What Was Life Like for Puritan Women?

Life as a Puritan woman was very regimented with societal dictates for clothing, speech, family structure and religion. Varying from those expectations often resulted in social and physical punishment. Compared to life in England, life expectancy increased, marriage age was later and couples married for love rather than monetary stability or family standing.

Puritan women were considered secondary to men in the community and were forced, sometimes physically, to behave as men wanted them to. They had to dress a certain way, marry and raise families and attend church. Women were not allowed to participate in local or church government. A woman was completely subservient to the desires of her father, then her husband and even community leaders.

These restrictions were due to the belief that women were weak, susceptible to temptation and needed to be guided by those who knew better in order to gain God's approval. Women did not have legal rights to own property or conduct business. They did have the right to choose their husbands and also could divorce under certain limited circumstances. Birth control, even limited as the options were, was considered sinful, and large families were a societal expectation.

Women did have social standing, however, and behind-the-scenes control of the men in their families was typical. Within their social sphere, women did have liberties and responsibilities.