Although women came to America expecting some of the same liberties and freedoms their men fought for, it was a long time before they were able to enjoy the rights and freedoms they enjoy today. Colonial America saw laws and customs relating to women’s roles that were, in some cases, more stringent than those that existed in England at the time. Women were prevented from owning property, negotiate their own contracts or even keep any of their own wages. These restrictions on what a woman could do or own were partly due to the fact that most women were not considered intelligent enough to consider all the consequences involved in managing business or political situations. Most could not prove otherwise as they did not have the access to formal schooling that would have provided them with the skills necessary as proof. “In colonial times, formal learning had a low priority. Girls’ education typically took place at home, where they learned to perform household tasks and, occasionally, to read” (Woloch, 2007). Typically, apprenticeship for girls taught them only how to be better housewives, with the occasional specification that the girls be taught to read the English tongue. “Only a minority of girls attended New England’s primary schools or the dame schools that also taught children to read” (Woloch, 2007).
By the beginning of the 1800s, more and more people were moving into the industrialized cities, creating a strong middle-class population in which the ideal life consisted of a father going off to work and a mother who stayed at home and reared the children.