Tracing the first three generations in Puritan New England, this book explores changes in language, gender expectations, and religious identities for men and women. The book argues that laypeople shaped gender conventions by challenging the ideas of ministers and rectifying more traditional ideas of masculinity and femininity. Although Puritan's emphasis on spiritual equality had the opportunity to radically alter gender roles, in daily practice laymen censured men and women differently – punishing men for public behavior that threatened the peace of their communities, and women for private sins that allegedly revealed their spiritual corruption. In order to retain their public masculine identity, men altered the original mission of Puritanism, infusing gender into the construction of religious ideas about public service, the creation of the individual, and the gendering of separate spheres. With these practices, Puritans transformed their 'errand into the wilderness' and the normative Puritan became female.
'In Puritans Behaving Badly, Monica D. Fitzgerald reveals a vibrant and contentious seventeenth-century society. Through gossip, confrontations, and church discipline, neighbors sought to defend reputations and sustain their communities. Deeply researched and well written, this book offers many rich insights about the social roles of men and women.' Alan Taylor, author of Thomas Jefferson's Education 'Fitzgerald's thorough exploration of the disruptions in Puritan hegemony in early New England brilliantly underscores the gendered nuances of a heavily gendered 'lived faith' that heavily censured aberrations in feminine and masculine performances of identity. A truly impressive and thoughtful contribution to the scholarship of Puritanism and gender history.' Sandra Slater, College of Charleston 'In Puritans Behaving Badly, Fitzgerald argues that the separate spheres ideology, often believed to have emerged in the 19th or 18th century, had origins in the 17th ... Fitzgerald's examination of a gendered Puritanism sheds new light on the origin of separate spheres ideology ... Recommended.' T. K. Byron, Choice '... easily accessible, with engaging case studies that insert the voice and character of individuals to engross the reader.' Kelly Ryan, William and Mary Quarterly '... the book is well written, engaging, and brings Puritan studies into the twenty-first century. It would make an excellent choice for the classroom in courses on gender history, early American history, or religious studies.' Rebecca J. Tannenbaum, Church History 'Uncovering the experiences of women and men from the church and court disciplinary records of colonial Massachusetts between 1630 and 1725, Fitzgerald has produced an original and compelling contribution to the history of religion and society in early America. Recognising an opportunity in the field for further study of gender, church membership and discipline, the monograph emphasises a key tension between prescribed 'feminized piety' and the preoccupations of colonial men who resisted this model.' Patrick Seamus McGhee, The Journal of Ecclesiastical History 'Fitzgerald is a magnificent storyteller. She is able to draw in the reader with the story of the past and then apply her analysis of why the details are significant. This style piques the interest of the reader and makes Puritans Behaving Badly a captivating read. Records of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries are oftentimes challenging because of various voids, many blanks, and lost information. Fitzgerald uses her scrupulous research skills peppered with empathy and imagination to fill in the gaps and provide intriguing stories about people of the past.' Heather E. Barry, Journal of British Studies 'Fitzgerald's work should be required reading for courses on early America because of its scope, complex insights, and nuanced analysis of how gendered society developed.' Heather E. Barry, Journal of British Studies '... a compelling and accessible read that makes a meaningful intervention in American Religious History, New England History, and Gender History ... [It] is essential reading for academics, religious leaders, and activists as we change how we speak about, legislate, and make meaning of gender.' Jaimie D. Crumley, Reading Religion