Colonial House and women's rights : LUSENET : ACountryPlace : One Thread

I decided this was probably the best place for me to express something that's really been bugging me. In every discussion I chance upon about the recent airing of Colonial House someone comments about those poor, downtrodden women of the age and how fortunate we are today with our "women's rights." Life was rough for everyone back then, but those women were strong, principled and certainly had influence in their homes and the lives of their families. Why have we decided that defination of a strong, fulfilled women lies in her ability to mouth off. I remember being a child in the '70's when the Equal Rights Amendment was being considered and thinking "I don't need a law to tell me that I'm capable of doing what I want." I'm intelligent, capable, strong and choose to be in submission to my husband's leadership of our family because I believe it's the right thing to do. Probably a lot like those "poor" women of past times.

-- Judy (, May 21, 2004


I don't know that they really had a "choice" back then as we would define it. Women were often seen as merely "property". No thanks.

I'm sure lots of women at that time were essentially the "power behind the throne", exercising influence behind the scenes.

-- GT (, May 21, 2004.

"Women were often seen as merely "property". No thanks." --------------------------------------------------------

Unfortunately in much of the world this mentality still goes on, especially in the Muslim countries of the Middle East and Africa.

Remember all the stories that came out of Afghanistan and now Iraq. Pictures of women beheaded in stadiums for more or less entertainement for something that would not raise an eyebrow in our society. The severe beating for allowing a little of your ankle to show, even if it was the wind that caused it to occurence.

I have heard the quote about the middle east that goes something like this. An arab has a dog that he beats several times each day, but the dog is respected more than his wife. How sad for those women.

-- Bob in WI (, May 21, 2004.

I wonder when women made the switch from being property with no choice to being independent? Just looking for opinions and discussion.

-- Judy (, May 22, 2004.

Well personally I don't think that in the early days of this country women were property. I think that terminology is an exageration perpetrated by the feminist movement. One only has to read about the life of Martha Washington to realize that here was a lady who was a person in her own right and respected because of it. I think that each of the so called evils that feminists parade around as horrible injustice, actually had their purposes. Purposes which are obvious in light of our current social decay. For instance, married women could not own their own property. However, this made sense in many ways. For one thing, in those days things were done by family action by this I mean that there was one representative of the family in legal matters, the husband. It made sense to vote by household, rather than individually. It also made sense for families to hold property rather than individuals within the family. For one thing, these social rules helped hold families together, contrary to our current situation of a 50+% divorce rate. Harriet Martineau wrote in the early 1800's the following : "Marriage is in America more nearly universal, more safe, more tranquil, more fortunate than in England: but it is still subject to the troubles which arise from the inequality of the parties in mind and in occupation. It is more nearly universal, from the entire prosperity of the country: it is safer, from the greater freedom of divorce, and consequent discouragement of swindling, and other vicious marriages: it is more tranquil and fortunate from the marriage vows being made absolutely reciprocal; from the arrangements about property being generally far more favorable to the wife than in England; and from her not being made, as in England, to all intents and purposes the property of her husband. " You can read this in context at the link at the bottom, plus a lot more with regard to the real state of love and marriage in America in the early nineteenth century.

In addition, given the difficulties of leaving a marriage, a person was more likely to stick in there and make things work. Feminists try to pretend that every husband was a wife beater back then, but the truth was, that men were disrespected in their community, and also convinced by their associates to good behavior once again. The following is from a diary of William Byrd II 1709- 1712.

"April 31, 1711. I rose about 6 o'clock and read two chapters in Hebrew and some Greek in Lucian. I said my prayers and ate boiled milk for breakfast. My wife told me of the mis­fortunes of Mrs. Dunn— that her husband had beat her, and that she had complained to Mr. Gee of it, who made Mr. Dunn swear that he would never beat her again; that he threatened to kill her and abused her extremely and told her he would go from her. I was sorry to hear it and told my wife if he did go from her she might come here. I read some news till dinner. I ate boiled beef for dinner. In the afternoon we made a cold tincture. In the evening I took a long walk about the plantation. At night we drank a bottle of French wine. I said my prayers and had good health, good thoughts, and good humor, thank God Almighty. Mrs. Russell has good sense and very good breeding but can hardly forbear being hysterical, notwithstanding it is with good manners."

