Sunday, February 8, 2009

Women in Early Modern Europe

This reading explored the difference between women of Europe and the women of the new world colonies. Women overall had more opportunities in the European colonies. Colonial women had more of a choice in marriage and tended to marry younger. In early Portuguese colonies there were very few women, so white women in the colonies were very prized. Within Brazil women had more opportunities, like holding on to their estates after their husband’s death. In Spanish colonies women were of a higher status then their Spanish counterparts. Women in the French colonies often married earlier then the women and France and tended to have larger families. In British colonies marriages had the ability to be dissolved. Women had the right to divorce a husband who was not able to provide.
In many ways the women of European colonies had more rights and opportunities then their European counterparts. However just as in any situations, there were some things that were better for European women. Within the article it is apparent that we can see Categories of Difference within the women from all over the colonies and all over Europe. Marriage and Family plays a role in the different marriage ages we see in Europe and the colonies and the different sizes in families. Employment and Work become important as women in the colonies tended to have more job opportunities available to them. Lastly, Law, Education and Citizenship can be seen in the role women played in all of these communities, as education became important and women were able to access legal help in some of the colonies like those of England.

1 comment:

  1. I think this piece highlights gender constructions as societal rather than natural. Fairchild's notes that women acted as "the transmitters of European culture to the colonies" (p. 311) and that "the degree to which the manners and mores of colonial societies matched those of the mother country was directly related to the proportion of women in the settler population" (p. 310). What is interesting is that at the same time Fairchilds is stating the culture of Europe in the colonies was dependent upon women, she also asserts that women in the colonies acted in ways *not* commonly accepted in Europe. Unfortunately Fairchilds does not address at what point women in the colonies began to act more like their counterparts in Europe and why when women were acting out of their gendered roles they were still considered as transmitters of culture-which points of culture were more important than the ones based on gender roles? What her observations do point out is that there was a greater latitude in gender roles than perhaps Europeans were willing to admit to themselves without the impetus of necessity presented in the colonies.