Life in the Thirteen Colonies

Start Free Trial

You are a poor but respectable young woman from East Anglia. You are intelligent, literate, and a good worker, but there are no good opportunities for employment at home or even in London. You want more out of life and hope to get ahead in the world. Therefore, you have decided to take your chances as an indentured servant in the English colonies. After your period of indenture, you hope to settle down and get married. Which colony do you choose? Why? 

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I would chose Pennsylvania. It was one of the most prosperous colonies. Pennsylvania had a good climate for growing various crops and served as the "breadbasket" of the colonies. While some diseases would occasionally be problematic, the colony was relatively free from malaria outbreaks. This is in contrast with the Southern colonies, where mosquito-borne diseases killed thousands of indentured servants every year.

The colony would also be relatively peaceful. Under the leadership of William Penn, colonists would have to buy Native American land instead of taking it through warfare or other means. As a result, the early days of the colony would see many Native American groups come to Pennsylvania looking for fair treatment.

Finally, there was a diverse population in Pennsylvania. Philadelphia, the colony's leading city, was one of the most modern cities in the American colonies. The colony would be known for both agriculture and industry. Due to its climate, population, and relative peacefulness, this would be an ideal colony for a young woman to settle in. Also, since you do not mention the woman's religious preferences, she could practice the religion of her choosing, as the Quakers were not particularly willing to force their beliefs upon others. This is in contrast with the New England colonies.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

If I were this smart, innovative woman who had to endure indentured servitude, in which I did not receive pay for my labor, I would choose to join the Maroons, who made a home for themselves in the Great Dismal Swamps in the area that is now known as Virginia. The Maroon communities were comprised of (mostly) escaped black slaves, as well as escaped indentured servants and indigenous folks who refused to be removed from their region, who escaped together into areas that they could more easily defend from colonial soldiers and slave catchers. In the Great Dismal Swamps, the Maroons were able to live in the swamps, making a life trading with folks on the outskirts of the swamps, and were able to avoid capture from slave catchers and soldiers because they understood how to navigate and hide in the swamps better than anyone else. If I were this woman, I would refuse to be a part of the colonial laws that enslaved black people, murdered and stole from indigenous peoples, and oppressed women of every race. Instead, I would join the Maroons of the Great Dismal Swamp, and find friendship and a romantic partner (perhaps another woman who also escaped indentured servitude or slavery) and live out my life with other freedom seekers and rebels.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Pennsylvania colony would be the colony of choice for a woman in the described situation. Its main thrust was not necessarily religious, though there were many Quakers, Amish, Mennonite, and others. The colony's founder, William Penn, espoused the value of religious freedom and democracy and invited Christians of many denominations into the governing bodies.The religious atmosphere was tolerant, unlike some of the other English colonies, and would allow for meeting people with diverse ways of thinking and valuing, particularly regarding the role of women. Colonists came from other parts of Europe, making the population more diverse and cosmopolitan than the eastern colonies.

As far as opportunity once the period of indentured servitude was completed, the Pennsylvania colony was progressive, and Philadelphia eventually emerged as America's premier city with many services for its citizens and initially, few taxes. Relationships with Native Americans were, unlike in most of the other colonies (except Maryland), relatively peaceful and just.

Cottage industries thrived in the Pennsylvania colony, and as a literate, hard worker, a young woman would have a better chance of finding opportunities to earn money and meet a man who could work independently. Quality public education for children became available early in the colony, another benefit of settling there to raise a family.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial