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date: 20 October 2021

Gender and Slavery

Abstract and Keywords

In the last three decades, gender has become an indispensable category of analysis in the study of slavery in the Americas, illuminating both the day-to-day lives of enslaved and enslaving peoples and ideas about race and slavery. While studying gender means much more than studying women, the literature on enslaved women is especially influential, in part because of gender analysis's origins in women's history and in part because of women's central importance in slavery: women and ideas about them shaped slavery from beginning to end. This article discusses the origins of slavery, the gendered division of slave labour, reproduction in slavery, sexuality, enslaved families, black femininity and masculinity, mastery and white gender identities, and politics.

Keywords: slaves, enslaved women, gender analysis, slave labour, reproduction, sexuality, femininity, white gender identity, politics

In the last three decades, gender has become an indispensable category of analysis in the study of slavery in the Americas, illuminating both the day‐to‐day lives of enslaved and enslaving peoples and ideas about race and slavery.1 While gender has touched nearly all aspects of slavery studies, the application of gender analysis has been particularly fruitful in certain areas. Some are self‐evidently gendered, like family, reproduction, and sex. Gender analysis has also reconfigured the study of politics, and, as is increasingly clear, studying gender means much more than studying women. Still, the literature on enslaved women is especially influential, in part because of gender analysis's origins in women's history and in part because of women's central importance in slavery: women and ideas about them shaped slavery from beginning to end.

Origins of Slavery

Gender helped early European explorers and settlers to imagine that Africans (and Native Americans) were distinctly “other” and that these “others” could—and should—be enslaved. Barbara Bush and Jennifer Morgan have shown that references to African women's exposed breasts dominated European texts, denoting (p. 514) animalistic behaviors and lusts to authors and readers alike. Easy parturition, meanwhile, suggested that African women did not share in Eve's curse, and thus that Europeans need not treat Africans as fellow children of Adam and Eve. Europeans also believed that polygamy and female agriculture proved African women's degradation and, correspondingly, the superiority of European culture. (While many European women performed farm labor, elite Europeans often viewed it as normatively masculine work.) Together, African labor patterns, familial organization, and bodies not only made Europeans feel superior but also focused their attention on African women's sexuality and reproductive potential.2

Gender shaped the laws defining hereditary slavery in both conception and consequence. The legal prescription that an enslaved woman's child was also a slave both ignored children with free mothers and enslaved fathers and essentially erased black paternity in white eyes. The “partus sequitur ventrem” principle also made interracial sex an aspect of slavery de facto and de jure. As Hilary Beckles has observed, “non pecuniary returns” to slave owning, “including rape and other forms of physical assault,” could be extracted from slaves without legal or social “penalties,” especially in English and American slavery.3

Even before the hereditary principle, gender shaped colonial experiments with race and slavery. In Virginia, a 1641 law decreed that all men and all “negro women” 16 or older were subject to a new poll tax. This grouping reflected gendered ideas about work: it comprised all the people that lawmakers considered full‐time agricultural workers. African women were known to perform agricultural work in Africa, and they clearly did in Virginia, but English women were not supposed to be (in both senses) field workers. Virginians thus fumbled toward a legal definition of race through their ideas about women's work. While gender traced a path toward slavery and race in Virginia, in Georgia, slavery reshaped gender. Georgia's founders expected English women to perform commodity production, as well as domestic work and childrearing. African women in the early colony likewise performed diverse tasks. Within fifty years, however, most female slaves performed monotonous work that whites considered unskilled; middling and poor women had few remaining socioeconomic “niches”; and privileged elites did almost no manual work at all.4

The Gendered Division of Slave Labor

Planters across the Americas forced enslaved women and men to perform exhausting work in the fields with little regard for sex. In the West Indies, slaves were assigned to the first (or “great”), second, or trash gang depending primarily on (p. 515) strength and age or life stage rather than sex. In the United States, planters often measured all slaves against the standard of the “prime” slave. Thus, a strong woman might be a three‐quarter hand, while an old man or a pregnant woman might be a half hand.5 Working in sex‐mixed groups did not, however, erase gender. For example, planters typically assigned children of both sexes to the trash gang. Because the trash gang also contained elderly, heavily pregnant, and breastfeeding women, time served there helped socialize girls but not boys into adult gender roles. Moreover, while Caribbean women sometimes drove the second gang, and older women there and in the United States ran the trash gang, women rarely drove the great gangs. This preserved men's privileged access to supervisory and disciplinary labor.6 Equally important, slave societies embraced a profound division of labor between enslaved and white women: enslaved women were expected to show strength and stamina in the fields, while white women ideally did little or no outdoors work.

Beyond the fields, gender continued to shape work. Enslaved men occupied almost all occupations that either they or whites considered as skilled. Men were the mechanics, blacksmiths, carpenters, coopers, masons, carters, carriage drivers, sugar makers, boilermen, and furnacemen. The most highly skilled bondsmen enjoyed some prestige and received extra rations and authority over other slaves. Some also enjoyed much greater freedom of movement: an artisan might be hired out and make his own way from job to job. Women had a smaller range of skilled crafts, like cooking, midwifery, and nursing, and those few conferred less prestige and fewer material rewards on their practitioners than male crafts did upon men, and little or no added mobility. Whites did not consider domestic work—the most common female specialization—as skilled, although house servants sometimes gained privileged access to whites' used clothes and leftover food. Defining skill as the ability to do any task well, Daina Berry has recently argued that planters did recognize the skills of certain field women, narrowing the perceptual gap between skillful workers and skilled occupations. Overall, however, the older findings of Deborah Gray White, Hilary Beckles, Jacqueline Jones, and Marietta Morrissey, among many others, still hold: women had little access to skilled occupations, and a higher proportion of women than men were field workers. On some estates, women made up the majority of the field‐hands.7

Historians have sometimes seemed uncertain whether these patterns stemmed from ideas about sexual difference or from sexual differences themselves. Jacqueline Jones has suggested that planters excluded women from skilled occupations for pragmatic reasons: “the high cost of specialized and extensive training” made it impractical to train women, since “childbearing and nursing” would interrupt their ability to provide “regular service” on the plantation or be hired out profitably. However, a substantial proportion of enslaved women never had children. If practical factors alone shaped access to skilled work, then some of these women would have been eligible. Their continued exclusion indicates that gender impeded a purely pragmatic response to reproductive biology.8

(p. 516) Gender also shaped slaves' “after‐hours” work. The tasks that men and women performed for themselves and their families differed. Typically, women cooked, cleaned, sewed, and washed for their families. In the West Indies where slaves had to grow their own provisions, women also performed much of the subsistence horticulture as well. Everywhere, women did most of the childcare. Only women had post‐sundown orders to spin for their owners. In contrast, men fished, hunted, and made or repaired furniture. If they lived “abroad,” they usually commuted to visit wives and children. They also applied their greater opportunities to earn money or goods to their families' benefit. In the West Indies, many assisted in the provision grounds. Yet no one has called men's work for their families a “second shift,” as feminist historians have characterized enslaved women's extra work.9

Forcing enslaved women and men to work at the same tasks “de‐gendered” neither sex. While slaves may have worked too hard to notice whether the neighboring bodies were male or female, we know that slaves' supervisors—white and black—not only noticed but also perceived some individuals as sexually attractive, available, and vulnerable. Women, not men, were overwhelmingly the targets of drivers' and overseers' sexual opportunism. Only an artificially narrow understanding would remove this aspect of gender relations from considerations of slaves' fieldwork. It is equally important to note that gender is constituted not solely through contrasts between men and women, but also through contrasts among men and among women. Thus, as long as some women, like slave owning women or enslaved housekeepers, did not perform fieldwork alongside men, enslaved women who did had a distinct gender in relationship to other women.10 The same, of course, applies to enslaved men, and thus there were many genders, not just two.


