Episode 032: Michelle Marchetti Coughlin, One Colonial Woman’s World

Coughlin One Colonial Woman's World

What was everyday life like for average men and women in early America?

Listeners ask this question more than any other question and today we continue to try to answer it.

Michelle Marchetti Coughlin, author of One Colonial Woman's World: The Life and Writings of Mehetabel Chandler Coit, joins us to explore the life of an average woman who lived in early New England.


About the Show

Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.

It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.

Each episode features a conversation with an historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.

Episode Summary

Michelle CoughlinMichelle Marchetti Coughlin, an historian of early American women’s history and author of One Colonial Woman's World: The Life and Writings of Mehetabel Chandler Coit, joins us to explore the life of an average woman who lived in early New England.

In today’s episode, Michelle reveals who Mehetabel Chandler Coit was and why her diary is so special; What the diary or life record of Mehetabel Chandler Coit reveals about the lives and interests of colonial American women; And, the types of daily chores early New England women performed around their households.


What You’ll Discover

  • How Michelle became interested in 17th-century and early 18th-century women’s history
  • Why Early American women learned to read, but not necessarily to write
  • How Michelle used genealogy to track down Mehetabel’s diary
  • How the manuscript of Mehetabel’s diary differs from the edition published in the 19th century
  • What Mehetabel’s diary looks like
  • Differences between diaries and life records
  • Puritan views on and practices for keeping diaries
  • Who Mehetabel Chandler Coit was and what her life was like from 1673 on
  • Economic exchanges that Mehetabel engaged in as an adult woman
  • The range of writings contained in Mehetabel’s diary
  • How the diary reflects Mehetabel’s interest in colonial and imperial politics
  • Why early Americans like the Coits moved from a settled area like Roxbury, Massachusetts to frontier locations like Woodstock, Connecticut
  • The economic and political opportunities offered by frontier life
  • How women experienced frontier life
  • How Mehetabel met her husband John Coit of New London, Connecticut
  • The role love and social rank played in early New England marriages
  • Early New England courtship rituals
  • The chores average women like Mehetabel performed on a typical day
  • The work slaves performed in well-off households like the Coits’
  • How typical it was for early New England families to own one or more slaves
  • How households with one or two slaves integrated those slaves into their households
  • What childbirth was like for early American women
  • The influence wives like Mehetabel had over the ideas, opinions, and politics of their husbands
  • How early American women did their laundry


Links to People, Places, and Publications


Time Warp PlainTime Warp Question

What if Mehetabel had kept more detailed entries in her diary, or updated her diary more often, what would you like to know about her life that you don’t know or perhaps what more would you like to know about the lives of early New England women?


Questions, Comments, Suggestions

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