The Power Dynamic Between Men and Women in Their Homes

My topic was exploring the power dynamic between men and women in their homes, communities and their churches. My question is how did men and women influence each other in regard to public situations (in anything as big as politics and as small as normal conversation)?

In general, early colonial women were supposed to carry out certain duties, as surmised by the book on Page 11: “Giving birth, midwifing, maintaining hearth and home, gardening small vegetable plots for domestic use, weaving, sewing, and knitting, directing the servants, attending church and market, owning property, studying scripture, discussing scripture at home with family or other women; these activities were demanded or allowable.

Much of these activities regard control of home life, and so most women found that they were in a position of power in their homes. This influenced their husband’s lives, whether the women were aware of it or not.

For example, if the wife of a lawmaker complained about a law or issue regarding the land, that lawmaker is going to be influenced, again, whether he’s aware of it or not.

The influence of men on women is for the most part widely known; men set the rules, and expected them to be followed. But we can examine how it came to be this way in the church. “Custom expressly forbade disagreeing with a man in public uninvited, teaching the Bible to men, and criticizing a minister.” (pg. 11) Just from this quote, we can surmise that it was mostly tradition that kept it this way.

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First Corinthians Chapter 11 verse 3 says “But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” This verse as well as others like it, and this is speculation on my part, probably had something to do with the all-male leadership in the colonial churches. It was widely accepted by both genders, although it was also acknowledged that men should listen to their wives. Of course, women such as Anne Hutchinson disagreed, but those were special cases, and while they were inspirational, at the time, they seemed ineffectual.

In their communities, equality virtually didn’t exist between anyone. In early colonial times, people’s worth was still mostly determined by their family name, heritage, purse size and their rank; this mostly applied to the men, although their wives were given the appropriate amount of respect due by their husband’s station.

That was all during early colonial times; moving into a few decades later, when the pilgrims finally showed up: pg. 5 “Rather than fashioning perfect Calvinist communities where only full church members could vote, where women stayed passive in public, and where religious heretics were chased away or killed, the Separatists, and their immediate followers, the Puritans, unintentionally made life so intolerably oppressive that religious freedom and outspoken women sprang up in their midst.”

As time went on and life got harder, women started to struggle. They had little to no say in how society was being run, and it took a devastating toll on their home and social lives. They couldn’t vote, and while they were given the task of running their husband’s homes, their husband’s names were on it. Not only didn’t they own anything, they were owned. They were legally no longer their own person: “By marriage, the husband and wife are one person in the law: that is, the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least is incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband: under whose wing, protection, and cover, she performs everything.” Commentaries on English Law. That sounds all well and good in theory, but in real life, this makes a wife completely dependent on her husband. She can’t do anything on her own under this law.

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