During the 1630s many Puritans migrated to America, with the intention of practising their beliefs freely. The majority recognised the Church of England as the true church but felt that its methods needed to be reformed. These Puritan societies were constructed in a way that reflected their religious beliefs and, even though each community has its own leaders, they had almost identical ways of life and strict rules.
The biggest part of any Puritan’s life was their worship and, in addition to their other professions, most of the men in the communities were ministers. It was mandatory that everybody meditated at least twice per day, as well as attended church services several times during the week. This congregation also served as a chance to discuss the concerns, and regulations, of the village as a whole. The aisles were roamed by men with long sticks that had feathers at one end, to tickle the chins of old men that fell asleep during sermons, and knobs at the other, to poke children who were not paying attention.
The Puritans believed that their customs were the only true way and, because of this, felt that it was their God-given right to convert others in order to save their souls. Within the villages, those that did not conform were shown no mercy, with free thinkers even being punished by death.
Puritans believed in male supremacy which showed in the way the society, church and home was run. Women had no input in either the community or church activities. Many of the writings and texts used by the Puritans supported this patriarchal society, including the bible. They believed that the soul had two parts: an immortal masculine half, which justified the right for male domination, and a mortal feminine part.
Each village consisted of four city blocks, with families normally being housed together. Husbands were the rulers of the household and responsible for providing all necessities, including an adequate amount of love and protection. As man of the house, he also had to ensure that his children were educated about life, which revolved around God. The rules about appropriate family conduct in public were very strict, and couples were not allowed to kiss each other once they passed their doorstep.
The punishments for not respecting and following Puritan laws were severe, and men, women and even children would be whipped publicly for minor offences. The village onlookers were then allowed to spit and verbally torture the accused. Adultery was a serious offence, and those punished were forced to wear a scarlet ‘A’ on their outer garments or even sentenced to death.
The majority of a Puritan’s life was very controlled but they were also allowed to have fun occasionally, in the forms of festivals and celebrations. These would include storytelling, singing, beer and wine drinking. The children were also allowed to play games, as long as they were given their parents’ permission. The style of clothing that the Puritans wore was strictly regulated; however, they were allowed to express their individuality with different colours on these special occasions.