blood. The
purest conduct, the most eminent virtues could not lessen this strain in
the eyes of the implacable ladies. One of the latter, married and known
to have been implicated in various intrigues with men of the locality,
one day entered one of those fine balls. 'There is a woman of mixed
blood here,' she cried haughtily. This rumor ran about the ballroom. In
fact, two young quadroon ladies were seen there, who were esteemed for
the excellent education which they had received, and much more for their
honorable conduct. They were warned and obliged to disappear in haste
before a shameless woman, and their society would have been a real
pollution for her."

Perhaps, after all, little blame for such outbursts can be placed upon
the white women of the day. Berquin-Duvallon recognized and admired
their excellent quality and seems to have wondered why so many men could
prefer girls of color to these clean, healthy, and honorable ladies. Of
them he says: "The Louisiana women, and notably those born and resident
on the plantations, have various estimable qualities. Respectful as
girls, affectionate as wives, tender as mothers, and careful as
mistresses, possessing thoroughly the details of household economy,
honest, reserved, proper--in the van almost--they are in general, most
excellent women." But those of mixed blood or lower lineage, he remarks:
"A tone of extravagance and show in excess of one's means is seen there
in the dress of the women, in the elegance of their carriages, and in
their fine furniture."

Indeed, this display in dress and equipage astounded the French. The
sight of it in a city where Indians, negroes, and half-breeds mingled
freely with whites on street and in dive, where sanitary conditions were
beyond description, and where ignorance and slovenliness were too
apparent to be overlooked, seems to have rather nettled
Berquin-Duvallon, and he sometimes grew rather heated in his
descriptions of an unwarranted luxury and extravagance equal to that of
the capitals of Europe. But now, "the women of the city dress
tastefully, and their change of appearance in this respect in a very
short space of time is really surprising. Not three years ago, with
lengthened skirts, the upper part of their clothing being of one color,
and the lower of another, and all the rest of their dress in proportion;
they were brave with many ribbons and few jewels. Thus rigged out they
went everywhere, on their round of visits, to the ball, and to the
theatre. To-day, such a costume seems to them, and rightfully so, a
masquerade. The richest of embroidered muslins, cut in the latest
styles, and set off as transparencies over soft and brilliant taffetas,
with magnificent lace trimmings, and with embroidery and
gold-embroidered spangles, are to-day fitted to and beautify well
dressed women and girls; and this is accompanied by rich earrings,
necklaces, bracelets, rings, precious jewels, in fine with all that can
relate to dress--to that important occupation of the fair sex."

But beneath all this gaudy show of dress and wealth there was a
shameful ignorance that seems to have disgusted foreign visitors. There
was so little other pleasure in life for the women of this colony; their
education was so limited that they could not possibly have known the
variety of intellectual pastimes that made life so interesting for Eliza
Pinckney, Mrs. Adams, and Catherine Schuyler. With surprise
Berquin-Duvallon noted that "there is no other public institution fit
for the education of the youth of this country than a simple school
maintained by the government. It is composed of about fifty children,
nearly all from poor families. Reading, writing, and arithmetic are
taught there in two languages, French and Spanish. There is also the
house of the French nuns, who have some young girls as boarders, and who
have a class for day students. There is also a boarding school for young
Creole girls, which was established about fifteen months ago.... The
Creole women lacking in general the talents that adorn education have no
taste for music, drawing or, embroidery, but in revenge they have an
extreme passion for dancing and would pass all their days and nights at

There was indeed some attendance at theatres as the source of amusement;
but of the sources of cultural pleasure there were certainly very few.
To our French friend it was genuinely disgusting, and he relieved his
feelings in the following summary of fault-finding: "Few good musicians
are to be seen here. There is only one single portrait painter, whose
talent is suited to the walk of life where he employs it. Finally, in a
city inhabited by ten thousand souls, as is New Orleans, I record it as
a fact that not ten truly learned men can be found.... There is found
here neither ship-yard, colonial post, college, nor public nor private
library. Neither is there a book store, and, for good reasons, for a
bookseller would die of hunger in the midst of his books."

With little of an intellectual nature to divert them, with the
temptations incident to slavery and mixed races on every hand, with a
heritage of rather lax ideas concerning sexual morality, the men of the
day too frequently found their chief pastimes in feeding the appetites
of the flesh, and too often the women forgot and forgave. To
Berquin-Duvallon it all seems very strange and very crude. "I cannot
accustom myself to those great mobs, or to the old custom of the men (on
these gala occasions or better, orgies) of getting more than on edge
with wine, so that they get fuddled even before the ladies, and
afterward act like drunken men in the presence of those beautiful
ladies, who, far from being offended at it, appear on the contrary to be
amused by it." And out of it all, out of these conditions forming so
vivid a contrast to the average life of Massachusetts and Pennsylvania,
grew this final dark picture--one that could not have been tolerated in
the Anglo-Saxon colonies of the North: "The most remarkable, as well as
the most pathetic result of that gangrenous irregularity in this city is
the exposing of a number of white babies (sad fruits of a clandestine
excess) who are sacrificed from birth by their guilty mothers to a false
honor after they have sacrificed their true honor to their unbridled
inclination for a luxury that destroys them."

Thus, we have had glimpses of social life, with its pleasures,
throughout the colonies. Perhaps, it was a trifle too cautious in
Massachusetts, a little fearful lest the mere fact that a thing was
pleasant might make it sinful; perhaps in early New York it was a little
too physical, though generally innocent, smacking a little too much of
rich, heavy foods and drink; perhaps among the Virginians it echoed too
often with the bay of the fox hound and the click of racing hoofs. But
certainly in the latter half of the eighteenth century whether in
Massachusetts, the Middle Colonies, or Virginia and South Carolina
social activities often showed a culture, refinement and general _éclat_
which no young nation need be ashamed of, and which, in fact, were far
above what might justly have been expected in a country so little
touched by the hand of civilized man. In the main, those were wholesome,
sane days in the English colonies, and life offered almost as pleasant a
journey to most Americans as it does to-day.


[153] Tyler: _England in America_, p. 115, _American Nation Series_.

[154] _The Jeffersonian System_, p. 218, _American Nation Series_.

[155] _Ibid._, p. 115.

[156] Page 89.

[157] Ravenel: _Eliza Pinckney_, p. 227.

[158] Ravenel: _Elisa Pinckney_, p. 13.

[159] Wharton: _Martha Washington_, p. 166.

[160] Ravenel: _E. Pinckney_, p. 20.

[161] Pages 46-48.

[162] Ravenal: _Eliza Pinckney_, p. 49.

[163] Wharton: _Martha Washington_, p. 56.

[164] Wharton: _Martha Washington_, p. 186.

[165] Page 205.

[166] Vol. I, p. 116.

[167] Vol. I, p. 31.

[168] Vol. I, p. 143.

[169] Vol. I, p. 171.

[170] Vol. I, p, 191.

[171] _Diary_, p. 189.

[172] _Diary_, p. 289.

[173] _Diary_, p. 321.

[174] _Diary_, p. 119.

[175] _Diary_, p. 54.

[176] _Diary_, p. 121.

[177] _Diary_, p. 69.

[178] Vol. III, p. 43.

[179] Vol. III, p. 341.

[180] Vol. II, p. 367.

[181] Vol. III, p. 7.

[182] Vol. II, p. 14.

[183] Vol. II, p. 20.

[184] Vol. II, p. 32.

[185] Vol. I, p. 481.

[186] Vol. I, p. 202.

[187] Vol. I, p. 195.

[188] Vol. II, p. 175.

[189] Vol. III, p. 292.

[190] Andrews: _Colonial Self-Government_, p. 302, _American Nation

[191] _Diary_, Vol. II, p. 109.

[192] _Diary_, Vol. I, p. 125.

[193] _Diary_, Vol. II, p. 158.

[194] _Diary_, Vol. I, p. 145.

[195] _Diary_, Vol. III, p. 244.

[196] _Diary_, Vol. III, p. 341.

[197] _Diary_, Vol. III, p. 143.

[198] _Diary_, Vol. I, p. 228.

[199] _Diary_, Vol. II, p. 216.

[200] _Diary_, Vol. I, p. 410.

[201] _Diary_, Vol. I, p. 157.

[202] _Diary_, Vol. I, p. 355.

[203] _Diary_, Vol. III, p. 316.

[204] _Diary_, Vol. III, p. 394.

[205] _Diary_, p. 60.

[206] _Diary_, p. 81.

[207] Vol. I, p. 159.

[208] Vol. III, p. 1.

[209] Vol. I, p. 223.

[210] Page 136.

[211] Page 33.

[212] _Memoirs_, p. 29.

[213] _Memoirs_: p. 53.

[214] _Memoirs of an American Lady_, p. 35.

[215] Grant: _Memoirs of an American Lady_, pp. 55-57.

[216] Grant: _Memoirs_, p. 62.

[217a], [217b] Humphreys: _Catherine Schuyler_, p. 77.

[218] Page 83.

[219] Humphreys: _Catherine Schuyler_, p. 214.

[220] Humphreys: _Catherine Schuyler_, p. 213.

[221] Humphreys: _Catherine Schuyler_, p. 215.

[222] Humphreys: _Catherine Schuyler_, p. 209.

[223] Page 195.

[224] Page 24.

[225] Wharton: _Martha Washington_, p. 230.

[226] Page 45.

[227] Robertson: _Louisiana under Spain, France, and U.S._, Vol. I, p.

[228] Robertson: Vol. I, p. 85.

[229] Robertson, Vol. I, p. 216.



_I. New England Weddings_

Of course, practically every American novel dealing with the colonial
period--or any other period, for that matter--closes with a marriage and
a hint that they lived happily ever afterwards. Did they indeed? To
satisfy our curiosity about this point let us examine those early
customs that dealt with courtship, marriage, punishment for offenses
against the marriage law, and the general status of woman after

For many years a wedding among the Puritans was a very quiet affair
totally unlike the ceremony in the South, where feasting, dancing, and
merry-making were almost always accompaniments. For information about
the occasion in Massachusetts we may, of course, turn to the inevitable
Judge Sewall. As a guest he saw innumerable weddings; as a magistrate he
performed many; as one of the two principal participants he took part in
several. He has left us a record of his own frequent courtships, of how
he was rejected or accepted, and of his life after the acceptances; and
from it all one may make a rather fair analysis not only of the
conventional methods and domestic manners of New England but also of the
character and spirit of the other sex during such trying occasions. The
evidence shows that while a young woman was generally given her choice
of accepting or declining, the suitor, before offering his attentions,
first asked permission to do so from her parents or guardians. Thus a
marriage seldom occurred in which the parents or other interested
parties were left in ignorance as to the design, or ignored in the
deciding of the choice.

Sewall offers us sufficient proof on this point: "Decr. 7, 1719. Mr.
Cooper asks my Consent for Judith's Company; which I freely grant him."
"Feria Secunda, Octobr. 13, 1729. Judge Davenport comes to me between 10
and 11 a-clock in the morning and speaks to me on behalf of Mr.
Addington Davenport, his eldest Son, that he might have Liberty to Wait
upon Jane Hirst [his kinswoman] now at my House in way of
Courtship."[230] And it should be noted that the parents of the young
man took a keen interest in the matter, and showed genuine appreciation
that their son was permitted to court with the full sanction of the
lady's parents. Thus Sewall records: "Decr. 11. I and my Wife visit Mr.
Stoddard. Madam Stoddard Thank'd me for the Liberty I granted her Son
[Mr. Cooper] to wait on my daughter Judith. I returned the Compliment
and Kindness."[231]

It might well be conjectured that to toy with a girl's affections was a
serious matter. If the young man attempted without consent of the young
woman's parents or guardian to make love to her, the audacious youth
could be hailed into court, where it might indeed go hard with him. Thus
the records of Suffolk County Court for 1676 show that "John Lorin stood
'convict on his own confession of making love to Mary Willis without
her parents consent and after being forwarned by them, £5."[232]

But the lover might have his revenge; for if a stubborn father proved
unreasonable and refused to give a cause for not allowing a courtship,
the young man could bring the older one into court, and there compel him
to allow love to take its own way, or state excellent reasons for
objecting. Thus, in 1646 "Richard Taylor complained to the general Court
of Plymouth that he was prevented from marrying Ruth Wheildon by her
father Gabriel; but when before the court Gabriel yielded and promised
no longer to oppose the marriage."[233]

And then, if the young gallant (may we dare call a Puritan beau that?)
after having captured the girl's heart, failed to abide by his
engagement, woe betide him; for into the court he and her father might
go, and the young gentleman might come forth lacking several pounds in
money, if not in flesh. The Massachusetts colony records show, for
instance, that the court "orders that Joyce Bradwicke shall give unto
Alex. Becke the some of xxs, for promiseing him marriage wthout her
frends consent, & nowe refuseing to pforme the same."[234] Again, the
Plymouth colony records as quoted by Howard, state that "Richard
Siluester, in the behaife of his dautheter, and Dinah Siluester in the
behaife of herseife 'to recover twenty pounds and costs from John
Palmer, for acteing fraudulently against the said Dinah, in not pforming
his engagement to her in point of marriage.'" "In 1735, a woman was
awarded two hundred pounds and costs at the expense of her betrothed,
who, after jilting her, had married another, although he had first
beguiled her into deeding him a piece of land 'worth £100.'"

