In depictions of American slavery, most people usually brush aside the cruelty of white women in upholding the institution.
The focus is largely on the opulent white men, forgetting that their wives or their women described as plantation mistresses also meted out harsh treatments to black people they enslaved.
Historical books that were written in the 1970s and 80s about female slaveholders often talked about these white women as not being directly involved in the daily management of enslaved workers, not to even talk of being active participants in the selling and buying of slaves.
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They were seen as passive people, who were just looking on as their men wreaked havoc. But recent writings and documentaries have sought to reverse these thoughts.
In fact, a new book by the historian, Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers has drawn 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.”
According to an article on Slate, Jones-Rogers, in the book – They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South – shunned the letters and diaries of elite white women that were the basis of earlier histories and rather looked at the testimony of the people who had been enslaved.
She looked at life narratives of formerly enslaved people recorded during the Great Depression by the Works Progress Administration and realized that slavery was just as brutal and profitable for women as it was for the men.
The following are the bold arguments she made about the role of white women in American slavery: