Challenge the leftist academic narrative on Puritan women

According to George McKenna:

American history becomes a story of the valiant struggles of…women against oppression by wealthy white males. From the earliest Puritan times, women’s status “was something akin to a house slave”; Anne Hutchinson was banished merely for insisting “that she, and other ordinary people, could interpret the Bible for themselves.”

That sounds like leftist academic narrative to me. It ignores the fact that men (like Roger Williams) were also banished for making theological claims. If the academic narrative is correct, women were so oppressed that:

From this seventeenth-century comment upon the size of the women’s bonnets, it may be seen that objections to women’s overwhelming and obscuring headgear in public assemblies are not entirely complaining protests of modern growth.

Other records refer to the annoyance from the exaggerated size of bonnets. In 1769 the church in Andover openly “put to vote whether the parish Disapprove of the Female sex sitting with their Hats on in the Meeting-house in time of Divine Service as being Indecent.” The parish did Disapprove, with a capital D, for the vote passed in the affirmative.

There is no record, however, to tell whether the Indecent fashion was abandoned, but I warrant no tithingman was powerful enough to make Andover women take off their proudly worn Sunday bonnets if they did not want to. Another town voted that it was the “Town’s Mind” that the women should take off their bonnets and “hang them on the peggs,” as did the men their headgear.

But the Town’s Mind was not a Woman’s Mind; and the big-bonnet wearers, vain though they were Puritans, did as they pleased with their own bonnets. And indeed, in spite of votes and in spite of expostulations, the female descendants of the Puritans, through constantly recurring waves of fashion, have ever since been indecently wearing great obscuring hats and bonnets in public assemblies, even up to the present day.

Quote sources

  1. McKenna, G. (2007).The Puritan Origins of American Patriotism. Yale University Press, New Haven, p. 324
  2. Earle, A.M. (1891). The Sabbath in Puritan New England. Available http://www.reformed.org/books/gutenberg/sabbath/index.html?mainframe=/books/gutenberg/sabbath/The_Sabbath_in_Puritan_New_England.html. Last accessed 30th Aug 2015.
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