Colonial Women at Work

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Spinning and Reading

Colonial Woman Spinning Yarn
Spinning yarn and reading a book, in colonial era America (1700s). Stock Montage / Archive Photos / Getty Images

A woman in the American colonial era spins while reading a book. A family in the 1700s produced its own yarn, which was then woven into cloth to make the family's clothing. An experienced spinner would know the feel and rhythm of spinning, and be able to read a book while still spinning the yarn.

This woman was probably taught to read at home or for a few years in a school, as there was no advanced education for women in that era. Even a home which could afford books and to teach a daughter to read, would have required the labor of women to spin yarn as part of the home production of necessities.

A reader points out that the woman is spinning flax to make linen, and that the spinning wheel is likely what was called a "parlor wheel," designed for use in smaller spaces.

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American colonial weaving
Reenactment of an American colonial woman at work. John Dominis / Getty Images
This reenactment of a woman working at a weaving loom recreates a common activity in a colonial American home: making cloth from which to make the family's clothing. The reconstructed weaving loom used yarn which was likely spun at home, too. Woman's work in making these necessities for a family's life was a key part of the economic unit of the family.
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Your Citation
Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Colonial Women at Work." ThoughtCo, Feb. 5, 2015, Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2015, February 5). Colonial Women at Work. Retrieved from Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Colonial Women at Work." ThoughtCo. (accessed November 21, 2017).