New England life seemed to burst with possibilities.
The life expectancy of its citizens became longer than that of Old England, and much longer than the Southern English colonies. Children were born at nearly twice the rate in Maryland and Virginia. It is often said that New England invented grandparents, for it was here that people in great numbers first grew old enough to see their children bear children.
Literacy rates were high as well. Massachusetts law required a tax-supported school for every community that could boast 50 or more families. Puritans wanted their children to be able to read the Bible, of course.
Massachusetts Bay Colony was a man's world. Women did not participate in town meetings and were excluded from decision making in the church. Puritan ministers furthered male supremacy in their writings and sermons. They preached that the soul had two parts, the immortal masculine half, and the mortal feminine half.
It was believed that women who were pregnant with a male child had a rosy complexion and that women carrying a female child were pale. Names of women found in census reports of Massachusetts Bay include Patience, Silence, Fear, Prudence, Comfort, Hopestill, and Be Fruitful. This list reflects Puritan views on women quite clearly.
Church attendance was mandatory. Those that missed church regularly were subject to a fine. The sermon became a means of addressing town problems or concerns. The church was sometimes patrolled by a man who held a long pole. On one end was a collection of feathers to tickle the chins of old men who fell asleep. On the other was a hard wooden knob to alert children who giggled or slept. Church was serious business indeed.
The Puritans believed they were doing God's work. Hence, there was little room for compromise. Harsh punishment was inflicted on those who were seen as straying from God's work. There were cases when individuals of differing faiths were hanged in Boston Common.
Adulterers might have been forced to wear a scarlet "A" if they were lucky. At least two known adulterers were executed in Massachusetts Bay Colony. Public whippings were commonplace. The stockade forced the humiliated guilty person to sit in the public square, while onlookers spat or laughed at them.
Puritans felt no remorse about administering punishment. They believed in Old Testament methods. Surely God's correction would be far worse to the individual than any earthly penalty.
Contrary to myth, the Puritans did have fun. There were celebrations and festivals. People sang and told stories. Children were allowed to play games with their parents' permission. Wine and beer drinking were common place. Puritans did not all dress in black as many believe. The fundamental rule was to follow God's law. Those that did lived in peace in the Bible Commonwealth.