As Richard Steckel's essay in this collection suggests, work on reproduction in slavery begins with demography, which illuminates the reproductive catastrophes of American slavery. Staggering rates of infant mortality, low fertility, and low fecundity meant that Africans and their descendants in the Caribbean did not experience natural population growth until after slavery, yet those in Barbados, the southern mainland British colonies, and the United States did. Many factors in this pattern were beyond slaves' control, such as malaria, overwork, grossly inadequate pre‐ and postnatal care, malnutrition, neonatal tetanus, venereal disease. Sex ratios are not, however, considered quite so definitive as they once were, in part because of changing information about sex ratios early in slavery, and in part (p. 517) because normal sex ratios did not automatically mean population growth. That slave owners used the sex ratio to account for low fertility is further reason to be wary of that explanation. Generally, planters in the major staple‐producing areas, especially sugar planters, cared little and did less to improve fertility and reduce infant mortality. It was, quite simply, cheaper and easier to buy new slaves and work them quite literally to death than to rely on childbirth to increase and reproduce the labor force. Even in British North America, where slave populations grew through natural reproduction from the mid‐eighteenth century or earlier, there is little evidence that planters were particularly consistent or successfully instrumental.11

By the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, colonies across the Caribbean launched amelioration campaigns to fend off abolitionists' attacks and stabilize the slave labor supply. Giving pregnant and postpartum women a respite from work, improved rations, and other incentives might have improved outcomes for both mothers and children, but slave owners sometimes boasted more than their choices actually warranted. Even after the British closed the Atlantic slave trade, Caribbean planters generally had far more success in extracting field than reproductive labor from their bondswomen. However, recent work inverts the common view that enslaved women were always workers first, and reproducers second. Jennifer Morgan argues that even though enslaved women's treatment in Barbados and South Carolina impeded both fertility and infant survival, women's reproductive potential shaped planters' ideas about Africans from the very start. In their wills, slave owners fantasized about future wealth, bequeathing not just living children and fetuses but also women's reproductive potential itself. Because both slave owners and enslaved women recognized the potential value of reproduction, contestation over reproduction was a constant.12 Taken together, the many local and regional studies of slave reproduction suggest that the exploitation of women's reproductive potential was always a subject of contestation in New World slavery, even in the many instances when planters did little to help enslaved women conceive, bear, and raise healthy children.


Through interracial rape, white men asserted their dominance over African and African‐American men, as well as over all women. While the fact of interracial sexual exploitation has long been acknowledged—having featured largely in abolitionist propaganda, for example—its impact on gender as well as race relations is a topic of relatively recent study.

(p. 518) Endemic throughout New World slavery and its aftermath, rape and sexual fantasies were particularly virulent in the Atlantic and internal slave trades. Edward Baptist observes that enslaved women in the antebellum South were “desirable purchases because they could be raped,” and they were exquisitely “vulnerable to sexual assault…because they could be sold.” He argues further that by raping light‐skinned women, antebellum whites could recapitulate centuries of white domination, suggesting that the fantasy and reality of abuse grew more potent, not less, over time. The overarching claim, however, about the centrality of sexual exploitation to slavery pertains throughout its New World history. Consequently, even sexual acts between slaves could take on the stink of coercion. As Thelma Jennings argued in 1990 and as Daina Berry has recently confirmed, when slave owners instructed two slaves to pair off, they coerced both men and women to perform sexual acts not of their own choosing. At the same time, some enslaved men were potential beneficiaries of breeding: some planters encouraged high‐status men, such as drivers, to father children with whichever bondswomen they fancied. Freedpeople's own testimony suggests that some bondsmen took full advantage of the privilege. In its varied forms, sexual coercion did a lot of work for slaveholders: it produced new chattels; it marked all slaves' inferiority; it terrorized enslaved women and many enslaved men; and it humiliated and brainwashed many white women, all in ways that reinforced both gender and racial hierarchy.13

Even long after the institution ended, fears related to sexuality and race continued to warp gender relations. A classic example comes from the early twentieth‐century US South, where Thomas Dixon's novels featuring black men as rapists helped reinforce Jim Crow, mask the continued sexual abuse of freedwomen, and uphold patriarchy: white women allegedly remained safe from interracial assault only as long as they accepted white men's protective custody.14 As Jacquelyn Dowd Hall has argued, the subsequent campaign against lynching also became, at least in part, a “revolt against chivalry.”15

Yet while the history of sexuality within slavery is a twisted and ugly story, it was also more than that, even for enslaved women who bore the worst of it. As Henrice Altink and others have argued, some enslaved women chose to enter sexual relationships with white men in the hope of “material favours,” or simply because they found reluctant acquiescence preferable to forcible rape.16 Overall, these women had but slim chance of gaining their own or their children's freedom, and Deborah Gray White has argued that their choice made it harder for others to resist. In the Old South, such relationships rarely resulted in tangible advantages for enslaved women and their children. In Jamaica, as Hilary Beckles has shown, the scarcity of English women made it common for enslaved women to act as housekeeper‐mistresses to the resident planters, but a housekeeper rarely got to choose whether she would also be a concubine. Manumitting one's sexual partner and children was most common in the Spanish West Indies. In the French colonies, planters regularly ignored the Code Noir's requirement that they emancipate their (p. 519) own enslaved children. Across the slave societies, urban areas witnessed an especially wide range of interracial sex, ranging from long‐term relationships between elite men and their bondswomen to casual encounters in brothels and taverns.17

If consent is a difficult topic in the context of slavery, it is arguably even more difficult to speak of sexual pleasure. Yet neither patriarchal social relations, nor the violent expropriation of labor, nor the classifying of people as things or animals could reserve sexual pleasure for the men of the master class alone. Stephanie Camp's “somatic” understanding of slavery acknowledges enslaved women's pleasure in fancy clothes, flirtation, and furious dancing, and allows for the possibility of pleasure in sex. Cynthia Kennedy's attention to enslaved and free people of color's own understandings of marriage—legal or not—similarly hints at intimacies both consensual and pleasurable.18 While challenging from an evidentiary standpoint, more work on these issues will help determine how sexual abuse affected enslaved men's and women's subsequent sexual experiences and identities, work which will complement Darlene Clark Hine's conclusions about the long‐term impact of enslaved women's sexual vulnerability on freedwomen's gender identities.19 Increased attention to sexuality among slave couples—self‐chosen and coerced—will also advance our understanding of enslaved families.

