Colonial Williamsburg Research Division Web Site

Redefining Family

The “Redefining Family” story line explores the effects of changes in society between black, white, and Native American families that resulted in the development of a new American family. For further understanding, please read the key points for this story line.

Daily Schedule for a Cook in a Gentry Household
How essential was a good cook to the smooth running of a household? Comments by two Williamsburg residents suggest they considered a good cook second only to a good wife. Thomas Jones reported "much disorder with our Servants" in his 1728 letter to his wife who was then visiting in England. Venus, in particular, had become “so incorigable in her bad Habits” that she would not “send in a dish of Meat fit to Set before any body” and Jones had resolved “to send her up to some of the Quartrs.”
Daily Schedule for a Young Gentry Woman
“City daughters from well to do homes were the only eighteenth century women who can accurately be described as leisured,” writes Mary Beth Norton in Liberty’s Daughters: The Revolutionary Experience of American Women, 1750-1800. Records left by and about young Virginia women support her statement and document this relatively carefree period of their lives.
Daily Schedule for an Urban Gentry Housewife
Urban gentry housewives, responsible for managing daily household affairs, depended on and supervised a staff of servants that occasionally included white women who served as housekeepers or governesses but was mainly comprised of male and female slaves. These men and women “domestics,” owned by the family or hired locally, performed the “drudgery” about the house, kitchen, laundry, garden, and stable.
Women and Education in Eighteenth-Century Virginia
The revolutionary promise of American ideals have long raised expectations and inspired hopes that more and more Americans, including women, will have a meaningful voice in taking responsibility for their own lives. This essay provides background about the training young women received in preparation for their role as adults in the ranked society of pre-revolutionary Virginia.
The Adolescence of Gentry Girls In Late Eighteenth-Century Virginia
This paper summarizes research on the activities of teenaged gentry girls and the purposes those activities served within the culture of late eighteenth-century Virginia.