Ep. 10: Gender in Early America

In this episode, Ken Owen, Michael Hattem, Roy Rogers, and Sara Damiano discuss how female gender roles changed from the colonial period through the American Revolution, as well as the ways in which gender historians approach archival sources and approaches to teaching gender history.


Gender history and women’s history emerged as a major field in the late 1960s and 1970s. Some of the most pioneering work in the nascent field was done by historians of early America covering the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. For example, through the fascinating and groundbreaking work of historians such as Lois Green Carr and Lorena Walsh, we learned about women in the early Chesapeake. Subsequent work by Mary Beth Norton and Linda Kerber illuminated the impact of the American Revolution on gender roles with the rise of “republican motherhood.” In recent decades, scholars have continued producing work that tells us more and more about the role of women in the economy of the colonial period and early republic, the impact of elite women on national politics, and the complexities and diversities of the experiences of female slaves and Native American women. Over the past four decades, gender history has been one of the most exciting and consistently vibrant subfields in early American history.


Sara Damiano is a PhD candidate in the History Department at Johns Hopkins University. She has been a Dissertation Fellow at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies and is a member of The Junto. Her research links gender, economic and legal history in order to investigate the operation of gendered power within social institutions in early America and the British Atlantic World.


  • What kind of roles did women have in colonial society?
  • How were gender roles defined and how rigidly were they enforced?
  • How did women contribute to the American Revolution and social change?
  • How did gender influence the way early colonists understood Native Americans?
  • What does the story of Pocahontas tell us about gender in early America?
  • How crucial were women to the imperial resistance movement in the 1760s?
  • Did the American Revolution change the status of women?
  • What is “republican motherhood?”
  • When was the first great wave of early American women’s history produced?
  • What is the distinction between “gender history” and “women’s history?”
  • What are the unique challenges faced by historians trying to understand gender and women in early America?
  • How do we teach early American women’s and gender history?


As always, you can subscribe to “The JuntoCast” in iTunes or via RSS. The JuntoCast is also available on Spreaker, and recent episodes are also available at SoundCloud and YouTube.


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Zagarri, Rosemarie. Revolutionary Backlash: Women and Politics in the Early American Republic. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008.

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