“The Truth of It Is, She has Her Reasons for Procreating So Fast”: Maria Taylor Byrd’s Challenges to Patriarchy in Eighteenth-Century Virginia

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Allison Luthern (Creator)
Institution
Appalachian State University (ASU )
Web Site: http://www.library.appstate.edu/
Advisor
Sheila Phipps

Abstract: Maria Taylor Byrd (1698-1771) was the wife of wealthy colonial Virginia planter and politician William Byrd II. In the last portion of her life as a wealthy, widowed mother, Maria Byrd wielded a significant amount of control over herself and those around her. Maria Byrd’s life disproves the concept of the Golden Age Theory, which states that eighteenth-century Virginia women were completely subjugated by patriarchal male authority. The primary way that Maria Byrd challenged the white, male patriarchal authority of eighteenth-century Virginia was through motherhood. Rather than directly challenge her powerful husband, she closely coerced the actions of her son, William Byrd III. As the matriarch of her family, Maria Byrd’s intensely emotional connection to her son presaged the affectionate modern family structure that fully emerged in the nineteenth century. However, her relationship with her son became constrained in the last decade of her life. Maria Byrd used her wealth to express her disapproval by bequeathing her money to her grandchildren rather than her son. Therefore, Maria Byrd is most historically significant as a mother due to her use of both personal and social authority and her representation of the initial transformations within the American family structure.

Additional Information

Publication
Thesis
Luthern, A. (2012). “The Truth of It Is, She has Her Reasons for Procreating So Fast”: Maria Taylor Byrd’s Challenges to Patriarchy in Eighteenth-Century Virginia. Unpublished master’s thesis. Appalachian State University, Boone, NC.
Language: English
Date: 2012
Keywords
Maria Taylor Byrd, William Byrd II, William Byrd III