Date of Award

Spring 1997

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Director

Jane T. Merritt

Committee Member

Carolyn J. Lawes

Committee Member

Anita C. Fellman

Call Number for Print

Special Collections LD4331.H47 G564


This study will demonstrate that changes in the early American family can often indicate significant changes in early American culture. These changes are especially apparent in the ways in which eighteenth-century Tidewater Virginians provided for poor and wealthy orphans in Middlesex and Henrico counties. Employing a patriarchal system of patronage, colonial Virginians relied upon both the local community and individual households to care for the colony's orphans. As the early American household became more nuclear and sentimental in the late eighteenth century, such relationships of patronage between the household and community began to erode. By evaluating colonial court orders, deeds, legislation, and rhetoric pertaining to Virginia orphans, this study will assess the impact that the American Revolution and revolutionary thought had on relationships between the family and community and how the two structures diverged.


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