Enslaved Families

Much as efforts to document sexual pleasure must struggle against the nearly crushing weight of scholarship on sexual abuse, the much older historiography of slave families has long battled against the presumption that improper gender relations all but destroyed the possibility of cohesive families among the enslaved. Arguing against the presumption of domineering mothers and absent or weak fathers, most famously articulated in the 1965 Moynihan report, John Blassingame and Herbert Gutman argued in the early 1970s that fathers were emotionally and materially central, and that extended kinship networks, fictive kin, and male‐headed nuclear families were all key elements of slave families.20 In the 1980s, Jacqueline Jones and Deborah Gray White systematically dismantled the sexist assumption that families headed by women were necessarily dysfunctional. They argued that women's networks were as important as conjugal ties to slaves, that slave marriages involved comparative equality and complementarity, and that many mothers had to be the primary caretaker because their families lacked a regularly present father at all due to the custom of abroad marriage.21

In the 1990s, scholars of American slave families continued to debate family composition while still rejecting the idea of matriarchy. Ann Malone argued that in (p. 520) Louisiana, the frequency of nuclear families, married couples, single slaves, and mother‐headed families varied over time and largely reflected extrinsic factors like the stage of agricultural development and planter life cycles. Working in Virginia, Brenda Stevenson viewed enslaved women as key elements of families and communities: slave owners' refusal to protect conjugal and paternal ties meant that many slave families were perforce matrifocal.22 In addition to elaborating family structure, American historians have also explored slaves' ideas about family, documenting what Cynthia Kennedy has called a “counter‐ideal” to white nuclearity. In this, they echo Caribbeanists who have long noted the importance of West African precedents for both female autonomy and polygamy in shaping gender relations, family dynamics, and household composition.23 Now, gender has clearly become an analytical tool in studies of slave family, instead of a problem to be explained away.


Resistance has been a particularly fruitful area of research in slavery studies, but its relationship to gender is ambiguous. Clearly, certain types of resistance were more common among bondsmen than bondswomen. Men made up a significantly higher percentage of runaways than did women, and men also figured far more prominently among rebels in both the USA and the Caribbean. Those actions, meanwhile, have often been celebrated, while more covert activities are sometimes deemed “accommodation” rather than genuine resistance. Compounding the problem of understanding gender and resistance is that many more covert forms, like feigning sickness and working slowly, were available to women and men. Where scholars have associated types of resistance with one sex, like poisoning with women, it remains unclear whether the pattern reflects the gendered division of labor, a gendered affinity, or other factors. Yet clear evidence of gendered resistance is emerging. Caribbean scholars like Bernard Moitt and David Geggus have demonstrated women's crucial support for rebellions; for example, women in revolutionary‐era Saint‐Domingue traded sex for ammunition. Other recent scholarship has sharpened our understanding of gender's role in more covert aspects of direct resistance. Stephanie Camp argues that enslaved women in the antebellum South provided essential food and supplies to runaways, hid truants, and even helped negotiate the terms of their return to work. Their assistance depended in turn upon the gendered division of labor: women's typical confinement to the plantation's ambit meant that they were often available when a runaway needed assistance, while their part‐chosen and part‐imposed responsibility (p. 521) for cooking allowed them to decide whether and how often to redirect food to a hungry truant.24

Perhaps the most obviously gendered resistance involved reproduction. Some enslaved women deliberately resisted childbearing for reasons ranging from the refusal to enrich their owners to the unwillingness to reproduce bondage. Slaves and slave owners alike suggested that women used a variety of methods to control their fertility: abstinence; herbal birth control; herbal and mechanical abortion; and, finally, infanticide. A combination of contraception and postnatal abstinence best explains birth spacing of up to and even over two years, which cannot be explained by lactation and postpartum amenorrhea alone. Ex‐slaves—men and women—testified to deliberate contraception to deprive owners of additional capital and labor. Contraception was arguably gendered resistance for men as well as for women: while some enslaved men may have prided themselves on fathering many children—with many different mothers—others supported or even encouraged their wives' efforts to limit their families. Still, no one can estimate with any certainty the frequency or scale of enslaved men's and women's efforts to control their own reproductive lives. Similarly, it is impossible to determine how often women shammed obstetric and gynecological complaints, given the variety of genuine diseases and injuries and the complicated mix of African and European attitudes about bodily health and medical care.25

If historians hold up contraception as a form of resistance, they often have more trouble with infanticide. Slaveholders accused women of heedlessly smothering their infants, a kind of murder by neglect that confirmed whites' lowest opinions of enslaved women. Accordingly, some historians have hesitated to accept the diagnosis of infanticide, while others, like Sharon Ann Holt and Deborah Gray White, argue for benevolent motives and sympathetic interpretations: desperate but loving mothers murdered their children in order to spare them lives of bondage. Alternatively, some suggest that infanticide is not a helpful analytical category. Barbara Bush notes the belief, perhaps rooted in West African cultures, that babies only became fully human after their ninth day ex utero, which would imply that hastening death before that time involved something less prejudicial.26 Moreover, biological motherhood was not magical, as Jennifer Morgan has recently argued, and presupposing mother‐love minimizes the psychological impact of bondage, sexual abuse, and overwork that enslaved women in particular faced, especially those uprooted by the Atlantic or internal slave trades. It also trivializes the heroism that enslaved women—and men—displayed in daring to love, nurture, and protect their children. In this sense, attention to gynecological resistance brings us back to a related observation about slave families. Forming families, whether by marriage, birth, or adoption, strengthened slaves and enabled some to continue and extend their resistance. However, the very virtues of family also meant they gave slave owners a powerful hold over their bondspeople, which some found far more effective than the use or threat of whippings.27

(p. 522) Black Femininity28

Historians of enslaved women have long struggled to distinguish white stereotypes of nurturing Mammy, aggressive Sapphire, and lustful Jezebel from slaves' own gender identities. Arguments about whether women invested more significance in female networks or in conjugal relations, or whether women performed skilled work, also affect debates about women's identities.29 Compounding the difficulty of understanding enslaved women as mothers, lovers, and workers are long‐standing questions about gender's priority for women of the African diaspora. In the twentieth century, many African‐American women identified more with the civil rights struggle than the women's rights movement. This reflects both the historic racism of American feminism and the judgment that standing with black men against racism was the first and the greater call. If racial justice took priority, then perhaps racial identity did too. Some scholars have tried to theorize that as an essentially false question, because race and gender are mutually constitutive and inextricable. The bulk of the evidence from slavery makes clear not only that black women and men had more in common than black women and white women, but also that the gendered aspects of bondage must not be underestimated.30

Some of the most productive recent scholarship in this area takes a multiply relational approach to gender, recognizing that gender meant something different for enslaved women when they talked with their husbands at night, or hoed with other slaves in the fields, or sewed clothes under their mistress's gaze. For an enslaved girl, puberty usually meant both fieldwork and the possibility of interracial rape, perhaps even before her first flirtation with a fellow slave. If sexual maturity increased a girl's fear for herself, it also likely enhanced her empathy for other women. It also afforded new opportunities for enjoyment: athletic dancing and fashionable clothes provided physical pleasure and, perhaps, the recognition that nights spent dancing could be understood as labor power reclaimed from their owners (sources are understandably stingy but nevertheless suggestive on this point). Maternity, meanwhile, brought new dreads—of seeing one's children separated by sale, lashed, demeaned, overworked, raped, or buried—but it also produced, at least for some, a redoubled protectiveness for vulnerable children that may have made them work even harder to resist their degrading bondage. At the same time, women at the peak of their working lives could take pride in their skill even as they resented its exploitation. Older women faced declining bodies that often rendered them less valuable in white eyes, but their knowledge, whether of medicinal plants, conjuring, planters' moods, or midwifery, could make them figures of great esteem to other slaves and sometimes even to whites. Life cycle, long a major area of analysis for free women, continues to attract scholarly attention, even if the key transitions for free people, like coming of age and marriage, operated very differently for slaves.31