Serious as was the matter of the mere courtship, the fact that the dowry
or marriage portion had to be considered made the act of marriage even
more serious. The devout elders, who taught devotion to heavenly things
and scorn of the things of this world, nevertheless haggled and wrangled
long and stubbornly over a few pounds more or less. Judge Sewall seems
to have prided himself on the friendly spirit and expediteness with
which he settled such a matter. "Oct. 13, 1729. Judge Davenport comes to
me between 10 and 11 a-clock in the morning and speaks to me on behalf
of Mr. Addington Davenport, his eldest Son, that he might have Liberty
to Wait upon Jane Hirst now at my House in way of Courtship. He told me
he would deal by him as his eldest Son, and more than so. Inten'd to
build a House where his uncle Addington dwelt, for him; and that he
should have his Pue in the Old Meeting-house.... He said Madam Addington
Would wait upon me."[235]

Not only was provision thus made for the future financial condition of
the wedded, but also the possibility of the death of either party after
the day of marriage was kept in mind, and a sum to be paid in such an
emergency agreed upon. For example, Sewall records after the death of
his daughter Mary: "Tuesday, Febr. 19, 1711-2.... Dine with Mr. Gerrish,
son Gerrish [Mary's Husband], Mrs. Anne. Discourse with the Father
about my Daughter Mary's Portion. I stood for making £550 doe; because
now twas in six parts, the Land was not worth so much. He urg'd for
£600, at last would split the £50. Finally, Febr. 20, I agreed to charge
the House-Rent, and Differences of Money, and make it up £600."[236]

_II. Judge Sewall's Courtships_

The Judge's own accounts of his many courtships and three marriages give
us rather surprising glimpses of the spirit and independence of colonial
women, who, as pictured in the average book on American history, are
generally considered weak, meek, and yielding. His wooing of Madam
Winthrop, for instance, was long and arduous and ended in failure. She
would not agree to his proffered marriage settlement; she demanded that
he keep a coach, which he could not afford; she even declared that his
wearing of a wig was a prerequisite if he obtained her for a wife. Mrs.
Winthrop had been through marriage before, and she evidently knew how to
test the man before accepting. Not at all a clinging vine type of woman,
she well knew how to take care of herself, and her manner, therefore, of
accepting his attentions is indeed significant. Under date of October 23
we find in his _Diary_ this brief note: "My dear wife is inter'd"; and
on February 26, he writes: "This morning wondering in my mind whether to
live a single or a married life."[237]

Then come his friends, interested in his physical and spiritual welfare,
and realizing that it is not well for man to live alone, they begin to
urge upon him the benefits of wedlock. "March 14, 1717. Deacon Marion
comes to me, visits with me a great while in the evening; after a great
deal of discourse about his Courtship--He told [me] the Olivers said
they wish'd I would Court their Aunt. I said little, but said twas not
five Moneths since I buried my dear Wife. Had said before 'twas hard to
know whether best to marry again or no; whom to marry...."[238] "July 7,
1718.... At night, when all were gone to bed, Cousin Moodey went with me
into the new Hall, read the History of Rebeckah's Courtship, and pray'd
with me respecting my Widowed Condition."[239]

Thus urged to it, the lonely Judge pays court to Mrs. Denison but she
will not have him. Naturally he has little to say about the rejection;
but evidently, with undiscouraged spirit, he soon turns elsewhere and
with success; for under date of October 29, 1719, we come across this
entry: "Thanksgiving Day: between 6 and 7 Brother Moody & I went to Mrs.
Tilley's, and about 7 or 8 were married by Mr. J. Sewall, in the best
room below stairs. Mr. Prince prayed the second time. Mr. Adams, the
minister at Newington was there, Mr. Oliver and Mr. Timothy Clark....
Sung the 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16 verses of the 90th Psalm. Cousin S.
Sewall set Low-Dutch tune in a very good key.... Distributed

But his happiness was short-lived; for in May of the next year this wife
died, and, without wasting time in sentimental repining, he was soon on
the search for a new companion. In August he was calling on Madam
Winthrop and approached the subject with considerable subtlety: "Spake
to her, saying, my loving wife died so soon and suddenly, 'twas hardly
convenient for me to think of marrying again; however I came to this
resolution, that I would not make my court to any person without first
consulting with her."[240b] Two months later he said: "At last I pray'd
that Catherine [Mrs. Winthrop] might be the person assign'd for me....
She ... took it up in the way of denial, saying she could not do it
before she was asked."[241a]

But, as stated above, Madam Winthrop was rather capricious and, in
popular parlance, she "kept him guessing." Thus, we read:

"Madam seem'd to harp upon the same string.... Must take care of her
children; could not leave that house and neighborhood where she had
dwelt so long.... I gave her a piece of Mr. Belcher's cake and
gingerbread wrapped up in a clean sheet of paper...."[241b]

"In the evening I visited Madam Winthrop, who treated me with a great
deal of courtesy; wine, marmalade. I gave her a News-Letter about the

Two days later: "Madam Winthrop's countenance was much changed from what
'twas on Monday. Look'd dark and lowering.... Had some converse, but
very cold and indifferent to what 'twas before.... She sent Juno home
with me, with a good lantern...."[243a]

A week passed, and "in the evening I visited Madam Winthrop, who treated
me courteously, but not in clean linen as sometimes.... Juno came home
with me...."[243b]

Again, several days later, he seeks the charming widow, and finds her
"out." He goes in search of her. Finding her, he remains a few minutes,
then suggests going home. "...She found occasion to speak pretty
earnestly about my keeping a coach: ... She spake something of my
needing a wig...."[244]

Two days later when calling: "...I rose up at 11 o'clock to come away,
saying I would put on my coat, she offer'd not to help me. I pray'd her
that Juno might light me home, she open'd the shutter, and said 'twas
pretty light abroad: Juno was weary and gone to bed. So I came home by
star-light as well as I could...."[245]

The Judge was persistent, however, and called again. "I asked Madam what
fashioned neck-lace I should present her with; she said none at
all"[246] Evidently such coolness chilled the ardor of his devotion, and
he records but one more visit of a courting nature. "Give her the
remnant of my almonds; she did not eat of them as before; but laid them
away.... The fire was come to one short brand besides the block ... at
last it fell to pieces, and no recruit was made." The judge took the
hint. "Took leave of her.... Treated me courteously.... Told her she had
enter'd the 4th year of widowhood.... Her dress was not so clean as
sometime it had been. Jehovah jireh."[247]

A little later he turned his attention toward a Mrs. Ruggles; but by
this time the Judge was known as a persistent suitor, and one hard to
discourage, and it would seem that Mrs. Ruggles gave him no opportunity
to push the matter. At length, however, he found his heart's desire in a
Mrs. Gibbs and, judging from his _Diary_, was exceedingly pleased with
his choice.

_III. Liberty to Choose_

It seems clear that the virgin, as well as the widow, was given
considerable liberty in making up her own mind as to the choice of a
life mate, and any general conclusions that colonial women were
practically forced into uncongenial marriages by the command of parents
has no documentary evidence whatever. For instance, Eliza Pinckney wrote
in reply to her father's inquiry about her marriageable possibilities:

     "As you propose Mr. L. to me I am sorry I can't have Sentiments
     favourable enough to him to take time to think on the Subject, as
     your Indulgence to me will ever add weight to the duty that
     obliges me to consult that best pleases you, for so much
     Generosity on your part claims all my Obedience. But as I know
     'tis my Happiness you consult, I must beg the favour of you to
     pay my compliments to the old Gentleman for his Generosity and
     favorable Sentiments of me, and let him know my thoughts on the
     affair in such civil terms as you know much better than I can
     dictate; and beg leave to say to you that the riches of Chili and
     Peru put together, if he had them could not purchase a sufficient
     Esteem for him to make him my husband.

     "As to the other Gentleman you mention, Mr. W., you know, sir, I
     have so slight a knowledge of him I can form no judgment, and a
     case of such consequence requires the nicest distinction of
     humours and Sentiments.

     "But give me leave to assure you, my dear Sir, that a single life
     is my only Choice;--and if it were not as I am yet but eighteen
     hope you will put aside the thoughts of my marrying yet these two
     or three years at least.

     "You are so good as to say you have too great an opinion of my
     prudence to think I would entertain an indiscreet passion for any
     one, and I hope Heaven will direct me that I may never disappoint

Even timid, shrinking Betty Sewall, who as a child was so troubled over
her spiritual state, was not forced to accept an uncongenial mate;
although, of course, the old judge thought she must not remain in the
unnatural condition of a spinster. When she was seventeen her first
suitor appeared, with her father's permission, of course; for the Judge
had investigated the young man's financial standing, and had found him
worth at least £600. To prepare the girl for the ordeal, her father took
her into his study and read her the story of the mating of Adam and Eve,
"as a soothing and alluring preparation for the thought of matrimony."
But poor Betty, frightened out of her wits, fled as the hour for the
lover's appearance neared, and hid in a coach in the stable. The Judge
duly records the incident: "Jany Fourth-day, at night Capt. Tuthill
comes to speak with Betty, who hid herself all alone in the coach for
several hours till he was gone, so that we sought at several houses,
then at last came in of her self, and look'd very wild."[249]

Necessarily, this suitor was dismissed, and a Mr. Hirst next appeared,
but Betty could not consent to his courtship, and the father mournfully
notes the belief that this second young man had "taken his final leave."
A few days later, however, the Judge writes her as follows:

     "Mr. Hirst waits upon you once more to see if you can bid him
     welcome. It ought to be seriously considered, that your drawing
     back from him after all that has passed between you, will be to
     your Prejudice; and will tend to discourage persons of worth from
     making their Court to you. And you had need to consider whether
     you are able to bear his final Leaving of you, howsoever it may
     seem gratefull to you at present. When persons come toward us, we
     are apt to look upon their Undesirable Circumstances mostly; and
     therefore to shun them. But when persons retire from us for good
     and all, we are in danger of looking only on that which is
     desirable in them to our woefull Disquiet.... I do not see but
     that the Match is well liked by judicious persons, and such as
     are your Cordial Friends, and mine also.

     "Yet notwithstanding, if you find in yourself an imovable
     incurable Aversion from him, and cannot love, and honour, and
     obey him, I shall say no more, nor give you any further trouble
     in this matter. It had better be off than on. So praying God to
     pardon us, and pity our Undeserving, and to direct and strengthen
     and settle you in making a right Judgment, and giving a right
     Answer, I take leave, who, am, dear child, your loving

_IV. The Banns and the Ceremony_

After the formal engagement, when the dowry and contract had been agreed
upon and signed, the publishing of the banns occurred. Probably this
custom was general throughout the colonies; indeed, the Church of
England required it in Virginia and South Carolina; the Catholics
demanded it in Maryland; the Dutch in New York and the Quakers in
Pennsylvania sanctioned it. Sewall mentions the ceremony several times,
and evidently looked upon it as a proper, if not a required, procedure.

And who performed the marriage ceremony in those old days? To-day most
Americans look upon it as an office of the clergyman, although a few
turn to a civil officer in this hour of need; but in the early years of
the Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay Colonies it is highly probable that
only a magistrate was allowed to marry the contracting parties. Those
first American Puritans had a fear of church ceremony, and for some
years conducted both weddings and funerals without the formal services
of a preacher. By Judge Sewall's time, either clergyman or magistrate
might perform the office; but all symptoms of formality or worldly pomp
were frowned upon, and the union was made generally with the utmost
simplicity and quietness. We may turn again to the Judge's Diary for
brief pictures of the equally brief ceremony:

     "Tuesday, 1688. Mr. Nath. Newgate Marries Mr. Lynds Daughter
     before Mr. Ratcliff, with Church of England Ceremonies."[251]

     "Thorsday, Oct. 4th, 1688. About 5 P.M. Mr. Willard (the pastor)
     married Mr. Samuel Danforth and Mrs. Hannah Alien."[252]

     "Feb. 24, 1717-8. In the evening I married Joseph Marsh.... I
     gave them a glass of Canary."

     "Apr. 4, 1718.... In the evening I married Chasling Warrick and
     Esther Bates...."[253]

It seems that the Judge himself inclined toward the view that a wedding
was essentially a civil, and not an ecclesiastical affair, and he even
went so far as to introduce a rule having certain magistrates chosen for
the duty, but, unluckily, the preachers won the contest and almost took
this particular power away from the civil officers. The Judge refers
thus to the matter: "Nov. 4, 1692. Law passes for Justices and Ministers
Marrying Persons. By order of the Committee, I had drawn up a Bill for
Justices and such others as the Assembly should appoint to marry; but
came new-drawn and thus alter'd from the Deputies. It seems they count
the respect of it too much to be left any longer with the Magistrate.
And Salaries are not spoken of; as if one sort of Men might live on the
Aer...."[254] Apparently up to this date the magistrates had possessed
rather a monopoly on the marriage market, and Sewall was justly worried
over this new turn in affairs. Betty, however, who had finally accepted
Mr. Hirst, was married by a clergyman, as the following entry testifies:
"Oct. 17, 1700.... In the following Evening Mr. Grove Hirst and
Elizabeth Sewall are married by Mr. Cotton Mather."[255]

The nearest that the Puritans of the day seem to have approached
earthly hilarity on such occasions was in the serving of simple
refreshments. Strange to say, the pious Judge almost smacks his lips as
he records the delicacies served at one of the weddings: "Many of the
Council went and wish'd Col. Fitch joy of his daughter Martha's marriage
with Mr. James Allen. Had good Bride-Cake, good Wine, Burgundy and
Canary, good Beer, Oranges, Pears."[256] Again, in recording the
marriage of his daughter Judith, he notes that "we had our Cake and
sack-posset." Still again: "May 8th, 1712. At night, Dr. Increase Mather
married Mr. Sam Gerrish, and Mrs. Sarah Coney; Dr. Cotton Mather pray'd
last.... Had Gloves, Sack-Posset, and Cake...."[257]

Of course, as time went on, the good people of Massachusetts became more
worldly and three quarters of a century after Sewall noted the above,
some weddings had become so noisy that the godly of the old days might
well have considered such affairs as riotous. For example, Judge Pynchon
records on January 2, 1781: "Tuesday, ... A smart firing is heard today.
(Mr. Brooks is married to Miss Hathorne, a daughter of Mr. Estey), and
was as loud, and the rejoicing near as great as on the marriage of Robt.
Peas, celebrated last year; the fiddling, dancing, etc., about equal in

_V. Matrimonial Restrictions_

Necessarily, the laws dealing with wedlock were exceedingly strict in
all the colonies; for there were many reckless immigrants to America,
many of whom had left a bad reputation in the old country and were not
building a better one in the new. It was no uncommon thing for men and
women who were married in England to pose as unmarried in the colonies,
and the charge of bigamy frequently appears in the court records of the
period. Sometimes the magistrates "punished" the man by sending him back
to his wife in England, but there seems to be no record of a similar
form of punishment for a woman who had forgotten her distant spouse.
Strange to say, there are instances of the fining, month by month, of
unmarried couples living together as man and wife--a device still
imitated by some of our city courts in dealing with inmates of
disorderly houses. All in all, the saintly of those old days had good
cause for believing that the devil was continuously seeking entrance
into their domain.

Some of the laws seem unduly severe. Marriage with cousins or other near
relatives was frowned upon, and even the union of persons who were not
considered respectable according to the community standard was unlawful.
Sewall notes his sentiments concerning the marriage of close relatives:

     "Dec. 25, 1691.... The marriage of Hana Owen with her Husband's
     Brother is declar'd null by the Court of Assistants. She
     commanded not to entertain him; enjoin'd to make a Confession at
     Braintrey before the Congregation on Lecture day, or Sabbath, pay
     Fees of Court, and prison, & to be dismiss'd...."[259]

     "May 7, 1696. Col. Shrimpton marries his Son to his Wive's
     Sisters daughter, Elisabeth Richardson. All of the Council in
     Town were invited to the Wedding, and many others. Only I was not
     spoken to. As I was glad not to be there because the lawfullness
     of the intermarrying of Cousin-Germans is doubted...."[260]

_VI. Spinsters_

It is a source of astonishment to a modern reader to find at what a
youthful age girls of colonial days became brides. Large numbers of
women were wedded at sixteen, and if a girl remained home until her
eighteenth birthday the Puritan parents began to lose hope. There were
comparatively few unmarried people, and it would seem that bachelors and
spinsters were viewed with some suspicion. The fate of an old maid was
indeed a sad one; for she must spend her days in the home of her parents
or of her brothers, or eke out her board by keeping a dame's school, and
if she did not present a mournful countenance the greater part of the
populace was rather astonished. Note, for instance, the tone of surprise
in this comment on an eighteenth century spinster of Boston:

     "It is true, an _old_ (or superannuated) maid in Boston is
     thought such a curse, as nothing can exceed it (and looked on as
     a _dismal spectacle_); yet she, by her good nature, gravity, and
     strict virtue, convinces all (so much as the fleering Beaus) that
     it is not her necessity, but her choice, that keeps her a Virgin.
     She is now about thirty years (the age which they call a
     _Thornback_), yet she never disguises herself, and talks as
     little as she thinks of Love. She never reads any Plays or
     Romances, goes to no Balls, or Dancing-match, as they do who go
     (to such Fairs) in order to meet with Chapmen. Her looks, her
     speech, her whole behaviour, are so very chaste, that but one at
     Governor's Island, where we went to be merry at roasting a hog,
     going to kiss her, I thought she would have blushed to death.