A man beating his wife was not an acceptable thing. It is also probably as common today as it was back then. Perhaps even more common today given the advent of serious drug abuse that did not exist at that time. It is also interesting to note, that while there may have been a "gain" in independence for women, there has been much loss in other areas. For instance the multiplication of single parent families, the loss to children of a fatherly influence, the loss to children of a motherly influence, as the mother is always workking. Whatever supposed gain we have made, I believe our losses have been greater as a society. 2520I% 2520Articles/puritancourtship.doc+spousal+abuse+colonial+diary&hl=en

Link on love and marriage in the 19th century.

-- Little Bit Farm (, June 09, 2004.

"Well personally I don't think that in the early days of this country women were property"

Even in MODERN days some men still regard their wives as property!

A big difference between now and then was, back then a man could pick up his wifes paycheck, of he allowed her to work. Also, he had the LEGAL right to beat her, and when some yo-yo locked his wife in his house for 4 months, the courts found in his favor even though they acknowledged that he was not treating her as he ought.

In other words, men misbehaved in the old days, too.

I have known many modern women who kept their families together during their husband "binges", by working so that there was an income that he couldn't touch. That wasn't legally possible back when this country was young.

-- Terri (, June 10, 2004.

Of course, there will always be isolated cases of abuse. Just as there will always be burglers, but we don't declare a certain generation a den of thieves because of it. Using that logic we could conceivably claim that women are property in America today. I am talking generally. I am saying that you can hardly compare women of the early days of this country with Muslim women. There has never been the societal acceptance of women being treated like they are in Muslim countries in America.

As for women keeping their families together with money that their husband couldn't touch. It often happened back then too. Women kept money in the cookie jar. They saved back some of their egg money. Divorce was possible, although often not socially acceptable. Yes, a husband could pick up his wife's paycheck. I personally don't have a problem with that, as I would give my paycheck to my husband anyway.

Yes there were men who abused their priviledges, and there were, and ARE women who do too. However, in those days everything was oriented to family life. The husband was the head of, and the representative of the family. He picked up the paycheck, because it provided for the family, irregardless of who earned it. Everyone contributed to the family larder either through work, or earning. That is how it is in my family today. My husband earns the bulk of our income. I earn milk, and egg, and animal money, as well as keeping the house, and running the farm, and educating the children. My eldest son contributes portions of his income as well. We all contribute to the family, from youngest(6) to oldest. We all work the farm. I often turn my earnings such as they are over to my husband. I have no problem with that. I would have no problem with it, were it to be law. For that matter, I would have no problem having him cast the family vote either.

I also have to say that people bear the responsibility of their choices. Women both in the past, and in the present need to learn to make good choices when it comes to love. Every woman I have ever talked to that had been abused, noticed things in her mates personality before marriage that she ignored. Women need to be cognitive. They also need to learn prosecute their husbands. They also need to arm themselves. There are MANY stories written down about women in the old days who made their husbands "understand" just what kind of treatment they expected with a shotgun. Many a daddy came round to mama's way of thinking this way. There were also many men who had "thugs" sandbag him on the way home when the men of the town decided to explain in no uncertain terms why his treatment of his wife was unacceptable. In my opinion, this would be a much more effective way to deal with the problem today.

As for the court case you mention above, they were few, and far between. Certainly less than today's men who beat their wives right through a restraining order that has no pain attached to it. Personally I think that if a man beats his wife, the penalty should be the same treatment for him!

However, there were far more marriages that worked than there were those that didn't. Yes, people had to put up with a little more. However, they also had children who came from stable homes, with two parents. The cost to our society of divorce over broken fingernails has been way too high. People need to learn to just get along. You can choose to ignore that which upsets you. You can choose to forgive and forget. You can choose to just LET IT GO.

Little Bit Farm

-- Little Bit Farm (, June 10, 2004.

"As for women keeping their families together with money that their husband couldn't touch. It often happened back then too. Women kept money in the cookie jar. They saved back some of their egg money. Divorce was possible, although often not socially acceptable. Yes, a husband could pick up his wife's paycheck. I personally don't have a problem with that, as I would give my paycheck to my husband anyway."

I think that you have never had a family member be the victim of an abusive spouse. All theories aside, the changes in the laws is literally a matter of life and death for some.

-- Terri (, June 11, 2004.

h, yes, that you and I have good marriages is a GLORIOUS thing!

But, there is no reason why a relative of mine should have to stay with a man who threatens to kill her.

