Puritans Behaving Badly

Gender, Punishment, and Religion in Early America

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Monica D. Fitzgerald
  • Cambridge: 
    Cambridge University Press
    , May
     256 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.


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.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Monica D. Fitzgerald is a professor in the Justice, Community and Leadership Program at Saint Mary's College of California.


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