TeacherServe Essays

Religion, Women, and the Family in Early America

Author: Heyrman, Christine Leigh (NHC Fellow, 1985–86)

During the last half century, a growing number of colonial historians have been drawn to studying child rearing practices and gender roles in different Protestant cultures. While their interpretations vary widely, all of these scholars underscore the importance of religious belief in shaping early Americans’ most intimate relationships, those between parents and children, husbands and wives. This scholarship does not lend itself readily to adaptation for most high school classes. But familiarity with this scholarship may assist you in emphasizing to students that religious belief did not occupy some discrete sphere separate from the rest of social life. On the contrary, early America’s varied religious cultures shaped in profound ways the most basic human interactions—how men and women imagined their ideal identities, their relationships with spouses, their approach to rearing children.

Read More

Subjects: Gender and Sexuality; History; American History; Christianity; Women's History; Evangelicalism; Puritans; Gender Roles; Family