Family Structure

Sarah Peterson and Savannah Stancil

Father's Role in the 1600's

Job: Men typically worked on farms and grew their own food, men grew the crops, hunted, and fished.
Relationship: The father had control over his children, it was likely they arranged marriages it became justified on the basis that he provided for the child’s needs.

As time went on the father became legally responsible for the child: feeding, clothing, and housing, education, training for a trade, inculcation of religious beliefs, etc. The fathers role towards his children in the early 1600s solidified his authority over the house/family.

Mother's Role

Beginning in the early to mid 1600’s in Pre-Colonial America women played numerous major roles in regard to work and religion and were quite knowledgeable on a wide variety of topics, especially those related to child-rearing, household duties and serving the Church. Yet despite being “subordinate to their husbands” at both home and church, “Puritan ‘goodwives’ played an important part in the economies of their households and husbands entrusted them with a wide range of practical responsibilities.”


Involvement:The mother wasn’t involved, because under the coverture system, which stated that she legally didn’t exist, she and her husband were considered “one” and she couldn’t provide for the children anyway because she legally did not have the capability to own property or to contract.

Job: Women usually took care of the poultry and the dairy, did the milking, made butter and cheese, brewed the beer. Women often made their own money by selling their surplus chickens, eggs, butter cheese, beer etc. They also made household items like soap and candles. Women would spend a lot of time spinning flax or wool into thread to be woven into cloth, spinning was a very common female occupation in the pre-industrial era, the word 'spinster' was in common usage until quite recently to indicate an unmarried woman. They would make alot of their own clothes as well.

Role in the home: Women were also expected to be the family doctors, and to make home remedies for illnesss,and be able to treat a wide variety of complaints. Women maintained the needs of the household and actively performing in church functions while leading a “Puritan” lifestyle based on religious purity, chastity and devotion to one’s family, husband, children and fellow men and women within their communities.

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Children's Role

In the 1600's, puritan children were expected to behave under extremely strict codes, the same codes as the adults during the time period. Children were expected to do their chores with great diligence as well as to their parents standards. Not only were the children also expected to attend church services as well as a daily bible study, but they were also expected to repress individual differences.

Although children had limited rights and were held under strict rules and regulations of their parents, young boys had more opportunities than young girls. Boys were not only allowed to explore the outdoors and partake in activities such as fishing and hunting, but they also often partook in working as apprentices outside the home, practicing mainly carpentry. However, young girls were brought up much differently than the young boys. Girls were expected to cook, wash, clean, sew, and tend to their mother's needs on a daily basis. The mother's of the daughters taught them to work around the house starting at a very young age due to the fact that being a midwife was one of the most prestigious jobs a woman could obtain.

Many puritan children learned to read and write, however the majority of households only owned one book, The Holy Bible. Most children attended a "petty school", which taught the children the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Older boys tended to go on to grammar school in order to further their knowledge, however many children left school early in order to work.
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Random Facts

  • The puritan leader was named John Winthrop.
  • They were alliances and many times, best friends, with Quakers.
  • Puritans believed that it was only possible to go to Heaven if you were apart of the elect, which was very rare, and if you weren't apart of the elect, you would be destined to Hell.
  • Puritans strongly believed that drinking alcohol was an unforgivable sin.
  • A minister's sermon of the puritan church could last up to six hours with restroom breaks and intermissions.
  • At meals, children were expected to serve their parents first, as well as stand throughout the entire meal.

Cited Sources

Dalke, Anne, and Ralph W. Emerson. ""Nothing's Sacred"." Serendip. 18 Apr. 2006. 8
May 2006 .


"Family Structure - US Colonial to 1899."Eye-opening Memos on Everything Family. The Fact Book, n.d. Web. 6 Mar. 2013. <http://www.pobronson.com/factbook/page.html.


Gallo, Marina. "Family Life in "The Scarlet Letter" and "The Adventures of." Serendip Studio. Big Books, n.d. Web. 7 Mar. 2013. <http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/sci_cult/courses


"Salem Witch Trials - 1692 Salem - Puritan Children - School.DiscoveryEducation.com." Puritan Children. Discovery Education, n.d. Web. 6 Mar. 2013. <http://school.discoveryeducation.com/school.html.