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Puritans Behaving Badly
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Book description

Tracing the first three generations in Puritan New England, this book explores changes in language, gender expectations, and religious identities for men and women. The book argues that laypeople shaped gender conventions by challenging the ideas of ministers and rectifying more traditional ideas of masculinity and femininity. Although Puritan's emphasis on spiritual equality had the opportunity to radically alter gender roles, in daily practice laymen censured men and women differently – punishing men for public behavior that threatened the peace of their communities, and women for private sins that allegedly revealed their spiritual corruption. In order to retain their public masculine identity, men altered the original mission of Puritanism, infusing gender into the construction of religious ideas about public service, the creation of the individual, and the gendering of separate spheres. With these practices, Puritans transformed their 'errand into the wilderness' and the normative Puritan became female.

Reviews

‘In Puritans Behaving Badly, Monica D. Fitzgerald reveals a vibrant and contentious seventeenth-century society. Through gossip, confrontations, and church discipline, neighbors sought to defend reputations and sustain their communities. Deeply researched and well written, this book offers many rich insights about the social roles of men and women.'

Alan Taylor - author of Thomas Jefferson's Education

‘Fitzgerald's thorough exploration of the disruptions in Puritan hegemony in early New England brilliantly underscores the gendered nuances of a heavily gendered ‘lived faith' that heavily censured aberrations in feminine and masculine performances of identity. A truly impressive and thoughtful contribution to the scholarship of Puritanism and gender history.'

Sandra Slater - College of Charleston

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