Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Frum & Colonial Women

My feminist opinions have taken control of my education. This term, I'm taking a course called, "U.S. Women's History" because I figured, "If I want to change things, I'd better know how they were changed in the past."

I'm only at the very beginning of the history right now and I'm finding similarities between modern frum societies and early Colonial American societies. The patriarchal system that ruled families, called "Domestic Patriarchy", in particular, has a lot in common with expectations in the frum world.

Let's start with education. Like in the frum world, boys and girls growing up in Colonial times received differing educations based on the roles that were set up for them in society. They all received "moral education," like the Jewish studies classes both boys and girls get in the frum world, but when it came to practical studies boys were taught reading, writing, and math, and girls were taught "French, sewing and knitting". (Delegard & Hewitt, p.98)

Granted today in frum society girls are also taught those basic subjects, but we're taught them so that we can care for our husbands and children, which pretty much equates with why Colonial girls were only taught "French, sewing and knitting". It was, "Parents [instructing] their children to take their proper place in [...] society by training them to perform tasks appropriate to their sex." (Delegard & Hewitt, p.97)

As for the life of those girls when they grew up, they were "encouraged to practice submissiveness to authority. [...] Gentlemen insisted that wives be submissive to their husbands, and women tolerated, and even on occasion supported, a subordinate role within the family". (Delegard & Hewitt, p.86)

I read that sentence and said to myself, "That could have been written about frum society today!"

And how about this: "A woman could expect to give birth every two to three years from marriage to menopause". (Delegard & Hewitt, p.89)

Another similarity.

I'm not necessarily writing this as a criticism, although I do find patriarchy appalling; I'm just noticing the similarities and am looking forward to studying how these women progressed in society, because I think the frum world needs a model to work from.

List of Works Cited:

Delegard, Kirsten and Hewitt, Nancy. "Women, Families, and Communities: Readings in American History." 2nd ed. Pearson Longman: New York.