Diversity in Early America

April 4, 2018 Nursing

Race/Ethnicity During the Colonial period and 1800’s there were a few different cultures and ethnic groups that behaved quite differently yet had some similarities. Among these groups are the Puritans, Native Americans, Europeans. Between different ethnic groups and cultures, there were many contrasting styles of childrearing. In the mid to late 1700’s, these contrasting styles with Native Americans, Puritans, and Europeans started right from birth to just before adolescence. First, Native American mothers would always nurse their own children and would nurse them for a period of 4 years or more.

European women would almost always use wet nurses and would nurse their children for a significantly shorter period of time. The Puritan mothers commonly had another mother nurse their child for around 4 days, and then nursed their children themselves (Mintz, 2004, p. #17). A result of these differing practices was the fewer amount of children that Native American women had opposed to European woman. Both European and Native American average number of children was significantly less than the Puritans, seeing as Puritans would usually have around four to eight children.

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Also Native American women would be more attached to their children because of the low number of children. This is shown by a mother and father’s response to their children’s death. Native American mothers were said to have cried and mourned over their deceased child’s grave for months after the death occurred. European mothers only showed mere resignation after their child’s death (Mints, 2004, p#35). A few similarities between these three cultures were the way that they surrounded the scene of birth.

The Native Americans, Europeans, and Puritans all had a birthing ceremony. The Native Americans had a baptism like ceremony where the child’s “public name” was announced in front of the tribe and oils were rubbed onto the child’s head. The Europeans and Puritans both had a baptism ceremony where the child’s name was announced. Another similarity between the different cultures was the use of boards or cloths to help children grow correctly. The Native Americans would use cradleboards to help the child’s bones grow straight, the European’s would se swaddling cloths to assure correct growth after birth, and the Puritans used boards and bands to assure proper growth of bones and also to keep children out of the way of parents (Mintz, 2004, p# 16, 34). There were a few differences between the way that Native Americans, Europeans, and American settlers were married in the early 1800’s. Native Americans did not make up the typical views of a nuclear family as seen by American settlers. Native Americans at this time were practicing polygamy, had no sense of private property, and would sometimes have wives that lived miles and miles away from their husband (Cott, 2000, p#27).

The American settlers were fixed on almost the exact opposite. They practiced monogamy, ownership of land, and having a family within their privately owned land. The Europeans also believed in monogamy, ownership of land, and having a family within their privately owned land. The difference between the Europeans and American settlers was that American settlers practiced ways of informal marriage that seemed to hinge on sexual relations, while Europeans believed in only formal means of marriage (Cott, 2000, p #31).

A similarity of marriage between Native Americans, American settlers, and Europeans is their intolerance of interracial marriage and relationship. Native Americans and American relationships were prohibited by law before the Civil War. The federal government gave law making powers to the states, although still pushing for non-interracial marriages. Despite their freedom to choose, at least a dozen states still outlawed interracial marriages (Cott, 2000, p#28). The Native Americans also were not very fond of interracial marriages. They were content with their own way of life and allowing the males in the tribe more than one wife.

The male Native Americans were also allowed to abandon their wives at will. If married to an American settler, these rules would have to change (Cott, 2000, p#26) Finally, Europeans, Native Americans, and American Settlers had different family structures. The Europeans had a type of family structure called gentry families. This is when land and homes were passes down from previous generations through the oldest son. Gentry families were very difficult to carry on in America. Americans gave up on continuing primogeniture and gave land to everyone in the family.

From this came three different family models. Artisanal households were much like a plantation did. They would consist of the father, mother, children, then servants and laborers. Next, clans consisted of non related families that interacted economically as a community. Last of the newly formed American models, private families consisted of just the father, mother, and children tied to each other by affection (Mintz, 2004, p#49). Native American families consisted of a husband, multiple wives, children, divorced wives, and in a way we could also consider the entire tribe part of a Native American family.

A similarity between the Native American, American settler, and European family models is the father figure. In all three different culture’s models, the father is the one that primarily supports the family. At first, the Native American fathers were said to be the hunters of the family, but after 1800 they were forced into male dominant families. By being male dominant, the males not did the agricultural work and had more control over women (Cott, 2000, p#26). The American settlers also had a male dominant household at this time.

The three family models mentioned earlier; Clans, private families, and artisanal families, all had a male dominancy. In each of these, the father was given the task of having a job, running a workforce, and having control over all property. Lastly, European families were in their gentry family stage. Gentry families hinged on the dominant male member of the family owning the land, and controlling what was done with the land to support the family. I think that the group I relate to the most is the Europeans. I can relate really well to their views of monogamy and I think that it is the right way to practice marriage.

I can also relate to their gentry family model. In the model the land and industry is handed down to the oldest son. This reminds me of present time, when there are instances where a father will try to hand down the family business to his son. Finally I relate to the Europeans because of their belief in formal marriage. My family is very religious and there is a lot of pressure to wed in a legal and formal matter, preferably in a church. When earliest contact was made between the Native Americans and settlers, the settlers noted that their practices of marriage were

When the children had grown to the point where they could begin to care for themselves, childcare differed even more. During this period of their children’s lives, Europeans believed that physical punishment was necessary in bringing up a disciplined adult. If a European child committed an offense, the child would be whipped or beaten without anyone stopping to think that it was wrong. The Native Americans, on the other hand, thought that a child could grow up to become a perfectly normal adult without those types of punishment.

Their punishments consisted of gently telling the child what he had done wrong in fear that threats and beatings would make their child timid (Mintz,2004, p#36). The Puritans also had different practices of childrearing. Unlike both the Native Americans and Europeans, the Puritans thought of children as potential sinners from birth. They thought that children had aggressive impulses pre-built into their brains that needed to be stopped. A way that the Puritans stopped these impulses was by making childhood a controlled training period (Mintz, 2004, p#10).

This was extremely different from the practices previously mentioned because even the Native Americans and Europeans both let their children play and have freedom to some extent. Also, Puritans believed that wet nursing was a bad practice and encouraged the spread of maternal nursing after birth. Despite this, the Puritans were less attached to their children than Europeans and certainly Native Americans. When the death of a child occurred, the Puritans were supposed to accept deaths with resignation. If the child died before baptism, the child was said to be doomed to hell (Mintz, 2004, p#15).


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