     "Our _Damsel_ knowing this, her conversation is generally amongst
     the Women ... so that I found it no easy matter to enjoy her
     company, for some of her time (save what was taken up in
     Needle-work and learning French, etc.) was spent in Religious
     Worship. She knew Time was a dressing-room for Eternity, and
     therefore reserves most of her hours for better uses than those
     of the Comb, the Toilet, and the Glass."[261]

_VII. Separation and Divorce_

It may be a matter of surprise to the ultra-modern that there were not,
in those days, more old maids or women who hesitated long before
entering into matrimony, for marriage was almost invariably for life.
There were of course, some separations, and now and then a divorce, but
since unfaithfulness was practically the only reason that a court would
consider, there was but little opportunity for the exercise of this
modern legal form of freedom. Moreover, the magistrates ruled that the
guilty person might not remarry; but although they strove zealously in
some sections to enforce this rule, the rougher members of society
easily evaded it by moving into another colony. Sewall makes mention of
applications for divorce; but when such a catastrophe seemed imminent in
his own family he opposed it strongly.

Let us examine this case, not for the purpose of impudently staring at
the family skeleton in the good old Judge's closet, but that we may see
that wedlock was not always "one glad, sweet song," even in Puritan
days. His eldest son Samuel had such serious difficulties with the woman
whom he married that at length the couple separated and lived apart for
several years. The pious judge worried and fretted over the scandal for
a long while; but, of course, such affairs will happen in even the best
of families. The record of the marriage runs as follows: "September 15,
1702. Mr. Nehemiah Walter marries Mr. Sam. Sewall and Mrs. Rebekah
Dudley." Evidently Mrs. Rebekah Dudley Sewall was not so meek as the
average Puritan wife is generally pictured; for on February 13, 1712,
the judge noted: "When my daughter alone, I ask'd her what might be the
cause of my Son's Indisposition, are you so kindly affectioned one
towards one another as you should be? She answer'd I do my Duty. I said
no more...."[262a]

Six days later the troubled father wrote: "Lecture-day, son S. Goes to
Meeting, speaks to Mr. Walter. I also speak to him to dine. He could
not; but said he would call before he went home. When he came he
discours'd largly with my son.... Friends talk to them both, and so come
together again."[262a]

Two days later: "Daughter Sewall calls and gives us a visit; I went out
to carry my Letters to Savil's.... While I was absent, My Wife and
Daughter Sewall had very sharp discourse; She wholly justified herself,
and said, if it were not for her, no Maid could be able to dwell at
their house. At last Daughter Sewall burst out with Tears, and call'd
for the Calash. My wife relented also, and said she did not design to
grieve her."[263]

Evidently affairs went from bad to worse, even to the point where Sam
ate his meals alone and probably prepared them too; for the Judge at
length notes in his _Diary_: "I goe to Brooklin, meet my daughter Sewall
going to Roxbury with Hanah.... Sam and I dined alone. Daughter return'd
before I came away. I propounded to her that Mr. Walter (the pastor)
might be desired to come to them and pray with them. She seemed not to
like the notion, said she knew not wherefore she should be call'd before
a Minister.... I urg'd him as the fittest Moderator; the Govr. or I
might be thought partial. She pleaded her performance of Duty, and how
much she had born...."[264]

It is apparent that the spirit of independence, if not of stubbornness,
was strong in Mrs. Samuel, Jr. At length, what seems to have been the
true motive, jealousy on the part of the husband, appears in the record
by the father, and from all the evidence Samuel might well be jealous,
as future events will show. To return to the _Diary_: "Sam and his Wife
dine here, go home together in the Calash. William Ilsly rode and pass'd
by them. My son warn'd him not to lodge at his house; Daughter said she
had as much to doe with the house as he. Ilsly lodg'd there. Sam grew so
ill on Satterday, that instead of going to Roxbury he was fain between
Meetings to take his Horse, and come hither; to the surprise of his
Mother who was at home...."[265] A few days later: "Sam is something
better; yet full of pain; He told me with Tears that these sorrows
would bring him to his Grave...."[266]

It appears that the daughter-in-law was, for the most part, silent but
vigilant; for about five weeks after the above entry Judge Sewall
records: "My Son Joseph and I visited my Son at Brooklin, sat with my
Daughter in the chamber some considerable time, Drank Cider, eat Apples.
Daughter said nothing to us of her Grievances, nor we to her...."[267]
The lady, however, while she might control her tongue, could not control
her pen, and just when harmony was on the point of being restored, a
letter from her gave the affair a most serious backset. "Son Sewall
intended to go home on the Horse Tom brought, sent some of his Linen by
him; but when I came to read his wive's letter to me, his Mother was
vehemently against his going: and I was for considering.... Visited Mr.
Walter, staid long with him, read my daughters Letters to her Husband
and me; yet he still advis'd to his going home.... My wife can't yet
agree to my Son's going home...."[268]

Sam seems to have remained at his father's home. The matter was taken up
by the parents, apparently in the hope that they with their greater
wisdom might be able to bring about an understanding. "Went a foot to
Roxbury. Govr. Dudley was gon to his Mill. Staid till he came home. I
acquainted him what my Business was; He and Madam Dudley both reckon'd
up the Offenses of my Son; and He the Virtues of his Daughter. And
alone, mention'd to me the hainous faults of my wife, who the very first
word ask'd my daughter why she married my Son except she lov'd him? I
saw no possibility of my Son's return; and therefore asked that he would
make some Proposals, and so left it...."[269]

Thus the months lengthened into years, and still the couple were apart.
Meanwhile the scandal was increased by the birth of a child to the wife.
Samuel had left her on January 22, 1714, and did not return to her until
March 3, 1718; apparently the child was born during the summer of 1717.
The Judge, in sore straits, records on August 29, 1717; "Went,
according, after a little waiting on some Probat business to Govr.
Dudley. I said my Son had all along insisted that Caution should be
given, that the infant lately born should not be chargeable to his
Estate. Govr. Dudley no ways came into it; but said 'twas best as 'twas
no body knew whose 'twas [word illegible,] to bring it up."[270]

Whether or not the disgrace shortened the life of Mother Sewall we shall
never know; but the fact is recorded that she died on October 23, 1717.
There follows a rather lengthy silence concerning Sam's affairs, and at
length on February 24, 1718, we note the following good news: "My Son
Sam Sewall and his Wife Sign and Seal the Writings in order to my Son's
going home. Govr. Dudley and I Witnesses, Mr. Sam Lynde took, the
Acknowledgment. I drank to my Daughter in a Glass of Canary. Govr.
Dudley took me into the Old Hall and gave me £100 in Three-pound Bills
of Credit, new ones, for my Son, told me on Monday, he would perform all
that he had promised to Mr. Walter. Sam agreed to go home next Monday,
his wife sending the Horse for him. Joseph pray'd with his Bror and me.
Note. This was my Wedding Day. The Lord succeed and turn to good what we
have been doing...."[271]

Is it not evident that at least in some instances women in colonial days
were not the meek and sweetly humble creatures so often described in
history, fiction, and verse?

_VIII. Marriage in Pennsylvania_

If there was any approach toward laxness in the marriage laws of the
colonies, it may have been in Pennsylvania. Ben Franklin confesses very
frankly that his wife's former husband had deserted her, and that no
divorce had been obtained. There was a decidedly indefinite rumor that
the former spouse had died, and Ben considered this sufficient. The case
was even more complicated, but perhaps Franklin thought that one ill
cured another. As he states in his _Autobiography_:

"Our mutual affection was revived, but there were no great objections to
our union. The match was indeed looked upon as invalid, a preceding wife
being said to be living in England; but this could not easily be prov'd,
because of the distance, and tho' there was a report of his death, it
was not certain. Then, tho' it should be true, he had left many debts,
which his successor might be call'd upon to pay. We ventured, however,
over all these difficulties, and I took her to wife Sept. 1st,

Among the Quakers the marriage ceremony consisted simply of the
statement of a mutual pledge by the contracting parties in the presence
of the congregation, and, this being done, all went quietly about their
business without ado or merry-making. The pledge recited by the first
husband of Dolly Madison was doubtless a typical one among the Friends
of Pennsylvania: "'I, John Todd, do take thee, Dorothea Payne, to be my
wedded wife, and promise, through divine assistance, to be unto thee a
loving husband, until separated by death.' The bride in fainter tones
echoed the vow, and then the certificate of marriage was read, and the
register signed by a number of witnesses...."[273]

Doubtless the courtship among these early Quakers was brief and calm,
but among the Moravians of the same colony it was so brief as to amount
to none at all. Hear Franklin's description of the manner of choosing a
wife in this curious sect: "I inquir'd concerning the Moravian
marriages, whether the report was true that they were by lot. I was told
that lots were us'd only in particular cases; that generally, when a
young man found himself dispos'd to marry, he inform'd the elders of his
class, who consulted the elder ladies that govern'd the young women. As
these elders of the different sexes were well acquainted with the temper
and dipositions of the respective pupils, they could best judge what
matches were suitable, and their judgments were generally acquiesc'd in;
but, if, for example, it should happen that two or three young women
were found to be equally proper for the young man, the lot was then
recurred to. I objected, if the matches are not made by the mutual
choice of the parties, some of them may chance to be very unhappy. 'And
so they may,' answer'd my informer, 'if you let the parties chuse for

We have seen that the Dutch of New York did let them "chuse for
themselves," even while they were yet children. The forming of the
children into companies, and the custom of marrying within a particular
company seemingly was an excellent plan; for it appears that as the
years passed the children grew toward each other; they learned each
other's likes and dislikes; they had become true helpmates long before
the wedding. As Mrs. Grant observes: "Love, undiminished by any rival
passion, and cherished by innocence and candor, was here fixed by the
power of early habit, and strengthened by similarity of education,
tastes, and attachments. Inconstancy, or even indifference among married
couples, was unheard of, even where there happened to be a considerable
disparity in point of intellect. The extreme affection they bore to
their mutual offspring was a bond that forever endeared them to each
other. Marriage in this colony was always early, very often happy. When
a man had a son, there was nothing to be expected with a daughter, but a
well brought-up female slave, and the furniture of the best

_IX. Marriage in the South_

In colonial Virginia and South Carolina weddings were seldom, if ever,
performed by a magistrate; the public sentiment created by the Church of
England demanded the offices of a clergyman. Far more was made of a
wedding in these Southern colonies than in New England, and after the
return from the church, the guests often made the great mansion shake
with their merry-making. No aristocratic marriage would have been
complete without dancing and hearty refreshments, and many a new match
was made in celebrating a present one.

The old story of how the earlier settlers purchased their wives with
from one hundred twenty to one hundred fifty pounds of tobacco per
woman--a pound of sotweed for a pound of flesh,--is too well known to
need repetition here; suffice to say it did not become a custom. Nor is
there any reason to believe that marriages thus brought about were any
less happy than those resulting from prolonged courtships. These girls
were strong, healthy, moral women from crowded England, and they came
prepared to do their share toward making domestic life a success.
American books of history have said much about the so-called indented
women who promised for their ship fare from England to serve a certain
number of months or years on the Virginia plantations; but the early
records of the colonies really offer rather scant information. This was
but natural; for such women had but little in common with the ladies of
the aristocratic circle, and there was no apparent reason for writing
extensively about them. But it should not be thought that they were
always rough, uncouth, enslaved creatures. The great majority were
decent women of the English rural class, able and willing to do hard
work, but unable to find it in England. Many of them, after serving
their time, married into respectable families, and in some instances
reared children who became men and women of considerable note. There can
be little doubt that while paying for their ship-fare they labored hard,
and sometimes were forced to mingle with the negroes and the lowest
class of white men in heavy toil. John Hammond, a Marylander, who had
great admiration for his adopted land, tried to ignore this point, but
the evidence is rather against him. Says he in his _Leah and Rachel_ of

"The Women are not (as reported) put into the ground to worke, but
occupie such domestique imployments and housewifery as in England, that
is dressing victuals, righting up the house, milking, imployed about
dayries, washing, sowing, etc., and both men and women have times of
recreations, as much or more than in any part of the world besides, yet
some wenches that are nasty, beastly and not fit to be so imployed are
put into the ground, for reason tells us, they must not at charge be
transported, and then maintained for nothing."

Of course among the lower rural classes not only of the South, but of
the Middle Colonies, a wedding was an occasion for much coarse joking,
horse-play, and rough hilarity, such as bride-stealing, carousing, and
hideous serenades with pans, kettles, and skillet lids. Especially was
this the case among the farming class of Connecticut, where the marriage
festivities frequently closed with damages both to person and to

_X. Romance in Marriage_

Perhaps to the modern woman the colonial marriage, with its fixed rules
of courtship, the permission to court, the signed contract and the
dowry, seems decidedly commonplace and unromantic; but, after all, this
is not a true conclusion. The colonists loved as ardently as ever men
and women have, and they found as much joy, and doubtless of as lasting
a kind, in the union, as we moderns find. Many bits of proof might be
cited. Hear, for instance, how Benedict Arnold proposed to his beloved

     "Dear Madam: Twenty times have I taken up my pen to write to you,
     and as often has my trembling hand refused to obey the dictates
     of my heart--a heart which, though calm and serene amidst the
     clashing of arms and all the din and horrors of war, trembles
     with diffidence and the fear of giving offence when it attempts
     to address you on a subject so important to his happiness. Dear
     Madam, your charms have lighted up a flame in my bosom which can
     never be extinguished; your heavenly image is too deeply
     impressed ever to be effaced....

     "On you alone my happiness depends, and will you doom me to
     languish in despair? Shall I expect no return to the most
     sincere, ardent, and disinterested passion? Do you feel no pity
     in your gentle bosom for the man who would die to make you

     "Consider before you doom me to misery, which I have not deserved
     but by loving you too extravgantly. Consult your own happiness,
     and if incompatible, forget there is so unhappy a wretch; for may
     I perish if I would give you one moment's inquietude to purchase
     the greatest possible felicity to myself. Whatever my fate is, my
     most ardent wish is for your happiness, and my latest breath will
     be to implore the blessing of heaven on the idol and only wish of
     my soul...."

