Enslaved Women to Freedwomen

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While masters and mistresses saw “themselves as honorable, just, and loved by their slaves” the domestic institution of slavery was not seen as honorable or just and in most cases, they were not loved by their loved ones (Glymph, Out of the House of Bondage, 29). Through hindsight this is rather clear, but in trying to determine why slaves wanted to attain freedom, enslaved women in particular, white mistresses of plantations played a large role. “By the outbreak of the Civil War, slaveholding women had become…central partners in slavery’s maintenance and management” (31). Enslaved women sought freedom from what was considered to be “random…normal violence” (30). The violence enacted upon women in the plantation household “was as much hell…as it was in the cotton, tobacco, sugar, and rice fields” (33). With a mixture of “perverse mental cruelty, with physical violence” (31) female mistresses proved to be “harder and crueler than masters” (39).

After enslaved women finally achieved freedom, many found work in houses as servants completing work similar to what they had specialized in inside former plantation houses. Former enslaved women found work as “nurses, cooks [and] washers” though brought “their own sense of value based on their experience as slaves” (150). While these jobs were an attempt to provide themselves with a fair wage, many former enslaved women were taken advantage of. While the former enslaved women were hired to perform a certain task, many white women who hired them ordered them to perform tasks outside their normal duties and tasks (151). Such was the way may freedwomen lived their lives in post-war America.

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