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Open Access Invisible woman: female slavery in the New World

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Invisible woman: female slavery in the New World

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image of New West Indian Guide / Nieuwe West-Indische Gids

[First paragraph]Slave women in Caribbean society, 1650-1838, by BARBARA BUSH. Bloomington:Indiana University Press, 1990. xiii + 190 pp. (Cloth US$ 29.95,Paper US$ 12.50) [Published simultaneously by: James Curry, London, &Heinemann Publishers (Caribbean), Kingston.]Within the plantation household: Black and White women of the Old South,by ELIZABETH FOX-GENOVESE. Chapel Hill: University of North CarolinaPress, 1988. xvii + 544 pp. (Cloth US$ 34.95, Paper US$ 12.95)Slave women in the New World: gender stratiftcation in the Caribbean, byMARIETTA MORRISSEY. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1989. xiv +202 pp. (Cloth US$ 29.95)In a letter to his son in 1760, Chesapeake slaveowner Charles Carrol employed a curious euphemism for woman: "fair sex." Obviously, he wasn't thinking of his slaves. An attempt to remedy his negligence by considering this popular definition of eighteenth-century womanhood in relation to the females he forgot reveals this highly restrictive code to be exclusionary as well, for the difficulty of figuring out how brown or black skin can be "fair" suggests that a bondwoman in the New World was not, according to dominant ideology, a woman. Slavery made nonsense of female gender in the case of those whose labor allo wed white society its definition. A contemporary observer reveals just how thorough was the distinction between white womanly passivity and whatever unnamed oblivion was left to black females: "The labor of the slave thus becomes the substitute for that of the woman" (Smith 1980:70; Dew 1970 [1832]:36).

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