And Alexander Hamilton wrote this of his "Betty": "I suspect ... that if
others knew the charm of my sweetheart as I do, I would have a great
number of competitors. I wish I could give you an idea of her. You have
no conception of how sweet a girl she is. It is only in my heart that
her image is truly drawn. She has a lovely form, and still more lovely
mind. She is all Goodness, the gentlest, the dearest, the tenderest of
her sex--Ah, Betsey, How I love her...."[276]

And let those who doubt that there was romance in the wooing of the old
days read the story of Agnes Surrage, the humble kitchen maid, who,
while scrubbing the tavern floor, attracted the attention of handsome
Harry Frankland, custom officer of Boston, scion of a noble English
family. With a suspiciously sudden interest in her, he obtained
permission from her parents to have her educated, and for a number of
years she was given the best training and culture that money could
purchase. Then, when she was twenty-four, Frankland wished to marry her;
but his proud family would not consent, and even threatened to
disinherit him. The couple, in despair, defied all conventionalities,
and Frankland took her to live with him at his Boston residence.
Conservative Boston was properly scandalized--so much so that the lovers
retired to a beautiful country home near the city, where for some time
they lived in what the New Englanders considered ungodly happiness. Then
the couple visited England, hoping that the elder Franklands would
forgive, but the family snubbed the beautiful American, and made life so
unpleasant for her that young Frankland took her to Madrid. Finally at
Lisbon the crisis came; for in the terrors of the famous earthquake he
was injured and separated from her, and in his misery he vowed that when
he found her, he would marry her in spite of all. This he did, and upon
their return to Boston they were received as kindly as before they had
been scornfully rejected.

Mrs. Frankland became a prominent member of society, was even presented
at Court, and for some years was looked upon as one of the most lovable
women residing in London. When in 1768 her husband died, she returned to
America, and made her home at Boston, where in Revolutionary days she
suffered so greatly through her Tory inclinations that she fled once
more to England. What more pleasing romance could one want? It has all
the essentials of the old-fashioned novel of love and adventure.

_XI. Feminine Independence_

Certainly in the above instance we have once more an independence on the
part of colonial woman certainly not emphasized in the books on early
American history. As Humphreys says in _Catherine Schuyler_: "The
independence of the modern girl seems pale and ineffectual beside that
of the daughters of the Revolution." There is, for instance, the saucy
woman told of in Garden's _Anecdotes of the Revolutionary War_: "Mrs.
Daniel Hall, having obtained permission to pay a visit to her mother on
John's Island, was on the point of embarking, when an officer, stepping
forward, in the most authoritative manner, demanded the key of her
trunk. 'What do you expect to find there?' said the lady. 'I seek for
treason,' was the reply. 'You may save yourself the trouble of
searching, then,' said Mrs. Hall; 'for you can find a plenty of it at my
tongue's end.'"

The daughters of General Schuyler certainly showed independence; for of
the four, only one, Elisabeth, wife of Hamilton, was married with the
father's consent, and in his home. Shortly after the battle of Saratoga
the old warrior announced the marriage of his eldest daughter away from
home, and showed his chagrin in the following expression: "Carter and my
eldest daughter ran off and were married on the 23rd of July.
Unacquainted with his family connections and situation in life, the
matter was exceedingly disagreeable, and I signified it to them." Six
years later, the charming Peggy eloped, when there was no reason for it,
with Steven Rensselaer, a man who afterwards became a powerful leader in
New York commercial and political movements. The third escapade, that of
Cornelia, was still more romantic; for, having attended the wedding of
Eliza Morton in New Jersey, she met the bride's brother and promptly
fell in love with him. Her father as promptly refused to sanction the
match, and demanded that the girl have nothing to do with the young man.
One evening not long afterwards, as Humphreys describes it, two muffled
figures appeared under Miss Cornelia's window. At a low whistle, the
window softly opened, and a rope was thrown up. Attached to the rope was
a rope ladder, which, making fast, like a veritable heroine of romance
the bride descended. They were driven to the river, where a boat was
waiting to take them across. On the other side was the coach-and-pair.
They were then driven thirty miles across country to Stockbridge, where
an old friend of the Morton family lived. The affair had gone too far.
The Judge sent for a neighboring minister, and the runaways were duly
married. So flagrant a breach of the paternal authority was not to be
hastily forgiven.... As in the case of the other runaways, the youthful
Mortons disappointed expectation, by becoming important householders and
taking a prominent place in the social life of New York, where
Washington Morton achieved some distinction at the bar.[277]

It is evident that in affairs of love, if not in numerous other phases
of life, colonial women had much liberty and if the liberty were denied
them, took affairs into their own hands, and generally attained their
heart's desire.

_XII. Matrimonial Advice_

Through the letters of the day many hints have come down to us of what
colonial men and women deemed important in matters of love and marriage.
Thus, we find Washington writing Nelly Custis, warning her to beware of
how she played with the human heart--especially her own. Women wrote
many similar warnings for the benefit of their friends or even for the
benefit of themselves. Jane Turrell early in the eighteenth century went
so far as to write down a set of rules governing her own conduct in such
affairs, and some of these have come down to us through her husband's
_Memoir_ of her:

     "I would admit the addresses of no person who is not descended of
     pious and credible parents."

     "Who has not the character of a strict moralist, sober,
     temperate, just and honest."

     "Diligent in his business, and prudent in matters. Of a sweet and
     agreeable temper; for if he be owner of all the former good
     qualifications, and fails here, my life will be still

Whether the first of these rules would have amounted to anything if she
had suddenly been attracted by a man of whose ancestry she knew nothing,
is doubtful; but the catalog of regulations shows at least that the
girls of colonial days did some thinking for themselves on the subject
of matrimony, and did not leave the matter to their elders to settle.

_XIII. Matrimonial Irregularities_

There is one rather unpleasant phase of the marriage question of
colonial days that we may not in justice omit, and that is the irregular
marriage or union and the punishment for it and for the violation of the
marriage vow. No small amount of testimony from diaries and records has
come down to us to prove that such irregularities existed throughout all
the colonies. Indeed, the evidence indicates that this form of crime was
a constant source of irritation to both magistrates and clergy.

The penalty for adultery in early Massachusetts was whipping at the
cart's tail, branding, banishment, or even death. It is a common
impression that the larger number of colonists were God-fearing people
who led upright, blameless lives, and this impression is correct; few
nations have ever had so high a percentage of men of lofty ideals. It is
natural, therefore, that such people should be most severe in dealing
with those who dared to lower the high morality of the new commonwealths
dedicated to righteousness. But even the Puritans and Cavaliers were
merely human, and crime _would_ enter in spite of all efforts to the
contrary. Bold adventurers, disreputable spirits, men and women with
little respect for the laws of man or of God, crept into their midst;
many of the immigrants to the Middle and Southern Colonies were
refugees from the streets and prisons of London; some of the indented
servants had but crude notions of morality; sometimes, indeed, the Old
Adam, suppressed for generations, broke out in even the most respectable
of godly families.

Both Sewall and Winthrop have left records of grave offences and
transgressions against social decency. About 1632 a law was passed in
Massachusetts punishing adultery with death, and Winthrop notes that at
the "court of assistants such an act was adopted though it could not at
first be enforced."[278] In 1643 he records:

"At this court of assistants one James Britton ... and Mary Latham, a
proper young woman about 18 years of age ... were condemned to die for
adultery, upon a law formerly made and published in print...."[279]

A year or two before this he records: "Another case fell out about Mr.
Maverick of Nottles Island, who had been formerly fined £100 for giving
entertainment to Mr. Owen and one Hale's wife who had escaped out of
prison, where they had been put for notorious suspicion of adultery."
The editor adds, "Sarah Hales, the wife of William Hales, was censured
for her miscarriage to be carried to the gallows with a rope about her
neck, and to sit an hour upon the ladder; the rope's end flung over the
gallows, and after to be banished."[280]

Some women in Massachusetts actually paid the penalty of death. Then,
too, as late as Sewall's day we find mention of severe laws dealing with
inter-marriage of relatives: "June 14, 1695: The Bill against Incest
was passed with the Deputies, four and twenty Nos, and seven and twenty
Yeas. The Ministers gave in their Arguments yesterday, else it had
hardly gon, because several have married their wives sisters, and the
Deputies thought it hard to part them. 'Twas concluded on the other
hand, that not to part them, were to make the Law abortive, by begetting
in people a conceipt that such Marriages were not against the Law of

The use of the death penalty for adultery seems, however, to have ceased
before the days of Sewall's _Diary_: for, though he often mentions the
crime, he makes no mention of such a punishment. The custom of execution
for far less heinous offences was prevalent in the seventeenth century,
as any reader of Defoe and other writers of his day is well aware, and
certainly the American colonists cannot be blamed for exercising the
severest laws against offenders of so serious a nature against society.
The execution of a woman was no unusual act anywhere in the world during
the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and the Americans did not
hesitate to give the extreme penalty to female criminals. Sewall rather
cold-bloodedly records a number of such executions and reveals
absolutely no spirit of protest.

     "Thorsday, June 8, 1693. Elisabeth Emerson of Haverhill and a
     Negro Woman were executed after Lecture, for murdering their
     Infant children."[282]

     "Monday, 7r, 11th.... The Mother of a Bastard Child condemn'd for
     murthering it...."[283]

     "Sept. 25th, 1691. Elisabeth Clements of Haverhill is tried for
     murdering her two female bastard children...."[284]

     "Friday, July 10th, 1685.... Mr. Stoughton also told me of George
     Car's wife being with child by another Man, tells the Father,
     Major Pike sends her down to Prison. Is the Governour's
     Grandchild by his daughter Cotton...."[285]

From the court records in Howard's _History of Matrimonial Institutions_
we learn: "'In 1648 the Corte acquit Elisa Pennion of the capitall
offence charged upon her by 2 sevrall inditements for adultery,' but
sentence her to be 'whiped' in Boston, and again at 'Linn wthin one
month.'" "On a special verdict by the jury the assistants sentenced
Elizabeth Hudson and Bethia Bulloine (Bullen) 'married women and
sisters,' to 'be by the Marshall Generall ... on ye next lecture day
presently after the lecture carried to the Gallowes & there by ye
Executioner set on the ladder & with a Roape about her neck to stand on
the Gallowes an half houre & then brought ... to the market place & be
seriously whipt wth tenn stripes or pay the Sume of tenn pounds'
standing committed till the sentence be performed.'"[286]

When punishment by death came to be considered too severe and when the
crime seemed to deserve more than whipping, the guilty one was
frequently given a mark of disgrace by means of branding, so that for
all time any one might see and think upon the penalty for such a sin.
All modern readers are familiar with the Salem form--the scarlet
letter--made so famous by Hawthorne, a mark sometimes sewed upon the
bosom or the sleeve of the dress, sometimes burnt into the flesh of the
breast. Howard, who has made such fruitful search in the history of
marriage, presents several specimens of this strange kind of punishment:

     "In 1639 in Plymouth a woman was sentenced to 'be whipt at a cart
     tayle' through the streets, and to 'weare a badge upon her left
     sleeue during her aboad' within the government. If found at any
     time abroad without the badge, she was to be 'burned in the face
     with a hott iron.' Two years later a man and a woman for the same
     offence (adultery) were severely whipped 'at the publik post' and
     condemned while in the colony to wear the letters AD 'upon the
     outside of their vppermost garment, in the most emenent place

     "The culprit is to be 'publickly set on the Gallows in the Day
     Time, with a Rope about his or her Neck, for the Space of One
     Hour: and on his or her Return from the Gallows to the Gaol,
     shall be publickly whipped on his or her naked Back, not
     exceeding Thirty Stripes, and shall stand committed to the Gaol
     of the County wherein convicted, until he or she shall pay all
     Costs of Prosecution."[288]

     "Mary Shaw the wife of Benjamin Shaw, ... being presented for
     having a child in September last, about five Months after
     Marriage, appeared and owned the same.... Ordered that (she) ...
     pay a fine of Forty Shillings.... Costs ... standing

     "Under the 'seven months rule,' the culpable parents were forced
     to humble themselves before the whole congregation, or else
     expose their innocent child to the danger of eternal

Many other examples of severe punishment to both husband and wife
because of the birth of a child before a sufficient term of wedlock had
passed might be presented, and, judging from the frequency of the
notices and comments on the subject, such social irregularities must
have been altogether too common. Probably one of the reasons for this
was the curious and certainly outrageous custom known as "bundling."
Irving mentions it in his _Knickerbocker History of New York_, but the
custom was by no means limited to the small Dutch colony. It was
practiced in Pennsylvania and Connecticut and about Cape Cod. Of all the
immoral acts sanctioned by conventional opinion of any time this was the

The night following the drawing of the formal contract in which the
dowry and other financial requirements were adjusted, the couple were
allowed to retire to the same bed without, however, removing their
clothes. There have been efforts to excuse or explain this act on the
grounds that it was at first simply an innocent custom allowed by a
simple-minded people living under very primitive conditions. Houses were
small, there was but one living room, sometimes but one general bedroom,
poverty restricted the use of candles to genuine necessity, and the
lovers had but little opportunity to meet alone. All this may have been
true, but the custom led to deplorable results. Where it originated is
uncertain. The people of Connecticut insisted that it was brought to
them from Cape Cod and from the Dutch of New York City, and, in return,
the Dutch declared it began near Cape Cod. The idea seems monstrous to
us of to-day; but in colonial times it was looked upon with much
leniency, and adultery between espoused persons was punished much more
lightly than the same crime between persons not engaged.

A peculiar phase of immorality among colonial women of the South cannot
well be ignored. As mentioned in earlier pages, there was naturally a
rough element among the indented women imported into Virginia and South
Carolina, and, strange to say, not a few of these women were attracted
into sexual relations with the negro slaves of the plantation. If these
slaves had been mulattoes instead of genuinely black, half-savage beings
not long removed from Africa, or if the relation had been between an
indented white man of low rank and a negro woman, there would not have
been so great cause for wonder; but we cannot altogether agree with
Bruce, who in his study, _The Economic History of Virginia in the
Seventeenth Century_, says:

"It is no ground for surprise that in the seventeenth century there were
instances of criminal intimacy between white women and negroes. Many of
the former had only recently arrived from England, and were, therefore,
comparatively free from the race prejudice that was so likely to develop
upon close association with the African for a great length of time. The
class of white women who were required to work in the fields belonged to
the lowest rank in point of character. Not having been born in Virginia
and not having thus acquired from birth a repugnance to association with
the Africans upon a footing of social equality, they yielded to the
temptations of the situations in which they were placed. The offence,
whether committed by a native or an imported white woman, was an act of
personal degradation that was condemned by public sentiment with as much
severity in the seventeenth century as at all subsequent

Near the populous centers such relationships were sure to meet with
swift punishment; but in the more remote districts such a custom might
exist for years and meant nothing less than profit to the master of the
plantation; for the child of negro blood might easily be claimed as the
slave son of a slave father. Bruce explains clearly the attitude of the
better classes in Virginia toward this mixture of races:

     "A certain degree of liberty in the sexual relations of the
     female servants with the male, and even with their master, might
     have been expected, but there are numerous indications that the
     general sentiment of the Colony condemned it, and sought by
     appropriate legislation to restrain and prevent it."

