British attempts to establish colonies in North America began in late 16th century. The settlers who arrived in Americas had to face many hardships. They also established their own culture, society and religious conventions.
The early settlers suffered a lot of difficulties. They were in an unfamiliar territory with no friends or guides to help them. The Pilgrims that came in 1620 had to face harsh winters and spent most of their time on board the ship ‘Mayflower’. The Virginian settlers fought against mosquitoes, contaminated waters, and native attacks. A vast majority of colonists died due to diseases and injuries. The survivors found themselves at the mercy of the Native Americans.
The American colonies had a very diverse population and culture. Middle period colonies especially were a hub of diversity. Various ethnic and religious groups such as English, Swedish, Yorkers, Dutch, Yankees, Germans, Scot-Irish, Anglicans, Presbyterians and Quakers settled in the colonies. The American political system was quite liberal, and all groups were allowed to participate in it.
Religion was one of the key factors behind the formation of the American colonies. Pilgrims created the Plymouth colony because they wanted to practice their religion freely. Massachusetts Bay Colony was created by non-separatist puritans who wanted to establish a separate church that would revolutionize the Church of England. Quakers, another religious group, settled in Philadelphia. Maryland became a haven for Catholics.
Initially, the relations between the Native Indians and the colonists had been good. Both parties benefited from each other. The Indians got their hands on modern equipment such as knives, axes and cooking utensils. In exchange, the colonists learned to survive in the wilderness. The first Thanksgiving feast was organized in 1621 during which the Plymouth colony residents and the Pokanoket tribe were present.
However, as the colonists’ desire for land grew, the Native Indians began to panic and the relationship between both parties turned sour. Wars and constant conflicts became common. Examples included Powhatan Wars, Starving period and Beaver Wars, Pequot Wars, and King Phillip’s Wars. All of these conflicts were bloody and led to the loss of many lives.
The life of women during the colonial period was not easy. Education was not considered necessary for females as they were expected to obey their husband’s orders and learn the skills required for home management. Due to this, the majority of women remained illiterate. Along with taking care of their home and children, women also created candles, took care of the life stocks, worked in the garden, and made baskets. They worked from dawn till dusk.
During the colonial period, females had very few rights. They did not have the right to vote. Domestic abuse was considered acceptable. Married women couldn’t own property or make a will. Widows and single females had more freedom. They could sign a contract, make a will, sell, and buy a property. Upon their husband’s death, the widows received one-third of the property. In some cases, widows even ended up taking over their husband’s businesses.