Regional and Ethnic Differences

While these broader-scale movements were important throughout the colonial period, children arriving in the colonies also had experiences unique to the regions in which they lived. Most of the groups moving from England to the Northern and Middle colonies were Protestant, whether Puritans and Pilgrims who came to New England, or English Quakers who settled in Delaware and Pennsylvania. Other major settlement groups coming from the European continent included the Protestant Lutherans, Moravians, and Amish. Children coming to these colonies had some things in common. Initially, they usually arrived in groups of extended family members. If one or both parents did not survive the first few difficult winters, there were aunts, uncles, cousins, or grandparents to serve in their place. The Northern colonies, in particular, became established fairly quickly, and family life was able to continue in much the same way it had in England and Europe, with colonists generally lived in towns or on small farms. Most of these Protestant groups argued for strong family structure. They also frequently had justified their move to North America by arguing it was for their children’s benefit. Prior to 1620, many Pilgrim families had moved to Leyden, Holland. Concerned about their children becoming too Dutch, the Pilgrims wanted to be able to raise them as English children without the English restrictions on their religion. The Protestant emphasis placed on literacy meant that most children were likely to learn to read. Their parents, in turn, were apt to have read some of the contemporary writing on raising children. Anne Bradstreet, a New England poet of the mid-seventeenth century, often made reference to her children in her poems, contemplating her love for them and wondering if she would die in childbirth and leave them without a mother. In contrast, children arriving in the Southern colonies had very different experiences. On arrival, the wealthy planter class of Virginia, Maryland, and the Carolinas were similar to their Northern counterparts. Able to afford the Atlantic passage, they had the option of moving their entire families as a complete group. Upon arrival, however, the warm Southern climate often proved disastrous for initial settlement. Mortality rates were far higher than in the Northern colonies. Only one in three marriages lasted for more than ten years without one or both partners dying. Nearly a quarter of all children died before reaching the age of 1, and 50 percent died before they reached 20. And, unlike the towns and small farms of the Northern and Middle colonies, most Southerners lived on isolated plantations. Immigrants too poor to afford the cost of passage arrived as indentured servants, trading seven years of service for the journey to North America, a parcel of land, and some tools and clothing. While most servants were single men and, in some cases, women, families occasionally agreed to take their chances with indentures. In these cases, most family members were automatically separated. While women were allowed to keep children under the age of 2 or 3, any other children were taken as servants on separate plantations. Unlike adults, their indentures could last anywhere from seven to twenty years, usually until they were adults. Unable to read or write, separated by the great distances between plantations, family ties were easily broken. By the 1680s, a native-born population was finally able to establish itself in the Southern colonies. While this led to greater stability for wealthy families, poor families were now pushed farther and farther west in the search for more land, further increasing the distance between separated parents and children. Children of African American descent occupied a still different position. Initially, their parents were brought to the Southern colonies as indentured servants. In time, like their white counterparts, they had the hope of finishing their indenture ships and gaining farms of their own. By the 1670s and 1680s, however, permanent servitude for African Americans had become more common. Race lines were also being established; a child born to an African American woman was automatically a slave, regardless of the father’s race. Family members were again frequently separated and isolated on distant plantations. The late seventeenth century also saw African Americans being brought to the Northern colonies, usually as slaves. While their children were born into slavery, they tended to live and work in close quarters with the families who owned them. Unlike their Southern counterparts, they were more apt to have contact with free African American families, who tended to live in Northern cities. Children of free African American families had few options available to them: working as servants, as day laborers, or in the maritime trades. Most parents raising children in the colonial period looked to their children’s future. Well-off parents could usually guarantee some form of education, if not for their daughters, at least for their sons. Families in the middle and lower classes at least hoped to provide training in some skill for their children, often through apprenticeships. An apprenticeship was a set amount of time, usually five to eight years, during which the apprentice received food, housing, job skills, and, sometimes, a small salary in exchange for their labor. Over the course of the apprenticeship an individual passed from apprentice to journeyman and finally to master. Under the best circumstances, apprentices were then able to start businesses of their own. As the system had few regulations, apprentices were often used as a source of menial labor and did not always receive the skills they needed. While formal apprenticeships were less common for girls, some existed for trades such millinery work, dressmaking, or midwifery. Another means for a young girl to acquire skills was to live with another family for a time, treated either as a servant or an additional daughter, preferably gaining such domestic skills as spinning, weaving, and preserving. Again, like the apprentice system, there was little or no way to govern how beneficial the experience would be.Societal Cleavages of Nigeria – SMIC Comparative Government holidaymapq

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