Browse Exhibits (2 total)

Midwifery and Women's Role in Colonial Society


       During the Colonial Period of the United States men controlled society, including the type of information that was written and discussed. Because of this, the works that were written about women provide some interesting opinions and assertions of who and what a woman was meant for. This was also all from the perspective of men. Exploring this male perspective and then comparing it to what was actually going on in the world of women at the time will show how important the rise of women's suffrage was.

        What seemed to be the general idea in most people’s minds at that time was that women were inferior to men physically and mentally, and therefore had no reason to take on any leadership role in society. Women simply did not make careers for themselves because their rightful place was at home. In fact, one of their biggest worries was surrounding childbirth. Maternal mortality was high during this time, there was limited medicine to aid in the process, and women would constantly continue to have children until their bodies literally could not take it any longer. They would know to stop reproducing when their children would keep miscarrying, or when the woman herself would come too close to death during labor. Unfortunately, the signs did not always come soon enough and many mothers perished in the process.

        All the pain and suffering women have endured for millennia actually has an explanation, according to colonial civilization. Until recently, it was believed that women suffered so much because it was God’s punishment for the sin of Eve. This was simply an accepted fact. Women were arbitrarily placed into a status of “punished”, “inferior”, and “weaker” due to the belief that this was how God wanted it. History is full of the notion that events took place due to Divine Right, but it is hard to imagine that an entire sex was held as inferior because of this same Right. This was the world, though, and it has taken a lot for society to realize that women are at an equal place to men. Women deserve civil rights and the pursuit of happiness as much as anyone else, and a huge chance they took to prove this was by doing what they did best: sticking together.

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Women in Taverns

Taverns were at the forefront of the American Revolution in terms of the spread of ideas and motivation throughout the colonists. Taverns provided food, drink, and comfort for travelers to the courthouses and cities. The founding fathers played important roles in the taverns in Boston and Philadelphia. However, women are forgotten in this seemingly masculine environment.

The role of women during this time focuses on the maintenance of the home and family. Most women that received land deeds during the 18thcentury were likely widows, yet many were also mothers and daughters that worked in taverns, public houses, inns, and shops. For instances, in Petersburg, Virginia, a woman named Ann Forbes, “held the town record for liquor sale violations” and about 30% of all violations and failures to obtain liquor license were by a woman.[1]This raises the interesting question about how many women were active participants to local economies and governments. Historic Taverns are knowns as breeding ground for revolutionary thoughts as well as the operation of governments.

A complete history of women in taverns is important to the understanding of cultural traditions and the work of women in a public setting other than a mother, wife, or daughter, but as a businesswoman. This research will explore the way in which females ran taverns and the relevance of their establishments in society. The analysis of women in the workplace would provide insight to the social constructs between genders and the female influence on public life and drinking.

[1]Lebsock, Suzanne. The Free Women of Petersburg: Status and Culture in a Southern Town,

1874-1860. New York: W.W. Norton &, 1990. 177.



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