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They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave…
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They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South (edition 2020)

by Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers (Author)

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241887,472 (3.81)34
A bold and searing investigation into the role of white women in the American slave economy   Bridging women's history, the history of the South, and African American history, this book makes a bold argument about the role of white women in American slavery. Historian Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers draws on a variety of sources to show that slave‑owning women were sophisticated economic actors who directly engaged in and benefited from the South's slave market. Because women typically inherited more slaves than land, enslaved people were often their primary source of wealth. Not only did white women often refuse to cede ownership of their slaves to their husbands, they employed management techniques that were as effective and brutal as those used by slave‑owning men. White women actively participated in the slave market, profited from it, and used it for economic and social empowerment. By examining the economically entangled lives of enslaved people and slave‑owning women, Jones-Rogers presents a narrative that forces us to rethink the economics and social conventions of slaveholding America.… (more)
Member:jpbowes
Title:They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South
Authors:Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers (Author)
Info:Yale University Press (2020), Edition: Illustrated, 320 pages
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They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South by Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers

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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
I think I saw this on one of my fellow Twitter mutual’s currently reading shelf and thought it seemed like an interesting part of history to get to know more about. I did have to wait a bit to get it from the library waitlist and it took me even longer to finish the book, but it was definitely worth it.

This book is written in a very dry manner, almost like an academic exercise citing sources and testimonials, lots of legal cases from the 19th century and how the law worked in those days. So, it could be tedious to read sometimes because of the writing style, but once I decided that remembering the names mentioned in the book was not important but what actually happened was, I could get through it much more easily and the audiobook helped as well. But what I found most surprising about the book is how dispassionate it feels sometimes despite containing page after page of stories about the brutal ways in which slaves were sold, separated from families, assaulted, maimed and murdered. But I guess it could be very difficult to get through it otherwise if we are not able to maintain a bit of that distance as a reader.

And then comes the whole point of the book - the role of southern white women in the business of slavery. It’s a common misconception that women in the 19th century were subservient to the men in their family and only took care of their household and kids. But the author dives deep into first hand testimonies from former slaves, newspaper clips from the era and lots of legal documents to prove that this is indeed a false perception. White women were indeed a part of the slave economy, being taught from their childhood by parents how to treat and punish the people they owned, slaves being given as gifts and dowries so that their daughters could have their own independent source of income even after getting married and not having to depend on or get cheated by money hungry husbands. And the author shows with overwhelming evidence that white women exercised their ownership over their slaves fully - whether it came to punishments, buying or selling them, suing their husbands or creditors when they believed that their independent property was being co-opted to pay off the debts of their husbands or being mismanaged by their trustees - women were very much a part of the southern slave driven economy. I truly don’t want to recite the horrors this book contains about the treatment of the Black people, but what’s more sickening is how callous and indifferent the white women were to their plight and just considered the subjugation of an entire race of people their god given right, exercised it to the full extent of the law, and taught the same to their kids. The commodification of every single aspect of the Black body is nightmarish to read about, but the true atrocity is the complicity of the whole system, irrespective of men or women.

In the end, I can only say that this was very informative and eye opening, teaching me a part of history I didn’t know much about, making me realize that when we say women and men are equal - it also means that women can be equally cruel and barbaric when given the power to oppress someone for the sake of their own profit. This is a hard read and can even come across as boring, so try and read it in short intervals or maybe through the audiobook - but do give it a try because it’s an important and often neglected part of history, while also giving us lessons on the importance of promoting intersectional feminism separated from the clutches of white supremacy because otherwise, there will never be true equality. ( )
  ksahitya1987 | Aug 20, 2021 |
This is a must read to gaining a full picture of slavery in the United States and the relationship between women and slaves. White women used techniques that were as effective and brutal as those used by slave‑owning men. They actively participated in the slave market, and profited from it, many even used it for social empowerment.