(p. 523) Black Masculinity

From John Blassingame's defense of black manhood in The Slave Community forward, scholars have tried to unravel the stereotypes of African‐American men's emasculation and hypermasculinity. Work on enslaved fathers' devotion to their families, expressed in after‐hours work and “commuting” to abroad families, rejects equally the myth of absent fathers and the myth of the feckless stud. In a different vein, Diane Miller Sommerville has argued that the literal castration of enslaved men convicted of rape had surprisingly little to do with fears of ravening black sexuality. Instead, it reflected a financial and agricultural logic: castration saved the colonial government money (because execution required compensating the slave's owner), and it drew on the common knowledge that castrated bulls and horses became placid work animals. None of this was any comfort for the men involved, but it is profoundly important for scholars trying to pin down black masculinity's evolution in white eyes.32 Meanwhile, recognizing that slave breeding made men and women “victims of reproductive abuse” is one way of attending to Bertram Wyatt‐Brown's warning that historians must examine “the social and psychological tensions that slavery entailed.” Also important in this regard is the acknowledgment that some enslaved men, especially powerful or influential men like drivers and conjurers, manipulated and coerced female slaves sexually. The broader implications of sexual aggression for black masculinity are somewhat ambiguous, for it remains to be determined exactly how enslaved men in general viewed the matter.33

As for enslaved women, historians have identified a range of white stereotypes—Nat, Sambo, Jack, and Uncle Tom—and a variety of lived black masculinities. Some enslaved men cherished the rebel's heroic call to live free or die, even if they did not achieve it. Others adopted the masculinity of the wanderer‐outlaw, who is essentially free because he accepts no ties of obligation with others. Still others adopted an ethic of caring, often anchored in a Christian conversion experience. So far, however, a single version of black masculinity predominates in descriptions of the emancipation generations. African‐Americans in the Civil War, for example, staked their claims to full citizenship and manhood alike on the grounds of military service and manly valor.34

Mastery and White Gender Identities

In many ways, white gender identities in New World slavery can be understood if not simply the inverse of whatever whites said about enslaved men and women, then in part as the longing to be that inverse. Thus, white women should be (p. 524) virtuous and pure, while enslaved women were lustful and vicious. White men should be chivalrous and rational, while enslaved men were either infantile or savage. But throughout New World slavery, gender relations, roles, and identities among whites also looked beyond race to questions of class. Thus, working‐class and poor white women in the North America, the Caribbean, and Latin America often shared much of the stigma that attached to enslaved and Indian women, while white men's claims to masculinity depended at least in part on their access to the property that would enable them to become householders.35

The linkage of race and class in white gender identity lies at the heart of mastery and honor, two potently gendered belief systems among New World elites. Work on white masculinity and mastery in the American South has been especially influential. The desire for mastery profoundly shaped not only white men's relations with their slaves and family members, but also their own identities. Mastery hinged on control over domestic dependants. At the extreme, this was always an impossible goal—because slaves, children, and wives never became perfect channels for their master's will—but it predisposed many white men to take resistance in any form as a personal affront. As Eugene Genovese has suggested, the more paternalistic versions of mastery also prompted some planters, perhaps many, to chase the improbable goal of respectful affection from their bondspeople. In some cases, masculinity became totally entangled not only with discipline but also with commerce: purchasers gambled not just their money but also their masculinity on their ability to judge slaves on the auction block. Gender imposed powerful and occasionally dangerous constraints on white men. Some ingested powerful drugs in their campaign to master everything, including their own bowels. Others let themselves be shot at in duels, in the name of manly honor.36

While physical domination, sexual and otherwise, remained the hallmark of masculinity for many white men, for some, evangelical faiths moderated the fondness for drinking, hunting, dancing, and fighting often associated with white men in slavery. For them, and for many in the Upper South in particular, masculinity encompassed elements of gentleness and emotional expressiveness that meshed well with new notions of companionate marriage, for example, also found in the bourgeois North. Yeomen farmers, landless men, and artisans, meanwhile, sometimes outdid their planter contemporaries in violent self‐assertion, but those who depended upon planters for their livelihoods typically had to find ways to accommodate planter condescension—or move west in pursuit of landed independence.37

Scholarship on white women's gender identities beyond the planter class remains limited, in large part for evidentiary reasons, but work to date indicates that the impact of class on white women's identities was equally profound. Elizabeth Fox‐Genovese's Within the Plantation Household continues to influence debates about slave owning women, a field which is particularly rich for the Old South. Fox‐Genovese attributed the Old South's gender relations to its male‐dominated productive households, contrasting them to northern bourgeois households, which became increasingly feminized as men left home to work. Southern gender roles (p. 525) and norms left planter women at significant risk for economic dependence and domestic violence. However, class and racial privilege so shaped their gender identities that most either embraced their position or resisted it on a personal rather than systemic level. While this aspect of Fox‐Genovese's argument remains largely intact, newer research by Anya Jabour, Kirsten Wood, and others indicates that planter women were not always content with being or even allowed to be purely dependent. Antebellum slave owning daughters prized their girlhood freedom and fought determined delaying actions against marriage. From the early colonies through the Civil War, moreover, while most white women entered coverture—sometimes repeatedly—warfare, politics, travel, business, death, and many other factors forced many women to assume the burdens of household mastery as grass or real widows.38

Scholars of working women and farm women, meanwhile, have shown that these groups were not simply in thrall to planter ideals.39 The busy women Julia Cherry Spruill studied in the colonial South had antebellum descendants: middle‐class women worked as printers, writers, editors, and shopkeepers, for example, both in their own right and as essential complements to their husbands. Intriguingly, such women subscribed to—and, as writers, advocated—the separate spheres ideology that supposedly buffered them from the world of money and politics, and that Elizabeth Fox‐Genovese had argued could not emerge in the Old South.40

In the American South in particular, ideas about white manhood (strength, sexual activity, reason, self‐restraint, assertiveness, honor) and about white womanhood (purity, dependence, obedience, industriousness, maternity, piety) fused in ways that bolstered not only patriarchy, but also slavery and white supremacy. Key to both were notions of domestic mastery, whether the dependants to be mastered were slaves, wives, children, or grown white men. Especially in the antebellum South, ideas about mastery also bolstered both socioeconomic inequality and electoral democracy. In the context of slavery, to speak of mastery (male or female) is also to talk of politics.41


In the United States, gender met southern planters' pressing need to explain why the nonslaveholding majority should support slavery through their votes, taxes, and shared policing. Planters and yeoman farmers shared not only a commitment to white superiority but also to domestic patriarchy: as fathers and husbands, they were equally the “masters” of their “small worlds,” to quote Stephanie McCurry. Campaigns to defeat or defend slavery also relied on gender norms. In the antebellum South, marriage became the governing metaphor for proslavery ideologues, who used it to suggest slavery's benevolence and permanence. Everywhere, slavery's defenders (p. 526) insisted on black women's lasciviousness to justify enslaving black women and their mixed‐race children, mask white men's adultery, and deny the existence of rape. Some defenders of slavery also argued, contradictorily, that slavery raised white women to their proper place in society: white women could be ladies—and none need be prostitutes—because degraded black women absorbed white men's baser impulses and motivated them to defend white ladies' delicacy. That mythology of white women's pedestal goes a long way to explain white women's support during and after slavery for social mores that have, in the modern era, impeded the spread of feminism beyond its traditionally white, middle‐class following.42

Despite the pedestal, white women in slavery did not remain aloof from politics. Their alleged purity—a gendered and racialized trait—made them amenable and important to the American Whig party's reform agenda in the 1840s, as Elizabeth Varon and others argue. White women also worked for benevolent reform, gradual emancipation through colonization, poor relief, and temperance, all highly political campaigns in the antebellum South. A particularly clear instance of white women's impact on politics involves the Civil War. Drew Gilpin Faust maintains that women withdrew their support for the Confederacy when their submission no longer bought the reciprocal provision of protection and material support.43