     "...If a woman gave birth to a bastard, the sheriff as soon as he
     learned of the fact was required to arrest her, and whip her on
     the bare back until the blood came. Being turned over to her
     master, she was compelled to pay two thousand pounds of tobacco,
     or to remain in his employment two years after the termination of
     her indentures."

     "If the bastard child to which the female servant gave birth was
     the offspring of a negro father, she was whipped unless the usual
     fine was paid, and immediately upon the expiration of her term
     was sold by the wardens of the nearest church for a period of
     five years.... The child was bound out until his or her thirtieth
     year had been reached."[292]

The determined effort to prevent any such unions between blacks and
whites may be seen in the Virginia law of 1691 which declared that any
white woman marrying a negro or mulatto, bond or free, should suffer
perpetual banishment. But at no time in the South was adultery of any
sort punished with such almost fiendish cruelty as in New England,
except in one known instance when a Virginia woman was punished by being
dragged through the water behind a swiftly moving boat.

The social evil is apparently as old as civilization, and no country
seems able to escape its blighting influence. Even the Puritan colonies
had to contend with it. In 1638 Josselyn, writing of New England said:
"There are many strange women too (in Solomon's sense,"). Phoebe Kelly,
the mother of Madam Jumel, second wife of Aaron Burr, made her living as
a prostitute, and was at least twice (1772 and 1785) driven from
disorderly resorts at Providence, and for the second offense was
imprisoned. Ben Franklin frequently speaks of such women and of such
haunts in Philadelphia, and, with characteristic indifference, makes no
serious objection to them. All in all, in spite of strong hostile
influence, such as Puritanism in New England, Quakerism in the Middle
Colonies, and the desire for untainted aristocratic blood in the South,
the evil progressed nevertheless, and was found in practically every
city throughout the colonies.

Among men there may not have been any more immorality than at present,
but certainly there was much more freedom of action along this line and
apparently much less shame over the revelations of lax living. Men
prominent in public life were not infrequently accused of intrigues with
women, or even known to be the fathers of illegitimate children; their
wives, families and friends were aware of it, and yet, as we look at the
comments made at that day, such affairs seem to have been taken too much
as a matter of course. Benjamin Franklin was the father of an
illegitimate son, whom he brought into his home and whom his wife
consented to rear. It was a matter of common talk throughout Virginia
that Jefferson had had at least one son by a negro slave. Alexander
Hamilton at a time when his children were almost grown up was connected
with a woman in a most wretched scandal, which, while provoking some
rather violent talk, did not create the storm that a similar
irregularity on the part of a great public man would now cause.
Undoubtedly the women of colonial days were too lenient in their views
concerning man's weakness, and naturally men took full advantage of such
easy forgiveness.

_XIV. Violent Speech and Action_

In general, however, offenses of any other kind, even of the most
trivial nature, were given much more notice than at present; indeed,
wrong doers were dragged into the lime-light for petty matters that we
of to-day would consider too insignificant or too private to deserve
public attention. The English laws of the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries were exceedingly severe; but where these failed to provide
for irregular conduct, the American colonists readily created additional
statutes. We have seen the legal attitude of early America toward
witchcraft; gossip, slander, tale-bearing, and rebellious speeches were
coped with just as confidently. The last mentioned "crime," rebellious
speech, seems to have been rather common in later New England where
women frequently spoke against the authority of the church. Their speech
may not have been genuinely rebellious but the watchful Puritans took no
chance in matters of possible heresy. Thus, Winthrop tells us: "The lady
Moodye, a wise and anciently religious woman, being taken with the error
of denying baptism to infants, was dealt withal by many of the elders,
and others, and admonished by the church of Salem, ... but persisting
still, and to avoid further trouble, etc., she removed to the Dutch
against the advice of all her friends.... She was after

Sometimes, too, the supposedly meek character of the colonial woman took
a rather Amazonian turn, and the court records, diaries, and chronicles
present case after case in which wives made life for their husbands more
of a battle cry than one gladsome song. Surely the following citations
prove that some colonial dames had opinions of their own and strong
fists with which to back up their opinions:

     "Joan, wife of Obadiah Miller of Taunton, was presented for
     'beating and reviling her husband, and egging her children to
     healp her, bidding them knock him in the head, and wishing his
     victuals might choake him.'"[294a]

     "In 1637 in Salem, 'Whereas Dorothy the wyfe of John Talbie hath
     not only broak that peace & loue, wch ought to hauve beene both
     betwixt them, but also hath violentlie broke the king's peace, by
     frequent laying hands upon hir husband to the danger of his
     Life.... It is therefore ordered that for hir misdemeanor passed
     & for prvention of future evill.... that she shall be bound &
     chained to some post where shee shall be restrained of her
     libertye to goe abroad or comminge to hir husband, till shee
     manefest some change of hir course.... Only it is permitted that
     shee shall come to the place of gods worshipp, to enjoy his

Women also could appeal to the strong arm of the law against the wrath
of their loving husbands: "In 1638 John Emerson of Scituate was tried
before the general court for abusing his wife; the same year for beating
his wife, Henry Seawall was sent for examination before the court at
Ipswich; and in 1663, Ensigne John Williams, of Barnstable, was fined by
the Plymouth court for slandering his wife."[295]

Josselyn records that in New England in 1638, "Scolds they gag and set
them at their doors for certain hours, for all comers and goers by to
gaze at...."

In Virginia: "A wife convicted of slander was to be carried to the
ducking stool to be ducked unless her husband would consent to pay the
fine imposed by law for the offense.... Some years after (1646) a woman
residing in Northampton was punished for defamation by being condemned
to stand at the door of her parish church, during the singing of the
psalm, with a gag in her mouth.... Deborah Heighram ... was, in 1654,
not only required to ask pardon of the person she had slandered, but was
mulcted to the extent of two thousand pounds of tobacco. Alice Spencer,
for the same offence, was ordered to go to Mrs. Frances Yeardley's house
and beg forgiveness of her; whilst Edward Hall, who had also slandered
Mrs. Yeardley, was compelled to pay five thousand pounds of tobacco for
the county's use, and to acknowledge in court that he had spoken

The mere fact that a woman was a woman seems in no wise to have caused
merciful discrimination among early colonists as to the manner of
punishment. Apparently she was treated certainly not better and perhaps
sometimes worse than the man if she committed an offense. In the matter
of adultery she indeed frequently received the penalty which her partner
in sin totally escaped. In short, chivalry was not allowed to interfere
in the least with old-time justice.


[230] _Diary_, Vol. III, p. 237, p. 396.

[231] _Diary_, Vol. III, p. 237.

[232] Howard: _History of Matrimonial Institutions_, p. 166.

[233] Howard: p. 163.

[234] Howard: p. 200.

[235] _Diary_, Vol. III, p. 396.

[236] _Diary_, Vol. II, p. 336.

[237] Vol. III, pp. 144, 165.

[238] _Diary_, Vol. III, p. 176.

[239] _Diary_, Vol. III, p. 180.

[240a], [240b] _Diary_, Vol. III, p. 232.

[241a], [241b] _Diary_, Vol. III, p. 262.

[242] _Diary_, Vol. III, p. 265.

[243a], [243b] _Diary_, Vol. III, p. 266.

[244] _Diary_, Vol. III, p. 269.

[245] _Diary_, Vol. III, p. 271.

[246] Vol. III, p. 274.

[247] _Diary_, Vol. III, p. 275.

[248] Ravenel: _Eliza Pinckney_, p. 55.

[249] _Diary_, Vol. III, p. 491.

[250] Sewall's: _Letter-Book_, Col. I, p. 213.

[251] _Diary_, Vol. I, p. 216.

[252] _Diary_, Vol. I, p. 228.

[253] Vol. III, p. 172.

[254] _Diary_, Vol. I, p. 368.

[255] _Diary_, Vol. II, p. 24.

[256] _Diary_, Vol. III, p. 364.

[257] _Diary_, Vol. II, p. 347.

[258] _Diary_, p. 82.

[259] _Diary_, Vol. I, p. 354.

[260] _Diary_, Vol. I, p. 424.

[261] Weeden: _Economic, & Social History of N. Eng._, Vol. I, p. 299.

[262a], [262b] Vol. II, p. 371.

[263] _Diary_, Vol. II, p. 371.

[264] Vol. II, p. 400.

[265] Vol. II, p. 405.

[266] Vol. II, p. 406.

[267] _Diary_, Vol. III, p. 31.

[268] _Diary_, Vol. III, p. 40.

[269] _Diary_, Vol. III, p. 108.

[270] _Diary_, Vol. III, p. 137.

[271] _Diary_, Vol. III, p. 173.

[272] _Writings_, Vol. I, p. 310.

[273] Goodwin: _Dolly Madison_, p. 33.

[274] Smyth: _Franklin_, Vol. I, p. 413.

[275] _Memoirs of an American Lady_, p. 53.

[276] Humphreys: _Catherine Schuyler_, p. 185.

[277] _Catherine Schuyler_, p. 204.

[278] _History of New England_, Vol. I, p. 73.

[279] _History of New England_, Vol. II, p. 190.

[280] Winthrop: _History of New England_, Vol. II, p. 61.

[281] _Diary_, Vol. II, p. 407.

[282] _Diary_, Vol. I, p. 379.

[283] _Diary_, Vol. II, p. 288.

[284] _Diary_, Vol. I, p. 349.

[285] _Diary_, Vol. I, p, 87.

[286] P. 170.

[287] _History of Matrimonial Institutions_, Vol. II, p. 170.

[288] _Ibid._, p. 172.

[289] _Ibid._, p. 187.

[290] _Ibid._, p. 196.

[291] Vol. I, p. 111.

[292] _Economic History of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century_, Vol.
I. p. 34.

[293] _History of New England_, Vol. II, p. 148.

[294a], [294b] Howard: _Matrimonial Inst._, Vol. II, p. 161.

[295] _Ibid._

[296] Bruce: _Institutional History_, Vol. I, p. 51.



_I. Religious Initiative_

Throughout our entire study of colonial woman we have seen many bits of
record that hint or even plainly prove that the feminine nature was no
more willing in the old days constantly to play second fiddle than in
our own day. Anne Hutchinson and her kind had brains, knew it, and were
disposed to use their intellect. Perceiving injustice in the prevailing
order of affairs, such women protested against it, and, when forced to
do so, undertook those tasks and battles which are popularly supposed to
be outside woman's sphere. Of Anne Hutchinson it has been truthfully
said: "The Massachusetts records say that Mrs. Anne Hutchinson was
banished on account of her revelations and excommunicated for a lie.
They do not say that she was too brilliant, too ambitious, and too
progressive for the ministers and magistrates of the colony, ... And
while it is only fair to the rulers of the colony to admit that any
element of disturbance or sedition, at that time, was a menace to the
welfare of the colony, and that ... her voluble tongue was a dangerous
one, it is certain that the ministers were jealous of her power and
feared her leadership."[297]

One of the earliest examples in colonial times of woman's ignoring
traditions and taking the initiative in dangerous work may be found in
the daring invasion of Massachusetts by Quaker women to preach their
belief. Sewall makes mention of seeing such strange missionaries in the
land of the saints: "July 8, 1677. New Meeting House (the third, or
South) _Mane_: In Sermon time there came in a female Quaker, in a Canvas
Frock, her hair disshevelled and loose like a Periwigg, her face as
black as ink, led by two other Quakers, and two others followed. It
occasioned the greatest and most amazing uproar that I ever saw."[298]
No doubt some of these female exhorters acted outlandishly and caused
genuine fear among the good Puritan elders for the safety of the
colonies and the morals of the inhabitants.

Those were troubled times. Indeed, between Anne Hutchinson and the
Quakers, the Puritans of the day were harassed to distraction. Mary
Dyer, for example, one of the followers of Anne Hutchinson, repeatedly
driven from the Massachusetts Bay Colony, returned just as often, even
after being warned that if she came back she would be executed. Once she
was sentenced to death and was saved only by the intercession of her
husband; but, having returned, she was again sentenced, and this time
put to death. The Quakers were whipped, disfigured by having their ears
and nose cut off, banished, or even put to death; but fresh recruits,
especially women, adorned in "sack cloth and ashes" and doing "unseemly"
things, constantly took the place of those who were maimed or killed.
Why they should so persistently have invaded the Puritan territory has
been a source of considerable questioning; but probably Fiske is correct
when he says: "The reasons for the persistent idea of the Quakers that
they must live in Massachusetts was largely because, though tolerant of
differences in doctrine, yet Quakerism had freed itself from Judaism as
far as possible, while Puritanism was steeped in Judaism. The former
attempted to separate church and state, while under the latter belief
the two were synonymous. Therefore, the Quaker considered it his mission
to overthrow the Puritan theocracy, and thus we find them insisting on
returning, though it meant death. It was a sacred duty, and it is to the
glory of religious liberty that they succeeded."[299]

_II. Commercial Initiative_

More might be said of the initiative spirit in religion, of at least a
percentage of the colonial women, but the statements above should be
sufficient to prove that religious affairs were not wholly left to the
guidance of men. And what of women's originality and daring in other
fields of activity? The indications are that they even ventured, and
that successfully, to dabble in the affairs of state. Sewall mentions
that the women were even urged by the men to expostulate with the
governor about his plans for attending a certain meeting house at
certain hours, and that after the good sisters had thus paved the way a
delegation of men went to his Excellency, and obtained a change in his
plan. Thus, the women did the work, and the men usurped the praise.
Again, Lady Phips, wife of the governor, had the bravery to assume the
responsibility of signing a warrant liberating a prisoner accused of
witchcraft, and, though the jailer lost his position for obeying, the
prisoner's life was thus saved by the initiative of a woman.

That colonial women frequently attempted to make a livelihood by methods
other than keeping a dame school, is shown in numerous diaries and
records. Sewall records the failure of one of these attempts: "April 4,
1690.... This day Mrs. Avery's Shop ... shut by reason of Goods in them
attached."[300] Women kept ordinaries and taverns, especially in New
England, and after 1760 a large number of the retail dry goods stores of
Baltimore were owned and managed by women. We have noticed elsewhere
Franklin's complimentary statement about the Philadelphia woman who
conducted her husband's printing business after his death; and again in
a letter to his wife, May 27, 1757, just before a trip to Europe, he
writes: "Mr. Golden could not spare his Daughter, as she helps him in
the Postoffice, he having no Clerk."[301] Mrs. Franklin, herself, was a
woman of considerable business ability, and successfully ran her
husband's printing and trading affairs during his prolonged absences. He
sometimes mentions in his letters her transactions amounting at various
times to as much as £500.

The pay given to teachers of dame schools was so miserably low that it
is a marvel that the widows and elderly spinsters who maintained these
institutions could keep body and soul together on such fees. We know
that Boston women sometimes taught for less than a shilling per day,
while even those ladies who took children from the South and the West
Indies into their homes and both boarded and trained them dared not
charge much above the actual living expenses. Had not public sentiment
been against it, doubtless many of these teachers would have engaged in
the more lucrative work of keeping shops or inns.

