History 246 Reading Guide

Discussion:  Colonial Women’s Work and Roles in Northern New England

  • Laurel Ulrich, Good Wives:  Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England, 1650-1750 (1982; reprinted 1991).

Further reading:

  • Mary White Rowlandson, From “The Narrative of the Captivity and Removes of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson,” (1682), reprinted in Arlen G.R. Westbrook and Perry D. Westbrook, The Writing Women of New England, 1630-1900:  An Anthology (The Scarecrow Press, 1982), 21-37.  (e-reserve)
    Or The Narrative of the Captivity and the Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson (1682) Full Text edition, prepared by Professor Catherine Lavender, Department of History, The College of Staten Island of The City University of New York.

Laurel Ulrich’s monograph gives us the opportunity to examine more closely the details of women’s lives within the rubric that we have been examining (Mary Beth Norton’s overview of the experience of white women in early America).

  • For women in northern New England, how does the era from 1650-1750 fit into Norton’s three-stage chronology?
  • Consider the model that Ulrich uses for describing women’s roles and role priorities: “role definition” and “role analysis.” Why did she choose this method of exploration?
  • Why does she present the three biblical role models in this order?
  • What is Ulrich’s argument? What interpretation does she offer about the relationship between ideals and reality?
  • Consider the evidence that she presents and the ways that she uses it. What does it offer? Does it always offer sufficient proof for her arguments?