A few months ago, I revisited The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I had previously read this book as a high school student and it was intriguing to read it again as a mother, career woman and wife.
The story is set in Puritan Boston, Massachusetts and describes the life of a young woman, Hester Prynne, who has given birth to a child whose father is unknown. Her punishment, as adultery was a crime at that time, was to stand on a scaffold for three hours, exposed to public humiliation and to wear a scarlet letter A on the front of her dress for the rest of her life. A stood for adultery. The shunning of Hester also extends to her daughter, Pearl, who has no friends other than her mother. Hester manages to scrap a living for them both through her work as a seamstress.
The circumstances described in The Scarlet Letter are such a stark contrast to our modern first-world lives that they seem almost unbelievable. If historical documentation did not exist about the lifestyles of Puritans living in New England during the 1600’s and the Salem witch trials, I think it would be virtually impossible to believe that the events described in this book were not purely fictional. Modern women living first world lives are able to study and enter into any profession they want to. Modern women do not have to remain in abusive relationships, they are able to take back their lives and are even offered protection and assistance in such circumstances. Modern women are able to choose, to a large extent, when we want to have children and how many children we want to have. We are so fortunate to have so much freedom.
This morning I was reading a post by Judith Barrow about how there was an anti-suffrage movement and many of its members where women who believed that the Suffragettes did not fit in with normal society or conform to the standards of ladylike behaviour of that time. If not for the Suffragettes and their bravery and determination to stand up against the narrow minded mindset of that time and fight for their rights, women might still not have the vote. You can read Judith’s article here: https://judithbarrowblog.com/2018/02/12/the-anti-suffragist-movement-suffrage-women-mondayblogs/
This post reminded me of The Scarlet Letter and the terrible treatment of women and children during that time and during many other periods of history. It brought home to me how easy it is to adopt the herd mentality and to turn against anyone who does not conform to the accepted norms of society, for whatever reason. It reminded me how admirable it is to stand up for the rights of yourself and others and how hard it is to go against the flow of public perception. Judith’s post inspired this haiku: