A Woman's Life in Early Savannah

Brenna Michaels looking out window in Savannah

Savannah has been home to strong women from the very beginning. And while the tides of culture twisted and turned, for better or worse, over the seasons of the nation’s history women have been at the forefront of our most harrowing moments.

Let’s talk about life in early Savannah for a moment, shall we?

Picture this: The year is 1733 and conditions in the Georgian colony are anything but glamorous. Women are few, and their roles in the early society were arduous. In the beginning, homes were little more than rustic shacks, tucked into the woods atop what’s today known as Yamacraw Bluff.

Take the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, add in more dirt and uncertainty - and you’ve got the general social vibe in early Savannah.

River rats and gnats, muddy dirt roads, tempestuous weather, and all manner of unfamiliar wildlife was the order of the day.

At the time, the institution of marriage functioned as more a formality than a romantic relationship. Women needed provision and protection, and men needed a hot meal and bouncing babies to grow up and help work the land. Not exactly our idea of paradise - but hey, surely there had to have been some love stories mixed in here and there.

As we describe in our book, Hidden History of Savannah, available here,

“Despite the lack of romantic sensibilities, women were actually prioritized and well taken care of in the early colony; a special stipend was even provided for the payment and welfare of a hired midwife who could be on hand for all births, as well as tend to the minor medical needs of women and other citizens as time allowed.

 In the beginning, women were not entitled to inherit the lands of their husbands or father, which initially served to make sure that there was a man on every plot of land capable of defense. Eventually, the rule was overturned, and women slowly gained more control of their destinies within the colony.

Divorce was a topic completely out of the question, which made life for some women rather unbearable. Most women were forced to marry out of necessity, especially if they had been recently widowed. There wasn’t always time to wait for a man who made the perfect match. A roof over their heads, security for any children they might have and safety in the Low Country wilds were priorities. Some women, however, found marriage too hard to bear and opted to escape by ship or via perilous land journeys to neighboring colonies for a chance at a fresh start.”

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T.C. & Brenna Michaels, Genteel & Bard, Savannah GA

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T.C. & Brenna Michaels