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Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England 1650 - 1750, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980), 37-38.

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"...Most occupations were indeed gender-linked, yet colonial Englishmen were far less concerned with abstract notions like 'femininity' than with concrete roles like 'wife' or 'neighbor.' Almost any task was suitable for a woman as long as it furthered the good of her family and was aceptable to her husband. This approach was both fluid and fixed. It allowed for varied behaviour without really challenging the patriarchal order of society. There was no proscription against female farming, for example, but there were strong prescriptions toward dutiful wifehood and motherhood. Context was everything.

In discussing the ability of colonial women to take on male duties, most historians have assumed a restrictive ideology in Anglo-American society, an essentially negative valuation of female capacity. Some historians have argued that this negative ideology was offset by the realities of colonial life; others have concluded it was not...[I] reverse the base of the argument, suggesting that even in America ideology was more permissive than reality. Under the right conditions any wife not only could double as a husband, she had the responsibility to do so. In the probate courts, for example, widows who did not have grown sons were routinely granted administration of their husbands' estates. Gender restrictions were structural rather than psychological. Although there was no female line of inheritance, wives were presumed capable of husbanding property which male heirs would eventually inerit.

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