Abolitionists also relied on gender, as Kristen Hoganson, Julie Roy Jeffrey, and Henrice Altink have shown. To engage white sympathies, their propaganda urged (female) readers to imagine themselves violated by the overseer's lash or torn forcibly from their nursing infants. Abolitionists also believed adopting the “middle‐class marriage ideal” would help make American freedpeople and Jamaican apprentices into productive wage laborers.44 Fugitive slaves and black abolitionists spoke bitterly about planters' interference in slave family life and especially about sexual violence, with its enormous if different tolls on enslaved women and men. After slavery, freedpeople's frequent commitment to what look like bourgeois family norms—legal marriage and household‐centered work for women—reflected both a desire to enjoy what was denied in slavery and an ongoing struggle to wrest control over black families out of white hands. Gender remained deeply embedded in post‐slavery politics, from fights over American freedwomen's wearing of veils to whites' struggles to control black women's and children's labor.45

New Directions

Gender analysis has reshaped scholarship on the thirteen colonies and the United States more than the Caribbean and South America, so closer and more sustained scrutiny of those regions promises additional insights. The Caribbean's wealth of (p. 527) studies of enslaved women is yet unmatched for enslaving men and women, although Hilary Beckles and Trevor Burnard have begun the work. Similarly, the vast history of South American and Brazilian slavery could support many more gendered studies.46 Relatedly, change over time—long underexamined for the American South in particular—needs more elaboration there and elsewhere. Most research to date explores well‐developed plantation systems, but as the work of Kathleen Brown, Laura Edwards, and Leslie Schwalm indicates, for example, the frontier and the emancipation stages of slavery's New World history witnessed significant and sometimes quite rapid change in gender roles, identities, and ideologies.47

Thematically, we need to forge clearer links between gender ideologies and day‐to‐day interactions in the fields, kitchens, cabins, courts, slave marts, and slave ships. We need more data on how European and African precedents and the changing context of plantation slavery itself shaped the gendered division of labor over time. We also stand in need of a more precise conceptual language that will clearly explain why it is not true that “gender was obliterated under slavery” and that “as workers, women slaves were rendered equal to men.”48

The way forward is not entirely clear, however. Some scholars worry that gender history, especially of masculinity, is displacing women's history, just as work on race, and especially whiteness, may overshadow black history. Whiteness and masculinity are essential historical subjects, but interest in them should not submerge research about women in general and black women in particular. By the same token, black women's history should not become solely a means to understand “the systemic nature of racism and sexism.”49 At the same time, some modern historians view black women's history as a means to honor and embolden black women in the present, yet this places these historians in a very different relationship to their subject—and their readers—than those who study slavery as an institution. Even so, precisely because gender is both supremely personal and systemically encoded in society‐wide relations of power, rigorous gender analysis can help bridge the gap between personal and institutional, micro and macro approaches to slavery in the New World.

Select Bibliography

Beckles, Hilary M. Natural Rebels: A Social History of Enslaved Black Women in Barbados. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1990.Find this resource:

Brown, Kathleen M. Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, and Anxious Patriarchs: Gender, Race, and Power in Colonial Virginia. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1996.Find this resource:

Bush, Barbara. Slave Women in Caribbean Society, 1650–1838. London: James Curry, 1990.Find this resource:

FoxGenovese, Elizabeth. Within the Plantation Household: Black and White Women of the Old South. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1988.Find this resource:

Gaspar,DavidBarry, and DarleneClarkHine, eds. More than Chattel: Black Women and Slavery in the Americas. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1996.Find this resource:

—— —— eds. Beyond Bondage: Free Women of Color in the Americas. Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 2004.Find this resource:

McCurry, Stephanie. Masters of Small Worlds: Yeoman Households, Gender Relations, and the Political Culture of the Antebellum South Carolina Low Country. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.Find this resource:

Moitt, Bernard. Women and Slavery in the French Antilles, 1635–1848. Bloomington, Ind.: University of Indiana Press, 2001.Find this resource:

Morgan, Jennifer L. Laboring Women: Reproduction and Gender in New World Slavery. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004.Find this resource:

Morrissey, Marietta. Slave Women in the New World: Gender Stratification in the Caribbean. Lawrence, Kan.: University Press of Kansas, 1989.Find this resource:

White, Deborah G. Ar'n't I a Woman?: Female Slaves in the Plantation South. 1985; rev. edn. New York: Norton, 1999.Find this resource:


(1.) Joan W. Scott, “Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis,” American Historical Review, 91 (5) (December 1986): 1053–75.

(2.) Barbara Bush, “ ‘Sable Venus,’ ‘She Devil’ or ‘Drudge?’: British Slavery and the ‘Fabulous Fiction’ of Black Women's Identities, c.1650–1838,” Women's History Review, 9 (4) (2000): 761–89; Jennifer L. Morgan, “ ‘Some Could Suckle over their Shoulder’: Male Travelers, Female Bodies, and the Gendering of Racial Ideology, 1500–1770,” William and Mary Quarterly, 54 (1) (1997): 167–92; Barbara Bush, Slave Women in Caribbean Society, 1650–1838 (London, 1990), 13–14; Hilary M. Beckles, Natural Rebels: A Social History of Enslaved Black Women in Barbados (New Brunswick, NJ, 1990), 24. Existing work on gender's role in African slave trade has paid more heed to sex ratios and labor patterns than to gender ideology per se. Useful works include: Trevor Burnard and Kenneth Morgan, “The Dynamics of the Slave Market and Slave Purchasing Patterns in Jamaica, 1655–1788,” William and Mary Quarterly, 58 (1) (2001) (June 23, 2007); G. Ugo Nwokeji, “African Conceptions of Gender and the Slave Traffic,” William and Mary Quarterly, 58 (1) (2001): 47–68; Jennifer L. Morgan, “Women in Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade,” in Transatlantic Slavery: Against Human Dignity (London, 1994), 60–9; David Eltis and Stanley L. Engerman, “Was the Slave Trade Dominated by Men?,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 23 (2) (1992): 237–57; Joseph E. Inikori, “Export Versus Domestic Demand: The Determinants of Sex Ratios in the Transatlantic Slave Trade,” Research in Economic History, 14 (1992): 117–66; David Geggus, “Sex Ratio, Age and Ethnicity in the Atlantic Slave Trade: Data from French Shipping and Plantation Records,” Journal of African History, 30 (1) (1989): 23–44.

(3.) Hilary M. Beckles, “Plantation Production and White ‘Proto‐Slavery’: White Indentured Servants and the Colonisation of the English West Indies, 1624–1645,” The Americas, 41 (3) (January 1985): 45.

(4.) Kathleen M. Brown, Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, and Anxious Patriarchs: Gender, Race, and Power in Colonial Virginia (Chapel Hill, NC, 1996); Ben Marsh, Georgia's Frontier Women: Female Fortunes in a Southern Colony (Athens, Ga., 2007), 10–11, 141, 143; Catherine Clinton and Michele Gillespie (eds.), The Devil's Lane: Sex and Race in the Early South (New York, 1997). On gender and early Virginia, see also Mary Beth Norton, Founding Mothers & Fathers: Gendered Power and the Forming of American Society (New York, 1996).

(5.) Bernard Moitt, Women and Slavery in the French Antilles, 1635–1848 (Bloomington, Ind., 2001), 40–5; Beckles, Natural Rebels, 31, 33, 52, 106–7; Jacqueline Jones, “ ‘My Mother Was Much of a Woman’: Black Women, Work, and the Family under Slavery,” Feminist Studies, 8 (2) (1982): 239, 242.

