By Joseph E. Illick
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In 1639, already a highly regarded minister in Dorchester, he became the father of Increase Mather. Increase’s mother taught him to read as a small boy, and his father instructed him in Latin and Greek. The lad entered Harvard when he was 12, but his frail constitution caused him to leave after six months and study with a private tutor until he returned to the college as a senior in 1656. Already he had undergone conversion, a process initially inspired by his mother—she told him of her desire that God should give him grace—and precipitated by his serious illness.
They shared some fundamental characteristics from the perspective of the family cycle. The Wrst stage of this cycle was marriage itself (women in their early twenties, men in their mid-twenties), followed by the arrival of a child about a year and a half later, an experience that then recurred every 24 to 36 months for two decades. qxd 4/25/02 3:12 PM Page 33 European American Childhood 33 death. Younger children were apt to lose one or both parents. 61 Health, or illness and death, was a matter beyond the control of eighteenth-century Americans.
And Mrs. Albert W. Rice. ”35 Roger Williams argued that the extreme affection of Indian parents for their young made “their children sawcie, bold, and undutiful,” while Cotton Mather depicted the natives as “lying wretches . . lazy wretches . . ”36 Breaking the will, of course, involved the mental manipulation of the child, a recent addition to the parental armory justiWed by the concept of infant depravity; willfulness connoted sinfulness from which children must be protected. 37 Life did have its lighter side, however.
American Childhoods by Joseph E. Illick