In the South it seems to have been no uncommon thing for women to manage
large plantations and direct the labor of scores of negroes and white
workers. We have seen how Eliza Pinckney found a real interest in such
work, and cared most successfully for her father's thousands of acres. A
woman of remarkable personality, executive ability, and mental capacity,
she not only produced and traded according to the usual methods of
planters, but experimented in intensive farming, grafting, and
improvement of stock and seed with such success that her plantations
were models for the neighboring planters to admire and imitate.

When she was left in charge of the estate while her father went about
his army duties, she was but sixteen years old, and yet her letters to
him show not only her interest, but a remarkable grasp of both the
theoretical and the practical phases of agriculture.

"I wrote my father a very long letter ... on the pains I had taken to
bring the Indigo, Ginger, Cotton, Lucern, and Cassada to perfection, and
had greater hopes from the Indigo...."

To her father: "The Cotton, Guiney corn and most of the Ginger planted
here was cutt off by a frost."

"I wrote you in former letters we had a fine crop of Indigo Seed upon
the ground and since informed you the frost took it before it was dry.
I picked out the best of it and had it planted but there is not more
than a hundred bushes of it come up, which proves the more unlucky as
you have sent a man to make it."

In a letter to a friend she indicates how busy she is:

"In genl I rise at five o'clock in the morning, read till seven--then
take a walk in the garden or fields, see that the Servants are at their
respective business, then to breakfast. The first hour after breakfast
is spent in musick, the next is constantly employed in recolecting
something I have learned, ... such as french and shorthand. After that I
devote the rest of the time till I dress for dinner, to our little
Polly, and two black girls, who I teach to read.... The first hour after
dinner, as ... after breakfast, at musick, the rest of the afternoon in
needlework till candle light, and from that time to bed time read or
write; ... Thursday, the whole day except what the necessary affairs of
the family take up, is spent in writing, either on the business of the
plantations or on letters to my friends...."[302]

And yet this mere girl found time to devote to the general conventional
activities of women. After her marriage she seems to have gained her
greatest pleasure from her devotion to her household; but, left a widow
at thirty-six, she once more was forced to undertake the management of a
great plantation. The same executive genius again appeared, and an
initiative certainly surpassing that of her neighbors. She introduced
into South Carolina the cultivation of Indigo, and through her foresight
and efforts "it continued the chief highland staple of the country for
more than thirty years.... Just before the Revolution the annual export
amounted to the enormous quantity of one million, one hundred and seven
thousand, six hundred and sixty pounds. When will 'New Woman' do more
for her country?"[303]

Martha Washington was another of the colonial women who showed not only
tact but considerable talent in conducting personally the affairs of her
large estate between the death of her first husband and her marriage to
Washington, and when the General went on his prolonged absences to
direct the American army, she, with some aid from Lund Washington,
attended with no small success to the Mount Vernon property.

_III. Woman's Legal Powers_

Just how much legal power colonial women had is rather difficult to
discover from the writings of the day; for each section had its own
peculiar rules, and courts and decisions in the various colonies, and
sometimes in one colony, contradicted one another. Until the adoption of
the Constitution the old English law prevailed, and while unmarried
women could make deeds, wills, and other business transactions, the
wife's identity was largely merged into that of her husband. The
colonial husband seems to have had considerable confidence in his
help-meet's business ability, and not infrequently left all his property
at his death to her care and management. Thus, in 1793 John Todd left to
his widow, the future Dolly Madison, his entire estate:

"I give and devise all my estate, real and personal, to the Dear Wife of
my Bosom, and first and only Woman upon whom my all and only affections
were placed, Dolly Payne Todd, her heirs and assigns forever.... Having
a great opinion of the integrity and honorouble conduct of Edward Burd
and Edward Tilghman, Esquires, my dying request is that they will give
such advice and assistance to my dear Wife as they shall think prudent
with respect to the management and disposal of my very small Estate....
I appoint my dear Wife excutrix of this my will...."[304]

Samuel Peters, writing in his _General History of Connecticut_, 1781,
mentions this incident: "In 1740, Mrs. Cursette, an English lady,
travelling from New York to Boston, was obliged to stay some days at
Hebron; where, seeing the church not finished, and the people suffering
great persecutions, she told them to persevere in their good work, and
she would send them a present when she got to Boston. Soon after her
arrival there, Mrs. Cursette fell sick and died. In her will she gave a
legacy of £300 old tenor ... to the church of England in Hebron; and
appointed John Hancock, Esq., and Nathaniel Glover, her executors.
Glover was also her residuary legatee. The will was obliged to be
recorded in Windham county, because some of Mrs. Cursette's lands lay
there. Glover sent the will by Deacon S.H. ---- of Canterbury, ordering
him to get it recorded and keep it private, lest the legacy should build
up the church. The Deacon and Register were faithful to their trust, and
kept Glover's secret twenty-five years. At length the Deacon was taken
ill, and his life was supposed in great danger.... The secret was

It is evident that the colonial woman, either as spinster or as widow,
was not without considerable legal power in matters of property, and it
is evident too that she now and then managed or disposed of such
property in a manner displeasing to the other sex. As shown in the above
incident of the church money, trickery was now and then tried in an
effort to set aside the wishes of a woman concerning her possessions;
but, in the main, her decisions and bequests seem to have received as
much respect from courts as those of the men.

A further instance of this feminine right to hold and manage
property--perhaps a little too radical to be typical--is to be found in
the career of the famous Margaret Brent of Maryland, the first woman in
the world to demand a seat in the parliamentary body of a commonwealth.
A woman of unusual intellect, decisiveness, and leadership, she came
from England to Maryland in 1638, and quickly became known as the equal,
if not the superior, of any man in the colony for comprehension of the
intricacies of English law dealing with property and decedents. Her
brothers, owners of great estates, recognized her superiority and
commonly allowed her to buy and sell for them and to sign herself
"attorney for my brother." Lord Calvert, the Governor, became her ardent
admirer, perhaps her lover, and when he lay dying he called her to his
bedside, and in the presence of witnesses, made perhaps the briefest
will in the history of law: "I make you my sole executrix; take all and
pay all." From that hour her career as a business woman was astonishing.
She collected all of Calvert's rentals and other incomes; she paid all
his debts; she planted and harvested on his estates; she even took
charge of numerous state affairs of Maryland, collected and dispersed
some portions of the colony's money, and was in many ways the colonial

Then came on January 21, 1648, her astounding demand for a vote in the
Maryland Assembly. Leonard Calvert, as Lord Baltimore's attorney, had
possessed a vote in the body; since Calvert had told her to take all and
pay all, he had granted her all powers he had ever possessed; she
therefore had succeeded him as Lord Baltimore's attorney and was
possessed of the attorneyship until Baltimore saw fit to appoint
another; hence, as the attorney, she was entitled to a seat and a voice
in the Assembly. Such was her reasoning, and when she walked into the
Assembly on that January day it was evident from the expression on her
face that she intended to be seated and to be heard. She made a speech,
moved many of the planters so greatly that they were ready to grant her
the right; she cowed the very acting governor himself, as he sat on the
speaker's bench. But that governor's very fear of her rivalry made him,
for once, active and determined; he had heard whispers throughout the
colony that she would make a better executive than he; he suddenly
thundered a decisive "No"; a brief recess was declared amidst the
ensuing confusion; and Margaret Brent went forth for the first time in
her life a defeated woman. Her power, however, was scarcely lessened,
and her influence grew to such an extent that on several occasions the
governor who had refused her a vote was obliged to humiliate himself and
beg her aid in quieting or convincing the citizens. The story of her
life leads one to believe that many women, if opportunity had offered,
would have proved themselves just as capable in business affairs as any
woman executive of our own times.

Many another example of feminine initiative might be cited. There was
that serious, yet ridiculous scene of long ago when the women of Boston
pinned up their dresses, took off their shoes, and waded about in the
mud and slush fortifying Boston Neck. Benjamin Tompson, a local poet,
found the incident a source of merriment in his _New England Crisis_,
1675; but in a way it was a stern rebuke to the men who looked on and
laughed at the women's frantic effort to wield mud plaster.

    "A grand attempt some Amazonian Dames
    Contrive whereby to glorify their names.
    A ruff for Boston Neck of mud and turfe,
    Reaching from side to side, from surf to surf,
    Their nimble hands spin up like Christmas pyes,
    Their pastry by degrees on high doth rise ...
    The wheel at home counts in an holiday,
    Since while the mistress worketh it may play.
    A tribe of female hands, but manly hearts,
    Forsake at home their pastry crust and tarts,
    To kneed the dirt, the samplers down they hurl,
    Their undulating silks they closely furl.
    The pick-axe one as a commandress holds,
    While t'other at her awk'ness gently scolds.
    One puffs and sweats, the other mutters why
    Can't you promove your work so fast as I?
    Some dig, some delve, and others' hands do feel
    The little wagon's weight with single wheel.
    And lest some fainting-fits the weak surprize,
    They want no sack nor cakes, they are more wise..."

That simple-hearted, kindly French-American, St. John de Crevecoeur, has
left us a description of the women of Nantucket in his _Letters from an
American Farmer_, 1782, and if his account is trustworthy these women
displayed business capacity that might put to shame many a modern wife.
Hear some extracts from his statement:

     "As the sea excursions are often very long, their wives in their
     absence are necessarily obliged to transact business, to settle
     accounts, and, in short, to rule and provide for their families.
     These circumstances, being often repeated, give women the
     abilities as well as a taste for that kind of superintendency to
     which, by their prudence and good management, they seem to be in
     general very equal. This employment ripens their judgment, and
     justly entitles them to a rank superior to that of other wives;
     ... The men at their return, weary with the fatigues of the sea,
     ... cheerfully give their consent to every transaction that has
     happened during their absence, and all is joy and peace. 'Wife,
     thee hast done well,' is the general approbation they receive,
     for their application and industry...."

     "...But you must not imagine from this account that the Nantucket
     wives are turbulent, of high temper, and difficult to be ruled;
     on the contrary, the wives of Sherburn, in so doing, comply only
     with the prevailing custom of the island: the husbands, equally
     submissive to the ancient and respectable manners of their
     country, submit, without ever suspecting that there can be any
     impropriety.... The richest person now in the island owes all his
     present prosperity and success to the ingenuity of his wife: ...
     for while he was performing his first cruises, she traded with
     pins and needles, and kept a school. Afterward she purchased more
     considerable articles, which she sold with so much judgment, that
     she laid the foundation of a system of business, that she has
     ever since prosecuted with equal dexterity and success...."

_IV. Patriotic Initiative and Courage_

It was in the dark days of the Revolution that these stronger qualities
of the feminine soul shone forth, and served most happily the struggling
nation. Long years of Indian warfare and battling against a stubborn
wilderness had strengthened the spirit of the American woman, and when
the men marched away to defend the land their undaunted wives and
daughters bravely took up the masculine labors, tilling and reaping,
directing the slaves, maintaining ship and factory, and supplying the
armies with the necessities of life. The letters written by the women in
that period reveal an intelligent grasp of affairs and a strength of
spirit altogether admirable. Here was indeed a charming mingling of
feminine grace, tenderness, sympathy, self-reliance, and common sense.

It required genuine courage to remain at home, often with no masculine
protection whatever, with the ever-present danger of Indian raids, and
there, with the little ones, wait and wait, hearing news only at long
intervals, fearing even to receive it then lest it announce the death of
the loved ones. No telegraph, no railroad, no postal service, no
newspaper might offer relief, only the letter brought by some friend, or
the bit of news told by some passing traveller. It was a time of
agonizing anxiety. There were months when the wife heard nothing; we
have seen from the letters of Mrs. Adams that three months sometimes
intervened between the letters from her husband. In 1774, when John
Adams was at Philadelphia, such a short distance from Boston, according
to the modern conception, she wrote: "Five weeks have passed and not one
line have I received. I would rather give a dollar for a letter by the
post, though the consequences should be that I ate but one meal a day
these three weeks to come."[305]

Again, these women faced actual dangers; for they were often near the
firing line. John Quincy Adams says of his mother: "For the space of
twelve months my mother with her infant children dwelt, liable every
hour of the day and the night to be butchered in cold blood, or taken
and carried into Boston as hostages. My mother lived in unintermitted
danger of being consumed with them all in a conflagration kindled by a
torch in the same hands which on the 17th of June [1775] lighted the
fires of Charlestown. I saw with my own eyes those fires, and heard
Britannia's thunders in the Battle of Bunker Hill, and witnessed the
tears of my mother and mingled them with my own."

In 1777, so anxious was the mother for news of her husband, that John
Quincy became post-rider for her between Braintree and Boston, eleven
miles,--not a light or easy task for the nine-year-old boy, with the
unsettled roads and unsettled times. Even the President's wife was for
weeks at a time in imminent peril; for the British could have desired
nothing better than to capture and hold as a hostage the wife of the
chief rebel. Washington himself was exceedingly anxious about her, and
made frequent inquiry as to her welfare. She, however, went about her
daily duties with the utmost calmness and in the hours of gravest danger
showed almost a stubborn disregard of the perils about her.
Washington's friend, Mason, wrote to him: "I sent my family many miles
back in the country, and advised Mrs. Washington to do likewise, as a
prudential movement. At first she said 'No; I will not desert my post';
but she finally did so with reluctance, rode only a few miles, and,
plucky little woman as she is, stayed away only one night."[306]

During the first years of the war nervous dread may have composed the
greater part of the suffering of American women, but during the later
years genuine hardships, lack of food and clothing, physical
catastrophes befell these brave but silent helpers of the patriots.
Especially was this true in the South, where the British overran the
country, destroyed homes, seized food, cattle, and horses, and left
devastation to mark the trail. In 1779 Mrs. Pinckney's son wrote her
that Provost, the British leader, had destroyed the plantation home
where the family treasure had been stored, and that everything had been
burned or stolen; but her reply had no wail of despair in it: "My Dear
Tomm: I have just received your letter with the account of my losses,
and your almost ruined fortunes by the enemy. A severe blow! but I feel
not for myself, but for you.... Your Brother's timely generous offer, to
divide what little remains to him among us, is worthy of him...."[307]

The financial distress of Mrs. Pinckney might be cited as typical of the
fate of many aristocratic and wealthy families of Virginia and South
Carolina. Owner of many thousands of acres and a multitude of slaves,
she was reduced to such straits that she could not meet ordinary debts.
Shortly after the Revolution she wrote in reply to a request for payment
of such a bill: "I am sorry I am under a necessity to send this
unaccompanied with the amount of my account due to you. It may seem
strange that a single woman, accused of no crime, who had a fortune to
live genteely in any part of the world, that fortune too in different
kinds of property, and in four or five different parts of the country,
should be in so short a time so entirely deprived of it as not to be
able to pay a debt under 60 pound sterling, but such is my singular
case. After the many losses I have met with for the last three or four
desolating years from fire and plunder, both in country and town, I
still had some thing to subsist upon, but alas the hand of power has
deprived me of the greatest part of that, and accident of the