(6.) Beckles, Natural Rebels, 32, 38, 55; Deborah G. White, Ar'n't I a Woman? Female Slaves in the Plantation South (1985; rev. edn. New York, 1999), 94.

(7.) Beckles, Natural Rebels; Daina Berry, Swing the Sickle for the Harvest is Ripe: Gender and Slavery in Antebellum Georgia (Urbana, Ill., 2007); Sharla M. Fett, Working Cures: Healing, Health, and Power on Southern Slave Plantations (Chapel Hill, NC, 2002), 125; Moitt, Women and Slavery, pp. xv, 35–6, 48, 52; Susan M. Socolow, “Economic Roles of the Free Women of Color of Cap Français,” in David Barry Gaspar and Darlene Clark Hine (eds.), More than Chattel: Black Women and Slavery in the Americas (Bloomington, Ind., 1996), 287; Marietta Morrissey, Slave Women in the New World: Gender Stratification in the Caribbean (Lawrence, Kan., 1989), 65–8, 161–3; White, Ar'n't I a Woman?, 76, 128–30; Rhoda Reddock, “Women and Slavery in the Caribbean: A Feminist Perspective,” Latin American Perspectives, 12 (1) (Winter 1985): 65, 74; White, Ar'n't I a Woman?; Jones, “ ‘My Mother Was Much of a Woman' ”. For domestic labor, see Stephanie Cole, “Servants and Slaves: Domestic Service in the Border Cities, 1800–1850” (Ph.D. diss., University of Florida, 1994). For women in rice agriculture, see Judith A. Carney, Black Rice: The African Origins of Rice Cultivation in the Americas (Cambridge, Mass., 2001); Leslie A. Schwalm, A Hard Fight for We: Women's Transition from Slavery to Freedom in South Carolina (Urbana, Ill., 1997).

(8.) Jones, “ ‘My Mother Was Much of a Woman,’ ” quotation at 243; Bush, Slave Women, 129–31.

(9.) Morrissey, Slave Women, 47, 49–54, 61. For change in women's tasks, see Carole Shammas, “Black Women's Work and the Evolution of Plantation Society in Virginia,” Labor History, 26 (Winter 1985): 5–28; but compare Marsh, Georgia's Frontier Women, 139–41.

(10.) Cynthia M. Kennedy, Braided Relations, Entwined Lives: The Women of Charleston's Urban Slave Society (Bloomington, Ind., 2005); Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, “African‐American Women's History and the Metalanguage of Race,” Signs, 17 (2) (Winter 1992): 251–74; Elsa Barkley Brown, “ ‘What Has Happened Here’: The Politics of Difference in Women's History and Feminist Politics,” Feminist Studies, 18 (2) (Summer 1992): 295–312.

(11.) Beckles, Natural Rebels, 9, 94; Bush, Slave Women, 36, 122; Morrissey, Slave Women, pp. xii, 44, 109; Cheryll Ann Cody, “Slave Demography and Family Formation: A Community Study of the Ball Family Plantations, 1720–1896” (Ph.D. diss., University of Minnesota, 1983).

(12.) Jennifer L. Morgan, Laboring Women: Reproduction and Gender in New World Slavery (Philadelphia, 2004), 12–49, 69–106. On amelioration, see Bush, Slave Women, 28–30, 44–5, 113, 135; Beckles, Natural Rebels, 38, 99, 104, 117.

(13.) Edward E. Baptist, “ ‘Cuffy,’ ‘Fancy Maids,’ and ‘One‐Eyed Men’: Rape, Commodification, and the Domestic Slave Trade in the United States,” American Historical Review, 106 (December 2001): quotation at 1649; Diane Miller Sommerville, Rape and Race in the Nineteenth‐Century South (Chapel Hill, NC, 2004); Merril D. Smith (ed.), Sex without Consent: Rape and Sexual Coercion in America (New York, 2001); Sharon Block, Rape and Sexual Power in Early America (Chapel Hill, NC, 2006); Susan Migden Socolow, The Women of Colonial Latin America (Cambridge, 2000), 134–5, 152–3; Martha Hodes, White Women, Black Men: Illicit Sex in the Nineteenth‐Century South (New Haven, 1999); Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, “ ‘The Mind That Burns in Each Body’: Women, Rape, and Racial Violence,” in Christine Stansell and Ann Snitow (eds.), Powers of Desire: The Politics of Sexuality (New York, 1983); Berry, Swing the Sickle, 82–4.

(14.) Electronic editions of Dixon's novels are available at Documenting the American South, along with a useful critique introduction to the trilogy. Andrew Leiter, “Thomas Dixon, Jr.: Conflicts in History and Literature,” Accessed April 29, 2008.

(15.) Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, Revolt against Chivalry: Jessie Daniel Ames and the Women's Campaign against Lynching (New York, 1979).

(16.) Henrice Altink, “Deviant and Dangerous: Pro‐Slavery Representations of Jamaican Slave Women's Sexuality, c.1780–1834,” Slavery and Abolition, 26 (2) (August 2005): quotation at 274; Joshua R. Rothman, Notorious in the Neighborhood: Sex and Families across the Color Line in Virginia, 1787–1861 (Chapel Hill, NC, 2003), 155; Virginia Meacham Gould, “ ‘A Chaos of Iniquity and Discord’: Slave and Free Women of Color in the Spanish Ports of New Orleans, Mobile, and Pensacola,” in Clinton and Gillespie (eds.),The Devil's Lane, 240–3.

(17.) White, Ar'n't I a Woman?, 38; Morrissey, Slave Women, 66, 70–3; Beckles, Natural Rebels, 141–51; David P. Geggus, “Slave and Free Colored Women in Saint Domingue,” in Gaspar and Hine (eds.), More than Chattel, 270; Annette Gordon‐Reed, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy (Charlottesville, Va., 1997). For free and freedwomen, see also David Barry Gaspar and Darlene Clark Hine (eds.), Beyond Bondage: Free Women of Color in the Americas (Urbana, Ill., 2004); Kimberly S. Hangar, “Coping in a Complex World: Free Black Women in Colonial New Orleans,” in Clinton and Gillespie (eds.),The Devil's Lane, 218–31.

(18.) Kennedy, Braided Relations, 95, 167–9; Stephanie M. H. Camp, Closer to Freedom: Enslaved Women and Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South (Chapel Hill, NC, 2004), 62. For informal marriage and the changing relationship of race and sexuality in a north American city, see Clare A. Lyons, Sex among the Rabble: An Intimate History of Gender (Chapel Hill, NC, 2006).

(19.) Darlene Clark Hine, “Rape and the Inner Lives of Black Women in the Middle West,” Signs, 14 (4) (Summer 1989): 912–20.

(20.) E. Franklin Frazier, The Negro Family in the United States, with a new introduction and bibliography by Anthony M. Platt (Notre Dame, Ind., 2001); Daniel P. Moynihan, The Negro Family: The Case for National Action (US Department of Labor, 1965); John W. Blassingame, The Slave Community: Plantation Life in the Antebellum South (New York, 1972); Herbert S. Gutman, The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom, 1750–1925 (New York, 1977). For free blacks, see Michael P. Johnson and James L. Roark, Black Masters: A Free Family of Color in the Old South (New York, 1984).

(21.) White, Ar'n't I a Woman?; Jones, “ ‘My Mother Was Much of a Woman’ ”; Katia M. de Queirós Mattoso, “Slave, Free, and Freed Family Structures in Nineteenth‐Century Salvador, Bahia,” Luso‐Brazilian Review, 25 (1) (Summer 1988): 69–84.

