Ladies, Women, and Wenches
Choice and Constraint in Antebellum Charleston and Boston
Jane H. Pease
By comparing the women of Charleston and Boston, the authors explore how both urbanization and regional differences -- especially with regard to slavery -- governed all women's lives. They assess the impact of marriage and work on women's religious, philanthropic, and reform activity and examine the female uses of education and property in order to illuminate the considerable variation in women's lives. Finally, they consider women's choices of life-style, ranging from compliance with to defiance of increasingly rigid social precepts defining appropriate female behavior.
However bound women were by society's prescriptions describing their role or by the class structure of their society, they chose their ways of life from among such options as spinsterhood or marriage, domesticity or paid work, charitable activity or the social whirl, the solace of religion or the escape of drink. Drawing on a variety of sources including diaries, court documents, and contemporary literature, Ladies, Women, and Wenches explores how the women of Charleston and Boston made the choices in their lives between total dependence and full autonomy.