Review from: The Write of Your Life. Books on race relations in America.
  stlukeschurch | Mar 8, 2021 |
This interesting and extremely valuable history, recently published, explores the role of women in the slave system and economy of the southern U.S. during the centuries before the Civil War. Jones-Rogers uses extensive research in contemporary newspaper accounts, WPA History Project testimony of formerly enslaved people and court records as well to show that many women in the South owned slaves of their own and were simply subservient to their husbands when it came to slave owning and economic considerations of all sorts. Women were often "left" slaves in their parents' wills and were also given slaves as "gifts" by their parents when they married. Furthermore, many couples signed what we'd now called pre-nuptual agreements stipulating that wives would retain complete control of their own slaves and all other financial interests. Jones-Rogers tours the multi-faceted world of slave owning and shows that women were often mens' equals when it came to wheeling and dealing for profit, and also for savagery in their treatment of their enslaved workers. The work is important particularly, I think, in that it is an detailed treatment of the pervasive nature of the slave system in the American south: all whites took part, not just men, in all facets of the system.

I found it interesting and enlightening that Jones-Rogers refers most often to "enslaved persons" rather than to "slaves." I've never seen this before, but I found it an effective way of making an important point. "Enslaved person" clearly expresses the point that we are referring to people who have been enslaved by someone else. There is action, violent, horrible action, involved. Perhaps this locution is more widespread than I realize, but it seems like it's the first time I've come across it.

There are times in the book where the examples Jones-Rogers uses become more than a little repetitive to read. It's not something I would fault her for at all. It crucial that she establish that the research behind her thesis is extensive, to ensure that we are convinced. So there were times when I was ready for the narrative to move along, but I understood the reasons for the structure Jones-Rogers employed. I think this history all in all is a crucial building block for a serious modern-day understanding of American slavery. ( )
1 vote rocketjk | Mar 7, 2021 |
Author Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers powerfully challenges the often-held belief that white women willingly gave their husbands charge of their property, including slaves. Drawing from slave narratives, court records, plantation records, and other sources, she demonstrates white women actively participated in slave management, often usurping their husband's authority when it came to slaves she owned prior to the marriage or their descendants. She shows the women's desire to keep their property at a high value by preventing cruelty, but also the desire of some to actively participate in disciplinary actions. She finally moves past the rather dense topic of slave discipline to areas such as using slaves as wet nurses, actively participating in slave markets, and their concern for a livelihood when slaves were emanicipated. The academic writing style creates a very dense narrative in many places. The author spent too much time describing the brutality of slave punishments in the book's first half. It is, however, an important work in African-American studies. ( )
  thornton37814 | Feb 12, 2021 |
With this book, historian Jones-Rogers challenges the accepted narrative that slavery in the antebellum South was a patriarchal system ruled by white men. To the contrary, Jones-Rogers offers example after example of white women who controlled slaves, bought and sold slaves in their own right, and physically abused slaves in the name of “discipline.” Jones-Rogers work will shape the future narrative of white women’s active participation in slavery. However, the dryly academic writing may limit the book’s audience to mainly scholarly circles. ( )
  cbl_tn | Feb 7, 2021 |
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Stephanie E. Jones-Rogersprimary authorall editionscalculated
Johnson, AllysonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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A bold and searing investigation into the role of white women in the American slave economy   Bridging women's history, the history of the South, and African American history, this book makes a bold argument about the role of white women in American slavery. Historian Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers draws on a variety of sources to show that slave‑owning women were sophisticated economic actors who directly engaged in and benefited from the South's slave market. Because women typically inherited more slaves than land, enslaved people were often their primary source of wealth. Not only did white women often refuse to cede ownership of their slaves to their husbands, they employed management techniques that were as effective and brutal as those used by slave‑owning men. White women actively participated in the slave market, profited from it, and used it for economic and social empowerment. By examining the economically entangled lives of enslaved people and slave‑owning women, Jones-Rogers presents a narrative that forces us to rethink the economics and social conventions of slaveholding America.

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