Women Wanted: White Women and the Development of Early American Plantation Societies

Sackett, Emily, History - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Edelson, Max

Women Wanted is a comparative history of white women’s settlement in Virginia, Barbados, and South Carolina during roughly the first century of English colonization. Colonial leaders actively desired white women’s participation in their colonial projects, even during the most chaotic periods of settlement in founding cohorts in dominated by men. These men did not take white women’s roles in sustaining colonial societies for granted. The problem of English women’s migration to America was an issue that warranted careful consideration, negotiation, adaptation, and experimentation for men and women alike. Virginia, Barbados, and South Carolina each developed a unique culture of gender, shaped in the first instance by policies encouraging women’s migration that demonstrated how colonial leaders valued women’s contributions to these emerging colonial societies. For a variety of reasons including skewed sex ratios, low birthrates, provisioning issues, and men’s agricultural practices, the work of the English goodwife proved especially hard to reproduce during the first decades of women’s settlement in American plantation colonies. White women across plantation America discovered that by managing enslaved people, they demonstrated their value to their husbands, children, neighbors, and colonial leaders. By the end of the seventeenth century, white women’s experience of colonial womanhood in Virginia, Barbados, and South Carolina had begun a process of convergence that would eventually transform the English goodwife into the American plantation mistress.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
early america, colonial america, women, gender, race, slavery, virginia, barbados, south carolina, caribbean, atlantic
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