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Women and Work in Colonial New England
Primary Sources

Theme: An Industrious People: American Economic History
Topic:
Women and Work in Colonial New England
Date:
Summer 2005
Scholar:  Gayle Fischer, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of History, Salem State College

Primary Sources from Partner Collections
Primary Sources from Local Archives and Collections
Additional Primary Sources Used in Content and Follow-up Sessions

Selections and annotations by SALEM in History staff


Primary Sources from Partner Collections






John Ward House, c. 1684. Salem, MA. Peabody Essex Museum.

"The John Ward House (Federal Garden area), ca. 1684, is one of the finest surviving seventeenth-century buildings in New England. It originally stood on a one-acre plot with a kitchen garden, an outhouse, and a well—opposite the jail used during the witchcraft trials. The house was moved to the museum campus in 1910. The style of this house is often called First Period or Post-Medieval—characterized by the extremely steep pitch of the gables, large central chimney, asymmetrical façade, batten door, diamond-paned leaded casement windows, and second-story overhang. One of the earliest buildings to be relocated and restored for historic interpretation in the United States, the house is a National Historic Landmark."

Quoted from the Peabody Essex Museum website, "Historic Houses." http://www.pem.org

 

 

John Ward Probate Inventory, 1732.  In Ward, Gerald W.R. and Barbara M. Ward.  The John Ward House: Historic House Booklet Number One.  Salem, MA: Essex Institute, 1976: 9-10. 

This probate record is for a former Salem, MA resident whose home, formerly located on “Prisoner’s Lane” (now St. Peter’s Street) is now part of the Peabody Essex Museum collections.  It is believed that John Ward was born in London and in 1660 arrived in America, where he worked as a currier, or leather preparer.  His wife, Jehoadan, bore seven children in their marriage, and she survived his death on 7 October 1732.  She received a portion of his home, and Benjamin, the eldest surviving son, received the remainder the of the home.  (This was a very common arrangement.)  The probate record suggests that John Ward attained a reasonable, but not highly successful, material stature. 

See also original manuscript records at:  John Ward Probate Inventory, 1732. Essex County Records, Massachusetts Archives, Probate Records: 319: Leaf 354, 3 November 1732.

 

 

1689 Salem Tax Record, County Tax: Per-5x. Distribution.  Education Department Archives, Peabody Essex Museum. 

This document compares the tax records of other Salem residents with that of John Ward.  The John Ward House is part of the collection of the Peabody Essex Museum. 

 

 

1689 County Tax and Probate Inventory Property Values (Comparison).  Education Department Archives, Peabody Essex Museum. 

This document reflects the County tax records and probate inventory assessments for several Salem residents who appeared to be in a similar economic circumstance with John Ward.  Their occupations include:  chandler, mariner, glover, tanner, weaver/clothier, and surgeon. 

 

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Primary Sources from Local Archives and Collections


 

Francis Plummer Will and Inventory, 1672.  Essex County Records, Massachusetts Archives, Probate Records: 24 January 1672. 

Francis and Beatrice Plummer lived in Newbury, Massachusetts in the seventeenth century. They maintained a modest household supported by Francis’s work as a linen weaver, a smithy, a carpenter and a farmer of a sixteen-acre plot with an additional twenty acres for his animals.  Beatrice was his second wife.  In Good Wives (1982), Laurel Thatcher Ulrich writes of Beatrice that, “the contents of her inventory suggest that Beatrice Plummer was adept not only at roasting, frying, and boiling but also at baking, the most difficult branch of cookery.” (20)  This inventory provides evidence of their domestic economy.

 

 

Joshua Grafton Probate Inventory, 1699. Essex County Records, Massachusetts Archives, Probate Records.  Transcription by Emerson Baker, Ph.D. Professor of History, Salem State College, Salem, MA.

This probate is discussed at length in chapter one of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s Good Wives (1982), and provides and interesting contrast for the domestic economy suggested by the Francis Plummer probate records that are addressed in the same chapter. Joshua and Hanna Grafton resided in Salem and had three children at the time of Joshua’s death.  He worked as a mariner, and the couple also kept a small shop attached to their home.  Ulrich notes that the presence of the shop indicates that Hanna would have been unlike many other women in Salem because during her husband’s absences at sea, she would have served as the shopkeeper.

 

 

Benjamin Ward Probate Inventory, 1777. Essex County Records, Massachusetts Archives, Probate Records: 6 December 1777.

Mariner Benjamin Ward (1698/9 – 1775) was the oldest surviving son the time of death of his father, John Ward, in 1732.  He inherited a portion of his father’s home, which he shared with his mother, Jehoadan.  Benjamin may have been living in that space already, since he married Deborah Gillingham in 1724.  The couple had four children, and Deborah died shortly after the birth of the last birth, in 1736.  There is no known record of Benjamin remarrying.  It appears that Benjamin was more successful than his father, based on the probate records.  He owned a “mansion house” as well as his father’s property, which he may have rented. 

See also Ward, Gerald W.R. and Barbara M. Ward.  The John Ward House: Historic House Booklet Number One.  Salem, MA: Essex Institute, 1976: 10-12. 

 

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Additional Primary Sources Used in Content and Follow-up Sessions

 

 

Phillips, James Duncan.  Port of Salem in 1700 from the Researches of Sidney Perley Assembled by William W.K. Freeman. Salem, MA: James Duncan Phillips, 1933.  (Details)

This map was reconstructed from information in the Essex Antiquarian and the Essex Institute Historical Collections.  The selected map details show the locations of the John Ward and Joshua Grafton properties.  Note the proximity of the jail to the Ward house, and the Turner property to the Grafton house.  Also note the location of other households and services, such as where Hannah Grafton may have gone to obtain necessities for her home, for example.

   
   

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