1692 – 1783 Settler Colonialism and the Revolution Settler Colonialism

Key Ideas

1. The eighteenth century was a period of growth and change for the American colonies.

2. The experiences of women in the American colonies varied widely based on race, class, age, and geographic region.

3. Women played active and integrated roles in colonial societies across the Americas. The history of this time period cannot be properly understood without including their contributions.

Introduction

Detail from Jean-Charles Baquoy, Frontspiece, Atlas Universel, 1757. Gilles and Didier. Robert de Vaugondy, cartographers. New-York Historical Society Library.

Settler Colonialism, 1692-1783

In the eighteenth century, life in the American colonies evolved from the conquest and struggle for survival that characterized the earliest period of colonization into a phase that scholars call settler colonialism.

In this period, European settlers from all the major imperial powers expanded colonial territories beyond their original borders, and women of all races and classes were critical to these efforts. The Spanish stretched into Alta California, the French down the Mississippi River into Louisiana. The British took control of the Dutch colony of New Netherland, renamed it New York, and diligently secured their new territory. New powers even appeared on the fringes of the continent.

This expansion did not occur peacefully. Native populations across the continent actively resisted the encroachment of European settlers, and settlers from different countries inevitably clashed with one another. Women were leaders and victims of this constant warfare, which in the East culminated in the outbreak of the French and Indian War.

For more information about women’s societal roles in the 17th and 18th centuries, watch the video below.

This video is from “Women Have Always Worked,” a free massive open online course produced in collaboration with Columbia University.

Section Essential Questions

1. Why were women critical to the efforts of settler colonialism?

2. How were women’s activities in this era circumscribed by social and legal limitations?

3. What effect did a woman’s race, class, or social differences have on her life in this era?

4. Why is it important to learn about the experiences of a diverse group of people when studying the past?

Resources

Young Lenni-Lenape women sign a treaty selling Staten Island to the government of colonial New York.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
Indigenous cultures of the Americas, European conquest of the Americas, English conquest, British colonies in North America
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A legal principle dating back to the Middle Ages that had significant impact on women’s lives.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
colonial society, British colonies in North America
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Puritan leader Cotton Mather gives young women advice on appropriate dress and behavior.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
colonial society, British colonies in North America
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Two works by artist Henrietta Johnston, the first professional female portraitist in the English colonies, illustrate the fashions and values of the eighteenth-century colonies.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
colonial society, British colonies in North America
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The indenture contract of nine-year-old Elizabeth Fortune reveals the opportunities available to young free Black women in colonial New York.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
free Black colonials, colonial society, British colonies in North America
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This skillfully painted hide demonstrates the craft and artistry of Quapaw women, and provides clues about the Quapaw’s relationship with French settlers and neighboring tribes.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
Indigenous cultures of the Americas, European conquest of the Americas, French conquest
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These excerpts from Milcah Martha Moore’s textbook reveal the tenets of an eighteenth-century Quaker education.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
colonial society, British colonies in North America
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These court cases reveal how enslaved Black people in Virginia sought freedom in the courts after the colonial government made manumitting enslaved people the responsibility of the government.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
colonial society, British colonies in North America, slavery, free Black colonials, self-emancipation, race and racism
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These pages from the log book of the Sloop Rhode Island starkly demonstrate the treatment of enslaved people during the Middle Passage.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
slavery, colonial society, British colonies in North America, race and racism
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This engraving illustrates George Washington’s meeting with Seneca leader Queen Aliquippa, an important ally of the British during the French and Indian War.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
Indigenous cultures of the Americas, French and Indian War
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This kind of trunk was provided to the poor, orphaned, and imprisoned French women who were shipped to colonial Louisiana to marry French settlers.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
colonial society
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This letter from Mary Alexander illuminates women’s roles in the thriving trade of British New York.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
colonial society, British colonies in North America
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This advertisement about a runaway enslaved woman contains fascinating clues about her life.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
slavery, self-emancipation, British colonies in North America
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This portrait of an affluent colonial family illustrates the different expectations of boys and girls in the eighteenth century.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
colonial society, British colonies in North America
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This sampler and chatelaine reveal the skills and responsibilities of upper-class eighteenth-century women.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
colonial society, British colonies in North America
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Margueritte Wiltz’s petition to marry a Spanish soldier captures the early expressions of white supremacy in Spanish Louisiana.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
colonial society, race and racism
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This portrait shows how free Black women in Spanish Louisiana turned an oppressive law into a celebration of individuality and culture.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
colonial society, race and racism, free Black colonials
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This drawing of the Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo shows the setting of Spanish efforts to convert and Europeanize Native populations in Alta California.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
Indigenous cultures of the Americas, European conquest of the Americas, Spanish conquest, race and racism
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This letter demonstrates that Russian colonial efforts relied on intermarriage between Russian traders and Native women.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
Indigenous cultures of the Americas, European conquest of the Americas, colonial society
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Life Stories

The story of a Dutch woman who traveled the world before opening a shop in British New York.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
colonial society, British colonies in North America
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The story of an enslaved Black woman caught up in the hysteria of the 1741 slave uprising.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
slavery, colonial society, British colonies in North America
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The story of a woman for sale in colonial New York.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
slavery, colonial society, British colonies in North America
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The story of a nonbinary and nonconforming preacher in colonial New England.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
colonial society, British colonies in North America, First Great Awakening
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The story of a métis fur trader of the Great Lakes region.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
Indigenous cultures of the Americas, colonial society, trade
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The story of a founding mother of St. Louis.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
colonial society, trade
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The story of a Quaker scientist, poet, and innovator.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
colonial society, British colonies in North America
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The story of an enslaved Native woman caught up in the Salem witch hysteria.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
colonial society, British colonies in North America, Indigenous cultures of the Americas, slavery
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The story of a Black woman who rose from plantation slave to plantation mistress in colonial Florida.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
slavery, free Black colonials, colonial society, trade
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The story of a Tongva wise woman who led a rebellion against a Spanish mission in Alta California.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS:
Indigenous cultures of the Americas, colonial society, Spanish conquest
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The story of a Puritan girl taken captive in a war with the French and Wabanaki.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS: