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Mistresses, motherhood, and maternal exploitation in the Antebellum South

Knight, R. J. (2017) Mistresses, motherhood, and maternal exploitation in the Antebellum South. Women's History Review. ISSN 1747-583X

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1080/09612025.2017.1336847

Abstract/Summary

This article explores the interventions of slaveholding women or ‘mistresses’ into enslaved women’s mothering. While motherhood is often interpreted as a site of women’s bonding as a ‘shared’ experience, this article explores the ways in which mistresses (re)constructed racialised hierarchies that stratified motherhood along the lines of race and class. This undergirded their delegation of mother-work, or rather, the forced re-direction of enslaved women’s mother-work to mistresses’ own families. Mistresses’ sense of social superiority and their interests in slave labour were expressed through their interventions into enslaved women’s motherhood. These interventions took many forms; from seeking to influence the timing and paternity of enslaved women’s childbearing, to routine interventions into parental decisions, to the removal of enslaved children from their families for domestic servitude. Centralising the roles of white women in enslaved women’s ‘maternal exploitation’, this article adds an additional and largely overlooked dimension in understanding the extent of enslaved mothers’ and children’s exploitation under slavery in the Antebellum South.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Humanities > History
ID Code:70904
Uncontrolled Keywords:History, Gender Studies
Publisher:Informa UK Limited

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