"there was a coarser fibre in those wives and maidens of old English birth and breeding, than in their fair descendants"
The realities of pilgrim life meant that women had to be robust
Public DomainThe realities of pilgrim life meant that women had to be robust - Credit: Joseph Andrews

Standards of femininity changed drastically between Hester Prynne’s era and Hawthorne’s. When the settlers first arrived, carrying guns and brawling with neighbors were in no way incompatible with womanhood, whilst strenuous physical labor was an absolute necessity. By the 1820s, female behavior had become circumscribed by the so-called ‘Cult of True Womanhood,’ which insisted on delicacy, domesticity, piety, thrift, submission, obedience and chastity. It is obvious from Hawthorne’s tone that he shared his contemporaries’ belief that this was a mark of progress. 

By Hawthorne's time, the ideal of womanhood was marked by gentleness and domesticity
Public DomainBy Hawthorne's time, the ideal of womanhood was marked by gentleness and domesticity - Credit: Francis Day