It was indeed a day that called for the strongest type of courage, and
nobly did the women face the crisis. In the South the wives and
daughters of patriots were forced to appear at balls given by the
invading forces, to entertain British officers, to act as hostesses to
unbidden guests, and to act the part pleasantly, lest the unscrupulous
enemy wreak vengeance upon them and their possessions. The constant
search on the part of the British for refugees brought these women
moments when fear or even a second's hesitation would have proved
disastrous. One evening Marion, the famous "Swamp-Fox," came worn out to
the home of Mrs. Horry, daughter of Eliza Pinckney, and so completely
exhausted was he that he fell asleep in his chair while she was
preparing him a meal. Suddenly she heard the approaching British. She
awakened him, told him to follow the path from her kitchen door to the
river, swim to an island, and leave her to deceive the soldiers. She
then met at the front door the British officer Tarleton, who leisurely
searched the house, ate the supper prepared for Marion, and went away
with several of the family treasures and heirlooms. On another occasion
when Mrs. Pinckney and her grand-daughter were sleeping in their
plantation home, distant from any neighbor, they were awakened by a
beautiful girl who rushed into the bedroom, crying, "Oh, Mrs. Pinckney,
save me! The British are coming after me." With the utmost calmness
the old lady arose from her bed, placed the girl in her place, and
commanded, "Lie there, and no man will dare to trouble you." She then
met the pursuers with such quiet scorn that they shrank away into the

What brave stories could be told of other women--Molly Stark, Temperance
Wicke, and a host of others. What man, soldier or statesman, could have
written more courageous words than these by Abigail Adams? "All domestic
pleasures and enjoyments are absorbed in the great and important duty
you owe your country, for our country is, as it were, a secondary god,
and the first and greatest parent. It is to be preferred to parents,
wives, children, friends and all things, the gods only excepted, for if
our country perishes, it is as impossible to save the individual, as to
preserve one of the fingers of a mortified hand."[309] Mrs. Adams
herself was literally in the midst of the warfare, and there were days
when she could scarcely have faced more danger if she had been a soldier
in the battle. Hear this bit of description from her own pen: "I went to
bed about twelve, and rose again a little after one. I could no more
sleep than if I had been in the engagement; the rattling of the windows,
the jar of the house, the continual roar of twenty-four pounders; and
the bursting of shells give us such ideas, and realize a scene to us of
which we could form scarcely any conception."[310]

Who can estimate the quiet aid such women gave the patriots in those
years of sore trial? Such words as Martha Washington's: "I hope you will
all stand firm; I know George will," or the ringing language of Abigail
Adams: "Though I have been called to sacrifice to my country, I can
glory in my sacrifice and derive pleasure from my intimate connexion
with one who is esteemed worthy of the important trust devolved upon
him"--such words could but urge the fighting colonists to greater deeds
of heroism. And many of the patriot husbands thoroughly appreciated the
silent courage of their wives. John Adams, thinking upon the years of
hardships his wife had so cheerfully undergone, how she had done a man's
work on the farm, had fed and clothed the children, had kept the home
intact, while he struggled for the new nation, wrote her: "You are
really brave, my dear. You are a heroine and you have reason to be, for
the worst than can happen can do you no harm. A soul as pure, as
benevolent, as virtuous, and pious as yours has nothing to fear, but
everything to hope from the last of human evils."

Mercy Warren, too, though she might ridicule the weakness of her sex in
_Woman's Trifling Need_, cheerfully remained alone and unprotected while
her husband went forth to battle; she was even thoughtful enough in
those years of loneliness to keep a record of the stirring times--a
record which was afterwards embodied into her History of the Revolution.
Catherine Schuyler was another of those brave spirits that faced
unflinchingly the horrors of warfare. When a bride of but one week, she
saw her husband march away to the Indian war, and from girlhood to old
age she was familiar with the meaning of carnage. Shortly after the
Battle of Saratoga the entire country was aroused by the murder of Jane
McCrea; women and children fled to the towns: refugees told of the
coming of a host of British, Tories, and Indians. The Schuyler home lay
in the path of the enemy, and in the mansion were family treasures and
heirlooms dear to her heart. She determined to save these, and back she
hastened from town to country. As she pushed on, multitudes of refugees
begged her to turn back; but no appeal, no warning moved her. It was
mid-summer, and the fields were heavy with ripe grain. Realizing that
this meant food for the invaders, she resolved to burn all. When she
reached her home she commanded a negro to light torches and descended
with him to the flats where the great fields of golden grain waved. The
slave went a little distance, but his courage deserted him. "Very well,"
she exclaimed, "if you will not do it, I must do it myself." And with
that she ran into the midst of the waving stalks, tossed the flaming
torches here and there, and for a moment watched the flames sweep
through the year's harvest. Then, hurrying to the house, she gathered
up her most valuable possessions, hastened away over the dangerous road,
and reached Albany in safety.

Within a few hours Burgoyne and his officers were making merry in the
great house, drinking the Schuyler wine, and on the following day the
mansion was burned to the ground. But fate played the British leader a
curious trick; for within a few days Burgoyne found himself defeated and
a guest in the Schuyler home at Albany. "I expressed my regret," he has
testified, "at the event which had happened and the reasons which had
occasioned it. He [Schuyler] desired me to think no more about it; said
the occasion justified it, according to the rules and principles of war,
and he should have done the same."[311]

As Chastellux declared: "Burgoyne was extremely well received by Mrs.
Schuyler and her little family. He was lodged in the best apartment in
the house. An excellent supper was served him in the evening, the honors
of which were done with so much grace that he was affected even to
tears, and could not help saying with a deep sigh, 'Indeed, this is
doing too much for a man who has ravished their lands and burnt their
home."[312] Indeed, all through his stay in this house he and his staff
of twenty were treated with the utmost courtesy by Catherine Schuyler.

But was not this characteristic of so many of those better class
colonial women? The inherent delicacy, refinement, and tact of those
dames of long ago can be equalled only by their courage, perseverance,
and loyalty in the hour of disaster. Whether in war or in peace they
could remain calm and self-possesed, and when given opportunity showed
initiative power fully equalling that of their more famous husbands.
They could be valiant without losing refinement; they could bid defiance
to the enemy and yet retain all womanliness.

Is it not evident that woman was charmingly feminine, even in colonial
days? Did she not possess essentially the same strengths and weaknesses
as she does to-day? In general, accepting creeds more devoutly than did
the men, as is still the case, often devouring greedily those writings
which she thought might add to her education, yet more closely attached
to her home than most modern women, the colonial dame frequently
represented a strange mingling of superstition, culture, and delicate
sensibility. Possessing doubtless a more whole-hearted reverence for
man's ideas and opinions than does her modern sister, she seems to have
kept her aspirations for a broader sphere of activity under rather
severe restraint, and felt it her duty first of all to make the home a
refuge and a consolation for the husband and father who returned in
weariness from his battle with the world.

She loved finery and adornment even as she does to-day; but under the
influence of a burning patriotism she could and did crush all such
longings for the beautiful things of this world. She had oftentimes
genuine capacity for initiative and leadership; but public sentiment of
the day induced her to stand modestly in the back-ground and allow the
father, husband, or son to do the more spectacular work of the world.
Yet in the hour of peril she could bear unflinchingly toil, hardships,
and danger, and asked in return only the love and appreciation of
husband and child. That she obtained such love and appreciation cannot
be doubted. From the yellow manuscripts and the faded satins and
brocades of those early days comes the faint flavor of romances as
pathetic or happy as any of our own times,--quaint, old romances that
tell of love and jealousy, happy unions or broken hearts, triumph or
defeat in the activities of a day that is gone. Surely, the
soul--especially that of a woman--changes but little in the passing of
the centuries.


[297] Brooks: _Dames and Daughters of Colonial Days_, p. 26.

[298] _Diary_, Vol. I, p. 43.

[299] _Dutch and Quaker Colonies in America_, Vol. I, p. 112.

[300] _Diary_, Vol. I, p. 317.

[301] Smyth: _Writings of B. Franklin_, Vol. III, p. 395.

[302] Ravenel: _Eliza Pinckney_, pp. 7, 9, 30.

[303] Ravenel: _E. Pinckney_, p. 107.

[304] Graham: _Dolly Madison_, p. 46.

[305] _Letters_, p. 15.

[306] Wharton: _Martha Washington_, p. 90.

[307] Ravenel: _Eliza Pinckney_, p. 265.

[308] Ravenal: _Eliza Pinckney_, p. 301.

[309] _Letters_, p. 74.

[310] _Letters_, p. 9.

[311] Humphreys: _Catherine Schuyler_, p. 159.

[312] Humphreys: _Catherine Schuyler_, p. 162.


The following books will be found of exceptional interest and value to
readers who may wish to look further into the subject of woman's life in
early America.

  Adams, A., _Letters_;
  Adams, H., _Memoir_;
  Adams, J., _Writings_;
  Allen, _Woman's Part in Government_;
  Alsop, _Character of the Province of Maryland_;
  American Nation Series;
  Andrews, _Colonial Period_;
  Anthony, _Past, Present and Future Status of Woman_;
  Avery, _History of United States_;
  Beach, _Daughters of the Puritans_;
  Beard, _Readings in American Government_;
  Beverly, _History of Virginia_;
  Bliss, _Side-Lights from the Colonial Meeting-House_;
  Bradford, _History of Plymouth Plantation_;
  Bradstreet, _Several Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and
  Brooks, _Dames and Daughters of Colonial Days_;
  Brown, _History of Maryland_;
  Brown, _Mercy Warren_;
  Bruce, _Economic Forces in Virginia in the Seventeenth Century_;
  Bruce, _Institutional History of Virginia in 17th Century_;
  Buckingham, _Reminiscences_;
  Byrd, _Writings_;
  Cable, _Strange, True Stories of Louisiana_;
  Cairns, _Early American Writings_;
  Calef, _More Wonders of the Invisible World_;
  Campbell, _Puritans in Holland, England and America_;
  Chastellux, _Travels_;
  Coffin, _Old Times in the Colonies_;
  Cooke, _Virginia_;
  Crawford, _Romantic Days in the Early Republic_;
  Crevecoeur, _Letters from an American Farmer_;
  Drake, _New England Legends_;
  Draper, _American Education_;
  Duychinck, _Cyclopedia of American Literature_;
  Earle, _Child Life in Colonial Days_, _Colonial Days in Old New York_,
    _Customs and Manners of Colonial Days_, _Home Life in Colonial Days_,
    _Margaret Winthrop_, _Sabbath in Old New England_;
  Edward, _Works_;
  Firth, _Stuart Tracts_;
  Fisher, _Men, Women and Manners in Colonial Times_;
  Fiske, _Colonial Documents of New York_; _Dutch and Quaker Colonies_,
    _Old Virginia and Her Neighbors_;
  Fithian, _Selections from Writings_;
  Franklin, _Writings_, ed. Smyth;
  Freeze, _Historic Homes and Spots in Cambridge_;
  Garden, _Anecdotes of the Revolutionary War_;
  Goodwin, _Dolly Madison_;
  Grant, _Memoirs of an American Lady_;
  Griswold, _Prose Writings of America_;
  Hammond, _Leah and Rachel_;
  Holliday, _History of Southern Literature_, _Three Centuries of Southern
    Poetry_, _Wit and Humor of Colonial Days_;
  Hooker, _Way of the Churches of New England_;
  Howard, _History of Matrimonial Institutions_;
  Humphreys, _Catherine Schuyler_;
  Hutchinson, _History of Massachusetts Bay Colony_;
  Jefferson, _Writings_, ed. Ford;
  Johnson, _Wonder Working Providence of Zion's Saviour in New England_;
  Josselyn, _New England Rareties Discovered_;
  Knight, _Journal_;
  Lawson, _History of Carolina_;
  Maclay, _Journal_;
  Masefield, _Chronicles of the Pilgrim Fathers_;
  Mather, _Diary_, _Essay for the Recording of Illustrious Providences_,
    _Essay to do Good_, _Memorable Providences_, _Wonders of the Invisible
    World_; _Narratives of Early Maryland_;
  Onderdonck, _History of American Verse_; _Original Narratives of Early
    American History_;
  Otis, _American Verse_;
  Peters, _General History of Connecticut_;
  Prince, _Annals of New England_;
  Pryor, _Mother of Washington, and Her Times_;
  Pynchon, _Diary_;
  Ravenel, _Eliza Pinckney_;
  Robertson, _Louisiana under Spain, France, and United States_;
  Rowlandson, _Narrative of Her Captivity_;
  Schrimacher, _Modern Woman's Rights_;
  Sewall, _Diary_;
  Simons, _Social Forces in American History_;
  Smith, _History of the Province of New York_;
  Stith, _History of the First Settlement of Virginia_;
  Turell, _Memoirs_;
  Tompson, _New England's Crisis_;
  Tyler, _American Literature in the Colonial Period_;
  Uurtonbaker, _Virginia Under the Stuarts_;
  Vanderdonck, _New Netherlands_;
  Van Rensselaer, _Good Vrouw of Man-ha-ta_;
  Ward, _Simple Cobbler_;
  Weeden, _Economic and Social History of New England_;
  Welde, _Short Story of the Rise, Wane, and Ruin of the Antinomians_;
  Wharton, _Martha Washington_;
  Wharton, _Through Colonial Doorways_;
  Wigglesworth, _Day of Doom_;
  Williams, _Ballads of the American Revolution_;
  Winthrop, _History of New England_;
  Wright, _Industrial Evolution of the United States_;
  Woolman, _Diary_.



    Adams, Abigail, 66, 69, 72, 79, 82, 92, 99, 100, 128, 131, 133, 134,
      138, 140, 142, 144, 148, 156, 164, 229, 235, 244, 303, 307, 308.

    Adams, Hannah, 91, 92.

    Adams, John, 80, 90, 303, 308.

    Adultery, 261, 278, 279, 280, 281, 282, 284, 285.

    Advice, Matrimonial, 277.

    Affairs, Domestic, 150.

    Alliott, Paul, 240.

    _American Museum_, 108.

    Amusements, 200, 213 (see Recreations).

    _Anecdotes of the Revolutionary War_, 275.

    _Annals of New England_, 5, 108.

    Antinomians, 41.

    Architecture, 179, 217.

    Arnold, Margaret, 145, 273.

    Art, 184.

    Attacks, Indian, 116.

    Attendance at Church, 19, 65.

    _Autobiography_ (Franklin), 268.


    Banns, 201, 258.

    Baptism, 288.

    Beauty of Philadelphia Women, 229.

    Bee, Husking, 208.

    Berquin-Duvallon, 239, 240, 242.

    Beverly, 178.

    Bible, 79.

    Bibliography, 313.

    Bigamy, 261.

    Blue Laws, 208.

    Boarding Schools, 87, 244.

    Bowne, Eliza, 170.

    Bradford, Governor, 6, 96.

    Bradstreet, Anne, 98, 99.

    Branding, 281, 282.

    Breach of Promise, 249.

    Brent, Margaret, 299.

    British Social Customs, 217.

