Life in the Plantation South

Plantation life created a society with clear class divisions. Most southerners did not experience this degree of wealth. The difference between the rich and the poor was greater in the South than in the other English colonies because of the labor system necessary for its survival. Most southerners were Yeoman farmers, indentured servants, or slaves. The plantation system also created changes for women and the family structure as well.

The Tidewater Aristocrats lived in stately plantation manors with many slaves and servants. Most plantation owners actively participated in the operations of the business and could find time for leisure activities. The plantations were huge and distances between them were big.

Unlike New England, which required public schooling by law, the distance between possible students in the South was so great that it deterred the growth of schools. Private tutors were hired by the wealthiest families; the boys studied in the fall and winter to allow time for work in the fields during the planting times. The girls studied in the summer to allow time for weaving during the colder months

The roles of women were changed by plantation society. The women were fewer as compared to the men. This increased women’s power; they were highly sought after by the men.

The high death rate in the region also resulted in a typical marriage being dissolved by death within seven years. Therefore, there was a good deal of remarriage, and a complex web of half-brothers and half-sisters evolved.

Source: Life in the Plantation South
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