European Marriages of the New World Order

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As Europe began to institute colonization, colonial leaders had to consider various methods and means for permanency. For example, colonial leaders decided to recruit European women to migrate to the colonies in hopes of laying a religious foundation through marriage and linage. The reason for this method was to create stable permanent European societies that would counteract Native American communities. However, European women proved to be unfit for life on the frontier due to the unforeseen circumstances of disease, starvation, and constant war with rival natives. For these reasons, Native American women became more suitable wives on the basis that they had an inherent ability to survive in the unpredictable frontier.

Unlike Native American women, European women were looked upon as “helpmates” to their husbands. It was embedded into the European society that women were physically, intellectually, and spiritually inferior to men. Regarding the law women within the European hierarchy were not allowed ownership of any property or financial holdings. In addition, women were only allowed to participate in midwifery and dressmaking as occupations. Family concerns always outweighed personal desires and succumbing to passion was viewed as dangerous and fickle. Within the household, women were responsible for birthing, brewing, sewing, cleaning, and other miscellaneous duties men viewed as beneath them. Furthermore, European women were viewed as subordinates that needed protection and guidance from their male counterparts.

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Contrary to European women Native American women held more power within their tribal communities. For instance, Native American women had a say in what husbands they married and could initiate divorce. Culturally Native American women were able to participate in political roles and were vital assets to the native communities. However, when it came to European men, they saw Native American women as less than and there for Native American women experienced sexual violence and captivity by these men. As more interactions became vital between European settlers, marriage became a way to develop alliances among the Native peoples. Having a better understanding of the surrounding areas and the resources that they contain Native American women became invaluable to the continued preservation of European life. They were able to economically benefit European settlers by their contributions to the trade industry.

Subsequently, to counteract mixed marriages the Virginia Company developed the idea of “tobacco brides”. Faced with the issue of an extremely low female population, due to high mortality rates, the Virginia Company hoped to lure young European women to the “New World” with promises of a better life. Advertising made this appealing to young European women especially to those who lived an impoverished life. Sending ninety young and attractive European women, the Virginia Company thought these “tobacco brides” would steal interest away from Native American women and prevent more mixed marriages. Payment for these brides would be tobacco making the potential husbands required to be planters with successful harvests. Soon after landing in the “New World” most of these European women would perish from war, starvation, and harsh weather. With the “tobacco brides” perceived fragility some began to look back at why Native American women made the most sensible choice in marriage.

Clearly with all the skills Native American women possessed it would be hard to deny them as being the better marriage. With trade between Europeans and Native Americans being a vital part of establishing a foothold for any colony it was advantageous for the European men to wed Native American women. Having the ability to navigate unknown land and tribes successfully made them indispensable to European men. For the Native American woman marrying a European man had its own positives, for example, European men were hard laborers like themselves. Though European marriage could bring forth its own obstacles for Native American women and Native marriages being open to interpretation a successful union was vital. It was the Native American women who carried with them skills of hunting, agriculture, and the ability to utilize the many resources found in the “New World”. Even with the dangers of mixed marriages European men needed to rely on Native American women if they were to establish permanency.

In conclusion marriage between European men and Native American women was the best choice for early colonists looking for permanency. With European women unable to survive the challenges that the “New World” presented and the male population being dominant, marriage to Native American women was the most sensible decision. Native American women not only possessed practical skills but a vast knowledge of the Native people inhabiting the new world. Trade being a necessity to early colonies these marriages to a Native American woman would ensure smoother and more profitable outcomes when exchanging goods. Had more of these mixed marriages occurred the population of Natives would have grown, and mixed children could have lessened racial tension between European men and the Native peoples. Winters would see lower death rates as well because of the hunting abilities and knowledge of the land Native American women possessed. What Native American women contributed to early European survival is not only undeniable but invaluable, making them pivotal to the future of the “New World.”

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