Slave Women in the New World
Gender Stratification in the Caribbean
With a New Preface by the Author
In this innovative study, Marietta Morrissey reframes the debate over slavery in the New World by focusing on the experiences of slave women. Rich in detail and rigorously comparative, her work illuminates the exploitation, achievements, and resilience of slave women in the British, Dutch, French, Spanish, and Danish colonies in the Caribbean from 1600 through the mid 1800s.
Morrissey examines a wide spectrum of experience among Caribbean slave women, including their work at home, in the fields, and as domestics; their roles as wives and mothers; their health, sexuality, and fertility; and their decline in status with the advent of industrialization and the abolition of slavery.
“This study is an important addition to the literature. Morrissey pays particular attention to the plight of slave women, but she does so with sensitivity to their relations with slave men, free masters, and children in different contexts and over time.”
—American Journal of Sociology
“The book is clearly written with an impressive intellectual style and certainly constitutes required reading for all historians of the Caribbean, feminists or otherwise.”
—American Historical ReviewSee all reviews...
“Morrissey has probed and recast major theoretical questions about slavery. This book will be useful not only to sociologists, but also to social and economic historians, anthropologists, scholars engaged in Afro-American and Afro-Caribbean studies, and those interested in third world social and economic development and underdevelopment.”
—Richard B. Sheridan, author of Doctors and Slaves: A Medical and Demographic History of Slavery in the British West Indies
“A significant theoretical and empirical contribution to the field of historical sociology in general and to the literature on slavery in particular. This book contains rich materials on such diverse topics as gender ratios, household economics, work on the plantation,the slave family and women’s position in it, fertility, fecundity, sex, and punishment. An additional strength is its comparative focus.”
—Jill S. Quadagno, Mildred and Claude Pepper Eminent Scholar in Sociology, Florida State UniversitySee fewer reviews...
Life for these women, Morrissey shows, was much more hazardous, brutal, and fragmented than it was for their counterparts in the American South. These women were in a constant, dynamic struggle with men—both masters and fellow slaves—over the foundations of their social experience. This experience was defined both by their status as slaves and by gender inequality. On the one hand, their slave status gradually robbed them of their domain—the household economy—and created a kind of perverse equality in which slave women—like slave men—became “units of agricultural labor.” One the other hand, slave women were denied the access that slave men eventually gained to skilled agricultural work. The result of this gender inequality, as Morrissey convincingly demonstrates, was a further erosion of the status and authority of slave women within their own culture.
Morrissey’s study, which addresses significant issues in womens history and black history, will go far toward reshaping our perceptions of slave life in the new world.