Sunday, August 13, 2017

It would be statistically more correct to say that many Puritans led their husbands to America

From Albion's Seed by David Hackett Fischer. Page 25.
To a remarkable degree, the founders of Massachusetts traveled in families—more so than any major ethnic group in American history. In one contingent of 700 who sailed from Great Yarmouth (Norfolk) and Sandwich (Kent), 94 percent consisted of family groups. Among another group of 680 emigrants, at least 88 percent traveled with relatives, and 73 percent arrived as members of complete nuclear families. These proportions were the highest in the history of American immigration.

The nuclear families that moved to Massachusetts were in many instances related to one another before they left England. A ballad of the great migration commemorated these ties:
Stay not among the Wicked,
Lest that with them you perish,
But let us to New-England go,
And the Pagan people cherish …
For Company I fear not,
There goes my cousin Hannah,
And Reuben so persuades to go
My Cousin Joyce, Susanna.
With Abigail and Faith,
And Ruth, no doubt, comes after;
And Sarah kind, will not stay behind;
My cousin Constance daughter.
From the start, this exceptionally high level of family integration set Massachusetts apart from other American colonies.

Equally extraordinary was the pattern of age distribution. America’s immigrants have typically been young people in their teens and twenties. A distribution which is “age-normal” in demographic terms is decidedly exceptional among immigrant populations. But more than 40 percent of immigrants to the Massachusetts Bay Colony were mature men and women over twenty-five, and nearly half were children under sixteen. Only a few migrants were past the age of sixty, but in every other way the distribution of ages was remarkably similar to England’s population in general.

Also unusual was the distribution of sexes, which differed very much from most colonial populations. The gender ratio of European migrants to Virginia was four men for every woman. In New Spain it was ten men for every woman; in Brazil, one hundred men for every Portuguese woman. Only a small minority of immigrants in those colonies could hope to live in households such as they had left behind in Europe. But in the Puritan migration to Massachusetts, the gender ratio was approximately 150 males for every 100 females. From an early date, normal family life was not the exception but the rule. As early as 1635, the Congregational churches of New England had more female than male members. Our stereotypical image of the Puritan is a man; but the test of church membership tells us that most Puritans were women. One historian infers from the gender ratio that “many Puritans brought their wives along”; it would be statistically more correct to say that many Puritans led their husbands to America.

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