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Georgia's Frontier Women

Female Fortunes in a Southern Colony

Ben Marsh

Publication Year: 2012

Ranging from Georgia's founding in the 1730s until the American Revolution in the 1770s, Georgia's Frontier Women explores women's changing roles amid the developing demographic, economic, and social circumstances of the colony's settling. Georgia was launched as a unique experiment on the borderlands of the British Atlantic world. Its female population was far more diverse than any in nearby colonies at comparable times in their formation. Ben Marsh tells a complex story of narrowing opportunities for Georgia's women as the colony evolved from uncertainty toward stability in the face of sporadic warfare, changes in government, land speculation, and the arrival of slaves and immigrants in growing numbers.

Marsh looks at the experiences of white, black, and Native American women-old and young, married and single, working in and out of the home. Mary Musgrove, who played a crucial role in mediating colonist-Creek relations, and Marie Camuse, a leading figure in Georgia's early silk industry, are among the figures whose life stories Marsh draws on to illustrate how some frontier women broke down economic barriers and wielded authority in exceptional ways.

Marsh also looks at how basic assumptions about courtship, marriage, and family varied over time. To early settlers, for example, the search for stability could take them across race, class, or community lines in search of a suitable partner. This would change as emerging elites enforced the regulation of traditional social norms and as white relationships with blacks and Native Americans became more exploitive and adversarial. Many of the qualities that earlier had distinguished Georgia from other southern colonies faded away.

Published by: University of Georgia Press


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p. v-v

List of Illustrations

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p. vii-vii

List of Abbreviations

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p. ix-ix

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pp. xi-xiii

During the seven years that I researched and wrote this book, I accrued many debts, most of them happily of a nonfinancial variety. I would like to thank staff members at the following institutions for their professional help and use of resources: the Georgia Historical Society in Savannah (whose archivists ...

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pp. 1-6

Colonial American women of the eighteenth century do not seem to share the historical exuberance of their seventeenth-century predecessors. After all, women of the eighteenth century inhabited a more settled, stable world. Huts had become houses and villages had become towns; wealth was becoming class, and color ...

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Prologue. The Georgia Plan

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pp. 7-18

Beliefs about gender have always shaped the character of colonization. From their first fumbling attempts in the sixteenth century to graft English populations onto lands in Ireland, and later onto lands three thousand miles across the Atlantic Ocean, British colonizers had relied on assumptions about the ...


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Chapter One. Population

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pp. 21-35

The trustees seriously underestimated the gulf between New World and Old World environments and seemed to have learned little from past colonial mistakes. This, in part, reflected their desire to embark on an entirely new and humanitarian experiment that demanded that they spurn the imitation ...

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Chapter Two. Economy

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pp. 36-66

The economic fortunes of the women of early Georgia, as the trustees expected, more often than not were closely intertwined with those of their husbands and fathers. As in England, Europe, and colonial America, for the most part women's conventional responsibilities as workers within the household ...

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Chapter Three. Family and Community

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pp. 67-92

On 23 November 1744 the Board of President and Assistants met in Savannah, and all the members trudged off to the house of Margaret Avery. This was the second time they had seen her in two weeks, and the atmosphere was tense. She had in her possession a detailed map of the province, compiled ...


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Chapter Four. Immigration and Settlement

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pp. 95-123

In 1752 the dwindling number of trustees surrendered their charter of government for the colony of Georgia to the king after twenty years of failing to stimulate substantial demographic or economic growth in the province. Once again utopianism had proved to be an inept midwife for the birth of a British ...

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Chapter Five. Expansion and Contraction

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pp. 124-141

The new waves of settlers that rolled into Georgia's lowcountry swept aside much of the occupational flexibility that had characterized women's extradomestic work during the trusteeship. Diversity of opportunity began to ebb away from the settled seaboard, as normalization contracted the scope of ...

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Chapter Six. Consolidating Gender

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pp. 142-177

Each gossamer thread of a spider's web is intrinsically fine and imperfect. Only when it is artfully overlapped with countless others do the threads constitute a truly strong system, holding a form and substance that is captivating in its complexity—and capable of gripping all manner of unwary prey. Lashing the ...

Epilogue. Revolution?

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pp. 179-186

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pp. 187-192

Colonial Georgia had made a long journey in the space of half a century. At its inception it was a well-intended but poorly planned Utopian scheme expected by elite Britons to transform an "empty" land into an imperial Eden. Their project gradually unraveled, leaving only an odd mishmash of rather ...


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pp. 193-196


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pp. 197-229


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pp. 231-243


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pp. 245-253

E-ISBN-13: 9780820343976
E-ISBN-10: 0820343978
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820328829

Page Count: 272
Illustrations: 10 b&w photos, 3 tables, 1 map, 2 figures
Publication Year: 2012