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The Unique Experience Of Women Slaves

1834 words - 7 pages

Women slaves were subject to unusually cruel treatment such as rape and mental abuse from their master’s, their unique experience must have been different from the experience men slaves had. While it is no secret that the horrors of the institution of slavery were terrible and unimaginable; those same horrors were no big deal for southern plantation owners. Many engaged in cruelty towards their slaves. Some slave owners took particular interest in their young female slaves. Once caught in the grips of a master’s desire it would have been next to impossible to escape. In terms of actual escape from a plantation most women slaves had no reason to travel and consequentially had no knowledge of the land. Women slaves had the most unfortunate of situations; there were no laws that would protect them against rape or any injustices. Often the slave that became the object of the master’s desires would also become a victim of the mistress of the household. Jealousy played a detrimental role in the dynamic the enslaved women were placed within. Regardless of how the slave felt she could have done little to nothing to ease her suffering.
Many plantation owners were men that wanted their plantation ran in a particular manner. They strove to have control over all aspects of their slaves’ lives. Stephanie Camp said, “Slave holders strove to create controlled and controlling landscapes that would determine the uses to which enslaved people put their bodies.” Mary Reynolds was not a house slave, but her master’s daughter had a sisterly love towards her, which made the master uncomfortable. After he sold Mary he had to buy her back for the health of his daughter. The two girls grew apart after the daughter had white siblings of her own. Mary was put to work in the fields once her friend had moved on. Harriet Jacobs unfortunately attracted the unwanted eye of her master as a teenager. She spent the majority of her life trying to escape his efforts and that of his family. Elizabeth Keckley was born a slave. Her master’s the Burwells entrusted her with the responsibility of caring for their first daughter. Keckley was not spared punishment for her mistakes even though she was the primary caregiver to the family’s baby. In one incident she accidentally dropped the baby girl on the floor and was punished, she said, “[t]he blows were not administered with a light hand, I assure you.” It is often thought that house slaves received preferential treatment, however Keckley was a prime example that even house slaves and those close to the head family were severely punished for their accidents. In the life of Maumer Juno she had a slightly different experience, she talked about her fondness for her mistress and how she was treated by her. Her treatment was something not many slaves could expect.
Women slaves that had the ill-fated misfortune of catching the wandering eye of their master had to develop ways around their sexual antics. There were no laws to protect...

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