We hid her until he moved in with another woman. And, to say that she should have seen it coming is a little hollow when it is her life that is at stake. What, should a lady say to herself, "you should have known better, but since you didn't you have to stay with him until he kills you?" She was lucky enough to have family who believed her and would protect her, many abused women don't, and are not allowed to have friends.

The law would avenge her death, of course, but she would still be dead! She DID have the legal right to leave him, which women did not always have.

It was, of course, dangerous to any family that gave her shelter, which was why she was hidden.

And, there is no reason why my Ex-BIL should be able to pick up his wifes paycheck, to support him and his lover. She earned the money to support herself and her baby, and not the other woman. Under the old laws, her employer would have had no choice but to give the paycheck to her separated husband and his girlfriend.

Being able to keep her paycheck made it possible for her to come out of hiding after 6 months. Otherwise, she would have had to stay dependant on relatives until the divorce went through, or 18 months. Instead, she was able to get a job after his temper had cooled, rent an apartment, and so forth. As for child support, she was afraid to complain that it wasn't being paid. As I said, the law will only avenge your death, not prevent it.

As for the Colonial house, she accepted a deal and then went back on it. She should have accepted the loss of rights just as she accepted the loss of machinery, it WAS part of the deal! She went back on the contract, as many of them did when they refused to go to church. Which, back then, was mandatory.

-- Terri (, June 11, 2004.

First of all a wife could leave her husband in those days. Divorce although uncommon was possible. Did your sister have her husband prosecuted? I think you are reading what I am saying, but you are not really listening to what I am trying to say. I understand that your feelings on this issue are colored by your personal experience. I have had close friends who have been beaten as well. I never said she should stay with him and let him beat her to death. You read that into what I said. I said that we all bear the responsibility of our choices. Marriage is NOT defined by those who have problems. Marriage has to be defined by something higher than that. In my case I believe marriage is defined by the Bible. Colonial values, were also define by the Bible. I have no problem with this. You cannot defnie property ownership by burglers. Neither can you define marriage by wife beaters.

Little Bit Farm

-- Little Bit Farm (, June 11, 2004.

Go WAAY back in the thread. A Colonial wife did NOT have the legal right to leave her husband, and even if she did anyways he could pick up her paycheck wherever she worked.

And, No he was NOT prosecuted. That would have been dangerous. People are innocent until proven guilty, he would have been out on bail, and furious.

As it was, he sort of avoided her after a while. She decided that him staying away was about as good as she get it.

-- Terri (, June 12, 2004.

Unfortunately, hard statistics on domestic abuse, from what I'm finding, have only been available in the last few decades. We have the record of changes in the laws, and scattered antecdotal evidence from earlier times, but no statistics to actually compare numbers from historical times with today. I can only look at what I know of society's values as a whole, then and now, and conclude that we're not in as great shape as a result of all our "progress" as we'ld like to believe.

-- Judy (, June 12, 2004.

One might also add that even then there were probably "arranged" marriages by the parents--remember the original concept of the dowry. So some of the women of the day didn't really have a choice to refuse because they weren't allowed to make one.

As to the Bible, there are people TODAY who think that the Bible permits spousal abuse as part of being the head of the family, which is a total misinterpretation.

-- GT (, June 14, 2004.

There is ONE benefit that Colonial women enjoyed. If they ran, their husbands could not easily track them. No internet, no drivers licenses, no social security numbers, no crossing the country in a day to check out a lead.

In my sisters case, it all had a happy ending.

The divorce came through, and she got a good job in another area. She eventually married, and is somewhat submissive to her DH in this marriage too. Difference is, this husband is a good man, and I am gratefull that she is happy.

We don't know where her Ex is.

-- Terri (, June 15, 2004.

I have to agree with Judy. I think that values were completely different in Colonial times. I think we suffer from a lack of them today. I also think that a societal negative outlook on divorce is better for society as a whole. It is also better for children. Yes there were problems, but we haven't solved any of them. Today, children simply spend their time traveling from household to household with no stability. They have dome studies on children where they looked at whether children did better with two fighting parents who stayed together, or two amicable parents after a divorce. The former children suffered the least. However, I do believe that women in abusinve homes should separate from their husbands, at least temporarily, and perhaps permanently. However, I personally do not believe that divorce is an answer.

Little Bit Farm

Little bit Farm

-- Little Bit Farm (, June 22, 2004.

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