Chapter

Kith and Kin Women's Networks in Colonial Virginia

Joan R. Gundersen

in The Devil's Lane

Published in print June 1997 | ISBN: 9780195112436
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199854271 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195112436.003.0007
Kith and Kin Women's Networks in Colonial Virginia

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This chapter explores the crucial period between 1700–75 during which women's social contacts moved from an integrated circle of family, neighbors, servants, slaves, and mistresses to a dual system. Many women developed more extended networks shaped by class lines, while continuing to participate in a set of local contacts that transcended class and race. Because the traditional sources of friendship studies—letters and diaries—are a product of the transformation under study, such materials are available only for the latter part of the period. This study has sought glimpses of women's lives as they began to invest female friendships with new meaning. This transformation is generational, and involves both social and economic factors. Most surprisingly, the evidence suggests that the factors historians often consider isolating—illiteracy, childbirth, and housework—could generate social contacts, and continued to do so for women who were not part of the elite.

Keywords: women's networks; colonial Virginia; friendships; letters; diaries; social factors; economic factors; elite; social contacts

Chapter.  9248 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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