(22.) Ann Patton Malone, Sweet Chariot: Slave Family and Household Structure in Nineteenth‐Century Louisiana (Chapel Hill, NC, 1992). Brenda E. Stevenson, Life in Black and White: Family and Community in the Slave South (New York, 1997), 160, 221, 223. On domestic violence among slaves, see White, Ar'n't I a Woman?, 151–3; Betty Wood, Women's Work, Men's Work: The Informal Slave Economies of Lowcountry Georgia (Athens, Ga., 1995), 185; Emily West, “Tensions, Tempers, and Temptations: Marital Discord among Slaves in Antebellum South Carolina,” American Nineteenth Century History, 5 (2) (2004): 1–18.

(23.) Kennedy, Braided Relations, quotation at 95; Claire Robertson, “Africa into the Americas? Slavery and Women, the Family, and the Gender Division of Labor,” in Gaspar and Hine (eds.), More than Chattel, 17; Moitt, Women and Slavery, 36; Claire C. Robertson and Martin A. Klein (eds.), Women and Slavery in Africa (Madison, 1983).

(24.) Bernard Moitt, “Slave Women and Resistance in the French Caribbean,” in Gaspar and Hine (eds.), More than Chattel, 239–58; Geggus, “Women in Saint Domingue”; Camp, Closer to Freedom, ch. 2; Verene Shepherd, Bridget Brereton, and Barbara Bailey, Engendering History: Caribbean Women in Historical Perspective (New York, 1995); Rosalyn Terborg‐Penn, “Black Women in Resistance: A Cross‐Cultural Perspective,” in Gary Y. Okihiro (ed.), In Resistance: Studies in African, Caribbean, and Afro‐American History (Amherst, Mass., 1986), 188–209; Elizabeth Fox‐Genovese, “Strategies and Forms of Resistance: Focus on Slave Women in the United States,” in Okihiro (ed.), In Resistance, 143–65.

(25.) Liese M. Perrin, “Resisting Reproduction: Reconsidering Slave Contraception in the Old South,” Journal of American Studies, 35 (2) (August 2001): 255–74; Thelma Jennings, “ ‘Us Colored Women Had to Go Through a Plenty’: Sexual Exploitation of African‐American Slave Women,” Journal of Women's History, 1 (3) (1990): 45–74.

(26.) Sharon Ann Holt, “Symbol, Memory, and Service: Resistance and Family Formation in Nineteenth‐Century African America,” in Larry E. Hudson (ed.),Working toward Freedom: Slave Society and Domestic Economy in the American South (Rochester, NY, 1994), 204; White, Ar'n't I a Woman?, 87–9; Bush, Slave Women, 143–8, 165–6.

(27.) Morgan, Laboring Women.

(28.) For Native Americans, gender, and slavery, see, for example, Ramon Gutierrez, When Jesus Came, the Corn Mothers Went Away (Stanford, Calif., 1991); Barbara Krauthamer, “Ar'n't I a Woman? Native Americans, Gender, and Slavery,” Journal of Women's History, 19 (2) (2007): 156–60.

(29.) Henrice Altink, Representations of Slave Women in Discourses on Slavery and Abolition, 1780–1838 (London, 2007); Bush, “ ‘Sable Venus’ ”; White, Ar'n't I a Woman?

(30.) Nancy A. Hewitt, “Compounding Differences,” Feminist Studies, 18 (2) (Summer 1992): 313–26.

(31.) Kennedy, Braided Relations, 95–110; Camp, Closer to Freedom; Marie Jenkins Schwartz, Born in Bondage: Growing up Enslaved in the Antebellum South (Cambridge, Mass., 2000). For free women, see for example Suzanne Lebsock, The Free Women of Petersburg: Status and Culture in a Southern Town, 1784–1860 (New York, 1984).

(32.) Diane Miller Sommerville, “Rape, Race, and Castration in Slave Law in the Colonial and Early South,” in Clinton and Gillespie (eds.), The Devil's Lane, 74–89.

(33.) Berry, Swing the Sickle, quotation at 79; Bertram Wyatt‐Brown, “The Mask of Obedience: Male Slave Psychology in the Old South,” American Historical Review, 93 (5) (December 1988): quotation at 1230; Fett, Working Cures, 91.

(34.) Edward E. Baptist, “ ‘Stol’ and Fetched Here': Enslaved Migration, Ex‐Slave Narratives, and Vernacular History,” in Edward E. Baptist and Stephanie M. H. Camp (eds.), New Studies in the History of American Slavery (Athens, Ga., 2006), 243–74; Heather Andrea Williams, “ ‘Commenced to Think Like a Man’: Literacy and Manhood in African‐American Civil War Regiments,” in Craig Thompson Friend and Lorri Glover (eds.),Southern Manhood: Perspectives on Masculinity in the Old South (Athens, Ga., 2004); Darlene Clark Hine and Earnestine Jenkins (eds.), A Question of Manhood: A Reader in U.S. Black Men's History and Masculinity (Bloomington, Ind., 1999–c.2001), 10; Jim Cullen, “ ‘I's a Man Now’: Gender and African‐American Men,” in Catherine Clinton and Nina Silber (eds.), Divided Houses: Gender and the Civil War (New York, 1992), 76–91; Joseph P. Reidy, Leslie S. Rowland, and Ira Berlin (eds.), The Black Military Experience (Cambridge, 1982), 30–2.

(35.) Lebsock, Free Women of Petersburg; Jane H. Pease and William Henry Pease, Ladies, Women, and Wenches: Choice and Constraint in Antebellum Charleston and Boston, Gender & American Culture (Chapel Hill, NC, 1990); Socolow, The Women of Colonial Latin America.

(36.) Friend and Glover (eds.), Southern Manhood; Trevor Burnard, Mastery, Tyranny, and Desire: Thomas Thistlewood and his Slaves in the Anglo‐Jamaican World (Chapel Hill, NC, 2003); Walter Johnson, Soul by Soul: Life inside the Antebellum Slave Market (Cambridge, Mass., 1999); Stephanie McCurry, Masters of Small Worlds: Yeoman Households, Gender Relations, and the Political Culture of the Antebellum South Carolina Low Country (New York, 1995); Kenneth A. Lockridge, On the Sources of Patriarchal Rage: The Commonplace Books of William Byrd and Thomas Jefferson and the Gendering of Power in the Eighteenth Century (New York, 1992); Eugene D. Genovese, Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made (New York, 1974); Anya Jabour, Marriage in the Early Republic: Elizabeth and William Wirt and the Companionate Ideal (Baltimore, 1998); Jan Lewis, The Pursuit of Happiness: Family and Values in Jefferson's Virginia (Cambridge,1983); Jane Turner Censer, North Carolina Planters and their Children, 1800–1860 (Baton Rogue, La., 1984). For paternalism, start with Genovese, Roll, Jordan, Roll and then consider, for example, Jeffrey Robert Young, Domesticating Slavery: The Master Class in Georgia and South Carolina, 1670–1837 (Chapel Hill, NC, 1999); Drew Gilpin Faust, James Henry Hammond and the Old South: A Design for Mastery (Baton Rouge, La., 1982), esp. 376–7. On honor, see Lyman L. Johnson and Sonya Lipsett‐Rivera (eds.), The Faces of Honor: Sex, Shame, and Violence in Colonial Latin America (Albuquerque, N. Mex., 1998); Kenneth S. Greenberg, Honor and Slavery: Lies, Duels, Noses, Masks, Dressing as a Woman, Gifts, Strangers, Humanitarianism, Death, Slave Rebellions, the Proslavery Argument, Baseball, Hunting, and Gambling in the Old South (Princeton, 1996); Steven M. Stowe, Intimacy and Power in the Old South: Ritual in the Lives of the Planters (Baltimore, 1987); Bertram Wyatt‐Brown, Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South (New York, 1982).