    Buckingham's _Reminiscences_, 160, 161.

    Bundling, 283.

    Bunyan, John 4.

    Business, Women in, 132, 147.

    Byrd, William, 36, 102.


    Calef, Robert, 56, 60.

    Captivity of Mary Rowlandson, 119.

    Card-Playing, 192, 219, 221, 228, 231.

    Carolinas, 64, 65, 69, 74, 79, 87, 105, 132, 174, 175, 183, 236, 246,
      270, 284, 305.

    Catholic Church, 69.

    Causes of Display, 222.

    Ceremony, Marriage, 258.

    Chastellux, 164, 179, 181, 228, 310.

    Children, 24, 28, 29, 31, 105, 114, 116, 122, 124, 126, 141, 165, 166,
      206, 211, 213, 214, 215, 270.

    Christmas, 203, 204.

    Church Attendance, 19, 65.

    Church of England, 69.

    Colonial Woman and Religion, 3.

    Comfort in Religion, 38.

    Commercial Initiative, 293.

    Concord, 8.

    Connecticut, 90, 91, 154, 272, 283.

    _Connecticut, General History of_, 90.

    Consent for Courtship, 248.

    Conveniences, Lack of, 105.

    Cooking, 106, 107.

    Cooking Utensils, 108.

    Co-operation, 177.

    Cotton, John, 32, 34, 42, 43.

    Courtship, 136, 191, 221, 247, 248, 251, 256, 269, 274, 276.

    Courtship, Consent, for 248.

    Courtship, Unlawful, 248.

    Crevecoeur, St. John de, 301.

    Curiosity, 190.

    Custis, Nelly, 277.

    Customs in Louisiana, 238.


    Dame's School, 71, 94, 262, 294.

    Dancing, 52, 74, 85, 88, 89, 94, 183, 185, 193, 200, 207, 220, 227,
      229, 232, 244, 260, 271.

    _Day of Doom_, 10, 11, 15.

    Day of Rest, 31.

    Death, 115.

    de Brahm, 66.

    de Crevecoeur, St. John 301.

    de Warville, Brissot, 183, 219.

    Diary, Fithian's, 159.

    Diary, Mother's, 30.

    Diary, Sewall's, 14, 15, 28, 57, 63, 71, 72, 115, 117, 125, 126, 129,
      133, 139, 155, 189, 190, 202, 203, 207, 265, 280.

    Diary, Woolman's, 40.

    Display, Causes of, 222.

    Divorce, 263.

    Dolls as Models, 170.

    Domestic Happiness, 179, 186, 210, 211, 270, 272, 288.

    Domestic Life, 136, 137.

    Domestic Love, 96.

    Domestic Pride, 111.

    Domestic Toil, 105, 116, 233, 272.

    Dowry, 250.

    Drama, 91, 92, 225, 234, 235.

    Drawing, 74, 94.

    Dress, 23, 33, 34, 89, 111, 133, 138, 141, 142, 152, 153, 164, 167,
      168, 185, 218, 219, 220, 234, 243.

    Dress, Regulation by Law, 152, 153.

    Dress, Ridicule of, 158, 171.

    Dryden, John 4.

    Dutch, 67, 69, 71, 72, 73, 76, 154, 174, 196, 209, 218, 219, 270, 284,

    Dyer, Mary, 292.


    Education, 70, 84, 104, 116, 124, 126, 128, 150, 175, 219, 244.

    Educational Advantages, Lack of, 91, 92.

    Edwards, Jonathan, 10, 16 18, 19, 20, 98.

    _Essay to Do Good_, 39.

    _Eternity of Hell Torments_, 16.

    Etiquette, 74, 89, 225, 231.

    Executions, 197, 279, 280. 292.

    Extravagance, 164, 183, 185, 221, 223, 229, 232, 234, 243.


    Feasts, Funeral, 196.

    Feminine Independence, 275.

    Fithian, Philip, 75, 159, 179.

    Foibles, Woman's, 33.

    Food, 106, 107, 139, 178, 185, 211, 212, 216, 223, 260.

    Fox, George, 40.

    Franklin, Benjamin, 73, 74, 85, 86, 101, 115, 132, 136, 138, 144, 147,
      155, 166, 233, 234, 268, 269, 286, 287, 294.

    Franklin, Mrs., 85, 147.

    Frills, Educational, 86.

    Funeral, 193, 196, 197, 216.

    Funeral Feasts, 196.

    Funeral Gloves, 194, 196.

    Funeral Rings, 194, 196.

    Funeral Scarfs, 194, 196.

    Furnishings, House, 106, 137, 181, 218.


    _General History of Connecticut_, 90, 190, 207, 298.

    Georgia, 65.

    Gloves, Funeral, 194, 195.

    _Grant's Memoirs of an American Lady_, 67, 68, 72, 83, 127, 209, 211,
      213, 217, 270.


    Hair Dressing, 162.

    Hamilton, Alexander, 104, 130, 134, 145, 287.

    Hamilton, Elizabeth, 104, 145, 273.

    Hammond, John, 177, 271.

    Happiness, Domestic, 143, 144, 145, 179, 186, 210, 211, 270, 272, 288.

    Hardships, 3, 6, 7, 8,115, 117, 118, 303, 305, 306, 308.

    Harvard, 79.

    Heroism, 309.

    _History of Massachusetts Bay Colony_, 39, 42, 43.

    _History of New England_, 24, 48, 142, 198.

    _History of North Carolina_, 132.

    _History of Plymouth Plantation_, 6.

    _History of the Dividing Line_, 36.

    _History of the Province of New York_, 218.

    _History of Virginia_, 178.

    Home Life, 95, 124, 128, 132, 133, 134, 136, 137, 140, 145, 149.

    _Hoop Petticoats_, 161.

    Hospitality, 174, 182, 186, 188, 213, 215.

    House Furnishings, 106, 137, 181, 218.

    Huguenots, 65.

    Husking Bee, 208.

    Hutchinson, Anne, 39, 4&, 41, 42, 43, 57, 291, 292.

    Hutchinson, Margaret, 162.


    Ignorance, 70, 76, 78, 94, 244.

    _Illustrious Providences_, 26, 27.

    Indented Servants, 271, 279, 284.

    Independence, Feminine, 275.

    Indian Attacks, 116.

    Inherited Nervousness, 28.

    Initiative, 85, 147, 291, 293, 303.

    Inquisitiveness, 190.

    Interest in Home, 136.

    Irregular Marriage, 278.

    Irving, Washington, 283.

    Isolation, Southern, 174.


    Jamestown, 5, 65, 174.

    Jefferson, Thomas, 74, 75, 138, 143, 287.

    Johnson, Edward, 7, 8.

    Jonson, Ben, 4.

    Josselyn, John, 49, 205, 286, 289.

    _Journal_, Fox's, 40.

    _Journal_, Knight's, 206, 210, 212.

    _Journal_, Winthrop's, 34.


    Kidnapping, 122.

    _Knickerbocker History_, 283.

    Knight, Sarah, 154, 206, 210, 212.


    Laws, 278, 286, 288, 289, 297.

    Laws, Blue, 208.

    Laws, Marriage, 260.

    Laws, Regulation of Dress by, 152, 153.

    Lawson, John, 132.

    _Leah and Rachel_, 177.

    Lecture Day, 201.

    Legal Powers of Women, 297.

    Letters, 187, 273, 277.

    _Letters from an American Farmer_, 301.

    Letters of Abigail Adams, 67.

    Liberty to Choose in Marriage, 255.

    Life, Domestic, 136, 137, 139.

    _Life of Cotton Mother_, 124.

    Louisiana, 69, 183, 238.

    Love, Domestic, 96-102, 273.

    Luxury, 176, 211, 212, 217, 218, 219, 229, 232, 234.


    Madison, Dolly, 168, 269, 297.

    Marriage, 247, 286.

    Marriage Advice, 277.

    Marriage Ceremony, 258.

    Marriage Irregularities, 278.

    Marriage, Liberty to Choose in, 255.

    Marriage Restrictions, 260, 279.

    Marriage, Romance in, 272.

    Maryland, 69, 174.

    Mather, Cotton, 10, 16, 21, 30, 39, 50, 51, 53, 56, 58, 88, 115, 124.

    Mather, Increase, 26, 27, 52, 55.

    Mather, Samuel, 124.

    McKean, Sally, 170.

    Mechanical Aids in Education, 90.

    _Memoirs of an American Lady_, 67, 68, 209, 217.

    _Memoirs of Hannah Adams_, 91, 92.

    _Memorable Providences_, 21.

    _Memorial of the Present Deplorable State_, 117.

    Men's Dress, 167.

    Meschianza, 168, 227.

    Methodists, 65, 68.

    Milton, John, 4.

    Morals, 238.

    Moravians, 87, 269.

    _More Wonders of the Invisible World_, 56, 60.

    Mothers, Tributes to, 129.

    Music, 34, 35, 74, 85, 86, 88, 94, 179, 184, 193, 219, 244, 296.


    Negroes, 105, 240, 241, 284.

    Nervousness, 22, 25, 28.

    _New England History and General Register_, 59.

    _New England's Crisis_, 301.

    _New England Rareties Discovered_, 49, 205.

    New York, 64, 67, 68, 69, 71, 72, 76, 94, 107, 127, 154, 167, 174, 209,
      216, 217, 221, 246, 270, 284.

    Norwood, Henry, 3.


    Orphans' Court, 77.


    Parental Training, 124.

    Patriotic Initiative, 303.

    Pennsylvania, 64, 78, 87, 88, 109, 236, 268.

    _Pennsylvania Packet_, 109.

    Peters, Samuel, 90, 190, 207, 298.

    _Petticoats, Hoop_, 161.

    Philadelphia, 167, 168, 226, 229, 230, 235, 286, 294.

    Pinckney, Eliza, 65, 69, 80, 102, 126, 134, 145, 164, 175, 181, 182,
      184, 244, 255, 295, 305.

    Pintard, James, 220.

    Plymouth, 5, 6, 71, 79.

    Politics, 143, 144, 293, 299.

    Prayers for the Sick, 201.

    Presbyterians, 65.

    Pride, Domestic, 111.

    Prince, Thomas, 5.

    Privations, 114, 115, 149 (see _Hardships_).

    _Progress of Dulness_, 172.

    Public Affairs, Women in, 142.

    Punishment, 247, 248, 261, 278, 282, 285, 286, 289, 292.

    Pynchon, Judge, 192, 193, 260.


    Quakers, 40, 68, 268, 292, 293.


    Raillery at Dress, 158.

    Rebellion, Female, 41.

    Recreation, 91, 178, 189, 193, 200, 207, 213, 220, 222, 225, 226, 232,
      234, 235, 237, 260, 263, 270, 272.

    Religion, 3, 10, 63, 100, 115, 189, 212, 293, 298.

    Religion, Comfort in, 38.

    Religious Initiative, 291.

    _Remarkable Providences_, 55.

    _Reminiscences_, Buckingham's, 160, 161.

    Restrictions, Marriage, 260.

    Restrictions, Social, 205.

    Ridicule of Dress, 158, 171.

    Rings, Funeral, 194, 196.

    Romance, Marriage, 272.

    Rowlandson, Mary, 119.

    Rowson, Susanna, 87.


    Sabbath, 31-33, 65.

    Salem Witchcraft, 41, 47-63.

    Scarf, Funeral, 194, 196.

    Scarlet Letter, 281.

    School, Boarding, 87, 244.

    Schuyler, Catherine, 73, 91, 106, 110, 115, 134, 145, 244, 309, 310.

    Seminary, Female, 87, 94, 166.

    Separations, 263.

    Servant, Indented, 271, 279, 284.

    Sewall, Samuel, 14, 15, 28, 57, 71, 72, 96, 115, 117, 124, 125, 126,
      129, 133, 138, 147, 152, 155, 189, 190, 199, 200, 201, 202, 203, 207,
      247, 250, 251, 256, 258, 263, 265, 279, 280, 293, 294.

    Sewing, 93, 110.

    Shakespeare, 4, 5.

    _Short Story of the Rise, Wane, and Ruin of the Antinomians_, 47.

    _Simple Cobbler_, 158.

    _Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God_, 18.

    Size of Family, 114.

    Slaves, 65, 105, 110, 112, 175, 245, 284.

    Smith, John, 4, 64.

    Smith, William, 218.

    Social Customs, British, 217.

    Social Life, 113, 174, 181, 189, 209, 219, 225, 226, 231, 232, 235,
      236, 237, 238, 270.

    Social Restrictions, 205.

    Southern Dress, 153.

    Southern Hospitality, 174.

    Southern Isolation, 174.

    Southgate, Elizabeth, 225.

    Speech, Violent, 287.

    Special Social Days, 201.

    Sphere, Woman's 142.

    Spinsters, 262.

    Spirit of Woman, 3.

    Splendor in Southern Home, 179.

    St. Cecilia Society, 184.

    Surrage, Agnes, 274.


    _Temple, Charlotte_, 87.

    Thanksgiving, 203, 205.

    Theatre, 234, 235 (see _Drama_).

    Thompson, Benjamin, 301.

    Toil, Domestic, 105, 107, 108, 111, 113, 116, 135, 136, 150.

    Training, Parental, 124.

    Travel, 187.

    _Travels_, Chastellux, 164.

    Trials, 197.

    Tributes to Mothers, 129.

    Trumbull, John, 171.

    Turell, Jane, 82, 130, 134, 145, 277.


    Unlawful Courtship, 240.

    Utensils, Cooking, 108.


    Violent Speech, 287.

    Virginia, 64, 68, 69, 71, 74, 77, 79, 94, 105, 166, 167, 174, 176, 183,
      236, 246, 270, 271, 289, 305.

    _Voyage to Virginia_, 3.


    Ward, Nathaniel, 158.

    Warren, Mercy, 67, 69, 79, 83, 100, 101, 134, 145, 309.

    Washington, George, 96, 101, 104, 139, 165, 167, 175, 183, 186, 187,
      222, 223, 232, 235, 277, 297.

    Washington, Martha, 67, 80, 101, 104, 112, 134, 135, 140, 141, 164,
      165, 169, 183, 186, 187, 188, 220, 223, 225, 233, 297, 304, 308.

    Weddings, 247, 286.

    Welde, Thomas, 46.

    Wesleys, 65.

    Whitefield, George, 65.

    _Why Saints in Glory will Rejoice to see the Torments of the Damned_,

    Wigglesworth, Michael, 10.

    Williams, Roger, 34.

    Winthrop, John, 23, 24, 26, 34, 37, 39, 44, 48, 88, 96, 142, 145,
      198, 279, 288.

    Winthrop, Margaret, 9, 39, 97, 134.

    Witchcraft, 41, 47-63, 294.

    Woman's Trifling Needs, 309.

    Women in Politics, 293, 299.

    _Wonders of the Invisible World_, 21, 50, 51, 56, 58.

    _Wonder-Working Providence_, 7.

    Woolman, John, 40.

    Work, Domestic, 105, 107, 108, 111, 113, 114, 116, 135, 136, 150.

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