Sunday, October 23, 2011

McGill and Lawson - Abstract Scholarly Article

Here, have an abstract:

McGill, Kathy. " "The Most Industrious Sex": John Lawson's Carolina Women Domesticate the Land." North Carolina Historical Review. 88.3 (2011): 280-297. Web. 23 Oct. 2011. <>.

By using John Lawson’s “A New Voyage to Carolina,” Kathy McGill investigates the original stereotype of colonial women as “the Most Industrious Sex,” specifically focusing on how that colonial trope affected the role of women in marriage and in social circles. McGill proceeds through the major points of Lawson’s text, summarizing the original argument and applying it to the larger context of the era and to the progression of women’s rights. The basis of the text is Lawson’s account of American women as hard-working and American men as comparatively lazy, which was a startling reversal of the gender qualities as accepted in Britain. According to McGill, Lawson argued that, “southern men...were lazy, and that women, by contrast, were industrious” (280). Lawson then spends the rest of the article, as explained by McGill, illustrating to his British audience how the American way of allowing their women to participate in work did not threaten the natural order of patriarchy. McGill shows the reader how America was originally considered feminine by the British, and how Lawson used Native American women’s roles, Biblical allusion, and evidence of productivity to show that a hard-working American woman might actually be a good model for European women.

McGill shows how women were perceived at the time, particularly American women, and gives an account of their usual duties (as reported by Lawson). As an example of the kind of work in which women were allowed to participate, McGill cites the following example: “If men grew tired of the toil of planting, [John Smith] explained, they could recreate themselves by taking boats (of their own manufacture) and, along with their women and children, go fishing. This was essentially his only mention of women...” (285). So American women were allowed to work, McGill implies, but not ‘real’ work; only work so light that the men considered it recreation. McGill uses Lawson’s text as evidence, but also other first-person accounts of the era, such as the works of John Smith. She shows how European-American women were portrayed as similar to Native American women, and how this was shown as desirable. However, she spends most of her work cataloguing what women were allowed to do in order to highlight that in which they were not allowed to participate. She shows the reader the origin of the “most industrious sex” trope and how it is somewhat inaccurate and demeaning, but she underplays the value of what women actually achieved. McGill de-emphasizes the fact that, in Lawson’s writing, women really were given credit for doing work, which was at least a meager sign of progress in the eighteenth century.

McGill’s article shows the next step after the state of affairs shown in my document, “A Question Deeply Concerning Married Persons.” While in “A Question” women are effectively considered the property of their husbands, and Biblical justification is given for preventing women from thinking for themselves, in Lawson’s book women have some degree of autonomy. This work caused me to realize how the British women described in “A Question” were different from the American colonial women shaped by the same culture; namely, that American women were, by necessity, allowed and expected to work beside the men in the business of settling the frontier. One of the most interesting points that McGill brings up is her exploration of which jobs were permitted for females and why. She shows how traditional gender roles, like those described in “A Question,” evolved into the then-modern American female. For instance, she shows (based on Lawson) how women can work and still be passive and submissive by giving the example of Native American women, who served as liaisons to outside parties by sleeping with foreign men (289-290).

McGill’s argument in this text is somewhat nebulous; it feels as if she is making several points rather than just one, though she does stick to the content and context of the Lawson text. However, it was useful in providing me some more angles on how to approach the issue of colonial marriage in the light of Christianity. I would recommend the article in part, as some of its content is interesting, but as a whole I feel it lacks the cohesive structure necessary to make a unified point.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Preliminary Bibliography

Based on my primary document, I was trying to focus on the topic of marriage in colonial America, specifically how it was defined by religion and how that definition affected women. Unfortunately, over the course of my research I have found that it's a broader topic than I'd thought.

I would welcome suggestions on how to narrow it down, even if I have to pick a different primary artifact.

Here are the secondary sources I'm currently considering using:

A.L. To all the honest, wise, and grave-citizens of London, but more especially to all those that challenge an interest in the Common-Hall. London: Nathaniel Belknap, 1648. Web. <EEBO>.

Dudley, Joseph. A proclamation by the president and Council for the orderly solemnization of marriage. Boston, MA: Richard Pierce, 1686. Web. <Evans Digital Database>.

Grimke, Angelina. Walking by Faith: The Diary of Angelina Grimke, 1828-1835. Edited by Charles Wilbanks. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2003. Print.

Hartog, Hendrik. Man and Wife in America: A History. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000. eBook.

Hawes, Joseph M., and Elizabeth Nybakken, eds. American Families: A Research Guide and Historical Handbook. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1991. Print.

Mather, Cotton. The mystical marriage. A brief essay, on, the grace of the Redeemer espousing the soul of the believer. Boston: Printed for N. Belknap, and sold at his shop near Scarlet's Wharf, 1728. Web. <Evans Digital Database>.

Mather, Increase. Practical truths, plainly delivered. Boston, MA: Bartholomew Green, 1717. Web. <Evans Digital Database>.

Payne, Karen. Between Ourselves: Letters Between Mothers and Daughters, 1750-1982. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1983. Print.

Reinsch, Paul Samuel. English common law in the American colonies. 2004 ed.     Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin, 1889. eBook.

Rothman, Ellen K. Hands and Hearts: A History of Courtship in America. New York: Basic Books, 1984. Print.

Secker, William. A wedding ring fit for the finger; or The salve of divinity on the sore of humanity. With directions to those men that want wives, how to choose them; and to those women who have husbands, how to use them. Boston: S.G. for B. Harris at the London Coffee House, 1690. Web. <EEBO>.