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SEX ROLES AND THE DIVISION OF LABOR
Some general information
It has often been said that women in the colonial period had no power. This was true in regards to property ownership (when married), the franchise and other legal distinctions, but not true when it came to sex roles and the division of labor. Women had their own sphere of influence, and a capable practitioner here could exert strong influence outside her sphere. In a broad sense, a man's sphere was outside the home, including politics, war and commercial business, while a woman's sphere was within the home. Men might have the final say in decorating, an extension of building the house, but in many households the woman had as much or more influence in the management of the estate as her husband did. Women were active participants in farming and farm management.
Such a role required education, literacy and an ability to figure and understand basic accounting and management skills, in addition to women's traditional skills such as cooking, sewing and child rearing. On the large plantations the mistress would relegate performance of many basic tasks to servants, while she concerned herself with management. At the lower-class levels, women did all the domestic work, and extra labor in the fields as available.
Because the sexes had distinct roles without duplication of effort, loss of one partner required speedy remarriage to keep the system working smoothly. Surviving spouses would often remarry within a month of their loss, regardless of gender. The Victorian ideal of mourning had not yet arisen. In time a few sects would come to require a "seemly" period of mourning, for example, the Quakers (one year). SOURCE: The Writer's Guide, Everyday Life in Colonial America From 1607 - 1783. Dale Taylor. Weiter's Digest Books (1997) p. 120
CONTINUE ON TO EARLY AMERICA SEX, MARRIAGE, CHILDREN, GAYS, LESBIANS, BOYS AS GIRLS, ABORTION, BREECHING, FAMILY AND OTHER MYTHS. PART 3