As a woman planning to go to the English colonies as an indentured servant, which colony do you choose? Why? 1. Massachusetts Bay 2. Pennsylvania 3. Maryland 4. Virginia

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The colony where you decide to settle depends in part on this woman's background. You should start your paper with a strong thesis statement about which colony this woman might choose to live in and why. 

If this woman is not a Puritan, she will not feel at home in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. As your textbook explains, the Massachusetts Bay Colony was founded by Puritans with a religious ideology. This woman is literate, as many Puritans were (because they emphasized reading the Bible). The Puritans were intolerant of other religions, so if this woman is not a Puritan or does not follow their laws, Massachusetts is not likely the right colony for her.

Virginia and Maryland had many indentured servants and offered a headright system by which former indentured servants were given 50 acres if they paid their own passage from England. This system might be something that would attract this woman. However, Virginia in particular also had an increasingly brutal system of slavery, particularly after Bacon's Rebellion in 1676 (Maryland also had slavery). Elite Virginians were worried about the large class of white indentured servants in their midst and sought to break the indentured servants' alliance with black slaves by instituting a harsh system of racial slavery that kept blacks at the bottom of the ladder. This is a negative aspect of the Virginian society, as is the harshness of the labor required to grow crops such as tobacco. While Maryland had fewer slaves than Virginia, it also had a system of slavery. Maryland was also largely dedicated to growing tobacco, like Virginia. However, unlike Virginia, Maryland was originally a haven for Catholics. Therefore, if this woman is Catholic, she would feel at home in Maryland. 

Pennsylvania was founded as a Quaker colony, and it pursued a policy of pacifism with Native Americans. Your textbook says the following of Philadelphia, "The city, and indeed all of Pennsylvania, appeared to be the best country for poor men and women, many of whom arrived as servants and dreamed of owning land." Pennsylvania was a place where indentured servants could work as farmers following their servitude and therefore this colony might be attractive to this woman.

teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If I were a woman going out as an indentured servant and had to choose one of the four colonies listed, I would pick Pennsylvania. All of the colonies named were patriarchal, meaning that men ran society and that men had most of the legal and economic rights. However, the Massachusetts Bay colony was strictly Puritan, did not allow religious freedom, and enforced high degrees of patriarchy. Pennsylvania, in contrast, was founded by the Quakers, who believed that God's spirit was poured out equally on men and women. The colony still subordinated women, just not to the same level as the Puritans.

Pennsylvania also prospered as a middle-class colony, whereas in Maryland and Virginia there were sharper divisions between rich and poor. I would chiefly choose Pennsylvania over either of those two southern colonies because it was less dependent on slave labor. Slavery was allowed in Pennsylvania in the colonial period, but it was less important to the economy than in the South, in part because so much wheat was grown in Pennsylvania. Wheat was often cultivated on small plots of 50 acres or fewer. As a result, it did not require large pools of slave labor to tend to it. Personally, I would not have wanted to live in a colony with a large number of slaves; slavery was generally understood to create a society of "haves and have-nots," which was corrupting and debilitating for everyone, rich and poor alike.