(37.) For evangelicals, see Jean E. Friedman, The Enclosed Garden: Women and Community in the Evangelical South, 1830–1900 (Chapel Hill, NC, 1985); Christine Leigh Heyrman, Southern Cross: The Beginnings of the Bible Belt (Chapel Hill, NC, 1997); Monica Elizabeth Najar, “Evangelizing the South: Gender, Race, and Politics in the Early Evangelical South, 1765–1815” (Ph.D. diss., University of Wisconsin, Madison, 2000); Frederick A. Bode, “A Common Sphere: White Evangelicals and Gender in Antebellum Georgia,” Georgia Historical Quarterly, 79 (4) (1995): 775–809. For tenants and artisans, see Charles C. Bolton, Poor Whites of the Antebellum South: Tenants and Laborers in Central North Carolina and Northeast Mississipi (Durham, NC, 1994); Michele Gillespie, Free Labor in an Unfree World: White Artisans In Slaveholding Georgia, 1789–1860 (Athens, Ga., 2004).

(38.) Anya Jabour, Scarlett's Sisters: Young Women in the Old South (Chapel Hill, NC, 2007); Nikki Berg Burin, “A Regency of Women: Female Plantation Management in the Old South” (Ph.D. diss., University of Minnesota, 2007); Elizabeth Fox‐Genovese, Within the Plantation Household: Black and White Women of the Old South (Chapel Hill, NC, 1988), 24, 30, 35, 44; Kirsten E. Wood, Masterful Women: Slaveholding Widows from the American Revolution through the Civil War (Chapel Hill, NC, 2004); Cynthia A. Kierner, Beyond the Household: Women's Place in the Early South, 1700–1835 (Ithaca, NY, 1998); Lebsock, Free Women of Petersburg; Catherine Clinton, The Plantation Mistress: Woman's World in the Old South (New York, 1982); Anne Firor Scott, The Southern Lady: From Pedestal to Politics, 1830–1930 (Chicago, 1970); Lois G. Carr and Lorena S. Walsh, “The Planter's Wife: The Experience of White Women in Seventeenth‐Century Maryland,” William and Mary Quarterly, 34 (4) (1977): 542–71; Linda Speth, “More Than her ‘Thirds’: Wives and Widows in Colonial Virginia,” Women & History, 4 (1982): 5–41. Research on white women in the Caribbean is relatively sparse. Cecily Jones, “Contesting the Boundaries of Gender, Race and Sexuality in Barbadian Plantation Society,” Women's History Review, 12 (2) (2003): 195–231; Cheryl King, “According to the Law: Women's Property Rights in Bridgetown Barbados, 1800–1834,” Journal of Caribbean History, 36 (2) (2002): 267–84; Hilary M. Beckles, “White Women and Slavery in the Caribbean,” History Workshop Journal, 36 (1993): 66–82; Susan E. Klepp and Roderick McDonald, “Inscribing Experience: An American Working Woman and an English Gentlewoman Encounter Jamaica's Slave Society, 1801–1805,” William and Mary Quarterly, 58 (3) (July 2001): 637–60.

(39.) Susanna Delfino and Michele Gillespie (eds.), Neither Lady Nor Slave: Working Women of the Old South (Chapel Hill, NC, 2002); Victoria E. Bynum, Unruly Women: The Politics of Social and Sexual Control in the Old South (Chapel Hill, NC, 1992); Lebsock, Free Women of Petersburg; D. Harland Hagler, “The Ideal Woman in the Antebellum South: Lady or Farmwife?,” Journal of Southern History, 46 (August 1980): 405–18.

(40.) Jonathan D. Wells, The Origins of the Southern Middle Class, 1800–1861 (Chapel Hill, NC, 2004); Julia Cherry Spruill, Women's Life and Work in the Southern Colonies (Chapel Hill, NC, 1938). For domesticity and female identity, see Marli Frances Weiner, Mistresses and Slaves: Plantation Women in South Carolina, 1830–80 (Urbana, Ill., 1997).

(41.) Brown, Good Wives.

(42.) McCurry, Masters of Small Worlds.

(43.) Elizabeth R. Varon, We Mean to be Counted: White Women and Politics in Antebellum Virginia (Chapel Hill, NC, 1998); Drew Gilpin Faust, Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War (Chapel Hill, NC, 1996); LeeAnn Whites, The Civil War as a Crisis in Gender: Augusta, Georgia, 1860–1890 (Athens, Ga., 1995).

(44.) Henrice Altink, “ ‘To Wed or Not to Wed?’ The Struggle to Define Afro‐Jamaican Relationships, 1834–1838,” Journal of Social History, 81 (1) (2004): quotation at 81; Julie Roy Jeffrey, The Great Silent Army of Abolitionism: Ordinary Women in the Antislavery Movement (Chapel Hill, NC, 1998); Kristin Hoganson, “Garrisonian Abolitionists and the Rhetoric of Gender, 1850–1860,” American Quarterly, 45 (4) (December 1993): 558–95; Elizabeth B. Clark, “ ‘The Sacred Rights of the Weak’: Pain, Sympathy, and the Culture of Individual Rights in Antebellum America,” Journal of American History, 82 (2) (September 1995): 463–93; Harriet Jacobs and Farah Jasmine Griffin, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, ed. George Stade (New York, 2005).

(45.) Laura F. Edwards, Scarlett Doesn't Live Here Anymore: Southern Women in the Civil War Era (Urbana, Ill., 2000), 100–48; Pamela Scully and Diana Paton (eds.), Gender and Slave Emancipation in the Atlantic World (Durham, NC, 2005); Verene A. Shepherd (ed.), Working Slavery, Pricing Freedom: Perspectives from the Caribbean, Africa and the African Diaspora (New York, 2002); Carol Lasser, “Slavery, Gender and the Meanings of Freedom,” Gender & History, 13 (1) (April 2001): 161–6; Laura F. Edwards, Gendered Strife & Confusion: The Political Culture of Reconstruction (Urbana, Ill., 1997); Schwalm, A Hard Fight for We.

(46.) A classic source for gender in Brazil is Gilberto Freyre, The Masters and the Slaves (Casa‐Grande & Senzala): A Study in the Development of Brazilian Civilization by Gilberto Freyre, trans. Samuel Putnam (New York, 1946). See also Kathleen J. Higgins, “Gender and Manumission of Slaves in Colonial Brazil: The Prospects for Freedom in Sabara, Minas Gerais, 1710–1809,” Slavery and Abolition, 18 (2) (1997): 1–29. The recent Herbert S. Klein and Ben Vinson, iii: African Slavery in Latin America and the Caribbean (Oxford, 2007) contains chapters on demography and family, but none devoted to women or gender.

(47.) Brown, Good Wives; Edwards, Scarlett Doesn't Live Here Anymore; Edwards, Gendered Strife & Confusion; Schwalm, A Hard Fight for We.

(48.) Moitt, Women and Slavery, quotation at xiv; Bush, Slave Women, xii.

(49.) Leslie Alexander, “The Challenge of Race: Rethinking the Position of Black Women in the Field of Women's History,” Journal of Women's History, 16 (4) (2004): 56.