Work and Labor in Puritan America
American life in the 15th century was immensely different from the lives we lead today. Even though our terrain, weather and location is the same, our lives differ greatly in technological advances, morals, family and work ethic.

Work and physical labor were things that the Puritan society began to pride itself on after years of looking down on laborers. When they first arrived in the New World, they looked down on physical labor as something only commoners were forced to do. Most of them, being well off, were not accustomed to the harsh conditions or trying situations they had to endure to simply survive. Most jobs involved some kind of labor as the new world had not yet been developed in any way.

They built houses, grew crops, made clothes and crafted everything else they needed to sustain the life they had adapted to in England. They had to relearn how to survive in their new primitive and untouched environment. They spent the majority of their waking hours either attending to these chores or worshiping their deity. Eventually, they became comfortable with this work and even grew proud of it. This new way of thinking brought about the commonly known Puritan work ethic. They believed that hard work and physical labor made them better people and brought them closer to God.
With their strict religious morals and rules, it was forbidden to work on Sunday. It was considered a holy day, as it was the day of the Sabbath and rest was a very strictly enforced rule of the religion, especially for the Puritans.

The work they did ranged anywhere from farming to trading. At the beginning, every able man was required to grow an acre of his own corn to try to make the colony self sufficient, so they didn’t depend on the natives so much. People did what was needed. They farmed, built houses, cleared forests, hunted, made clothes and utensils and so forth.

Children as young as eight years old were required to go hunting for quail and other such small birds with slingshots so they could​ conserve gun powder and ammunition. There were no age limits on working for children or the elderly. They worked if they were able and didn’t if they were somehow disabled. Women were expected to tend to the home, raise children and educate them on the teachings of the Bible. They were given the responsibilities of cooking, cleaning and other traditional tasks accomplished by a woman in colonial America.
Crops required open fields to grow. When the puritans first began to inhabit America, open land was scarce, as it was mostly dense, virgin forests. To grow crops, they either cut trees down, or stripped the trees of their bark which would eventually kill the tree making it easier to cut it down. They burned the stumps and removed the roots from the earth. Some of the older trees were so large and so deeply rooted that the roots could not be torn from the ground. In the empty space this provided, crops were grown. In later years tobacco became an enormous cash crop later leading to further industrialization and more attention paid to the growing colony by its parent country, England.

At home the Puritans made clothes, tools, soap, and many other everyday goods. Some of the town workers included blacksmiths who made things out of metal such as horse shoes, candle makers, and carpenters. Hunting, fishing, and farming brought in the food sources for the need of endurance.
The Puritan lifestyle of the time depended entirely on the strength of the individual endurance and fortitude of every man, woman and child that inhabited the colony. They were pioneers in the new world and had no ancestors or history to build their lives on. For all their faults, the Puritans were the first people to industrialize America, and they worked hard to carve lives out of what had once been only wilderness.
Child Labor

  • Boys worked as apprentices in carpentry or crafts
  • explore the outdoors, hunting, and fishing
  • Girls were required to help tend the house, cook, clean, ect
  • Help with the raising and care of younger children

Female Labor
  • Provide a spiritual home
  • Give birth to children
  • Act as midwives to other mothers
  • Teach their children about the Bible, and their reading and writing at home
  • Provide nursing and medical care to the children and men
  • Attend worship but not speak out

Male Labor
  • Craftsmen
  • Tradesmen
  • Blacksmiths
  • Farmers
  • Carpenters
  • Innkeepers
Blacksmiths were the most widespread employments.
They were usually (about 60 percent) skillded craftsmen and tradesmen. Less than a third of them had been employed in agricultural England. Those who did farm followed the East Anglia practice of mixed husbandry and trade.

Works Cited

Digest, Reader's. "Old Europe in the New World." Everyday Life Through The Ages - A Journey Of Discovery Through Over 15,000 Years Of World History. London: Reader's Digest, 1992. 381. Print.
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"Media Hell Message Board Post." Media Hell - Home. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Feb. 2010. <__http://www.mediahell.org/community/08032504.htm__>.
"OCCUPATIONS AND CUSTOMS." USGenNet. The First and Only Nonprofit Historical-Genealogical Web Hosting Service on the Internet! History, Historical, Family History, Genealogy, Genealogical. Family Values. History and Genealogy. Genealogy and History. ISP. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2010. <__http://www.usgennet.org/usa/topic/colonial/book/chap10_2.html__>.
"The Puritan 2001." Saint Jones. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2010. <__http://www.saintjones.com/galleries/Works/the%20puritan%202001.htm__>.