Slavery for man and for woman

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Harriet Jacobs indicated that women are likely to suffer more from slavery than their male counterparts. The novel, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, depicts life in American society, where women have suffered severe violations during slavery. In most cases, slave women have encountered challenging views, burdens, interactions, and basic roles that do not respect human dignity (Jacobs 20). It is clear that, prior to the promulgation of the Emancipation Act in the 19th century, female slaves faced more obstacles and even more pressures than some male slaves. Precisely, they endured emotional, sexual, and physical abuse from their owners, male slaves, overseers, mistresses, and masters (Bland 7). In addition, those working as their masters’ homes developed close contact with their owners leading to sexual relationships. Similarly, young girls from the slaves community were more prone to rape and other form of sexual exploitations as compared to boys. Slavery has more severe negative effects to women slaves as compared to male slaves.

Women working as slaves in the early nineteenth century in the American society came across similar challenges experienced by their men colleagues. Women slaves were commonly regarded as their masters’ property since they lacked essential privileges and rights. Moreover, the law also forbid any formal education to women (Jacobs 21). Equally, they were compelled to disown their inherent African languages, religious beliefs and customs. More importantly, as compared to men, women slaves were exposed to unique gender-linked challenges such as high rates of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse from the whites and other slaves (Norton and Alexander 13). Women could not be permitted to practice their skilled labour away from their master’s home. In some instance, mature girls could not be allowed to marry while married women slaves survived with the fear that their children or husband could be separated from them at any time (White 2).

Slavery is more devastating among women because they become victims of mistreatments in the society (Bland 10). For instance, they were never allowed to acquire learning that could assist them to gain writing and reading skills. Most of the male slaves received training, which helped to acquire skills for specialized labour such as craftsmen. Unfortunately, this service was classically repudiated to women slaves (Jacobs 23). Furthermore, these slaves were compelled to communicate in English and convert to Christianity against their desired faiths and native dialects.

Unlike their male counterparts, they are easily compelled to do domestic chores normally attending to the needs of the mistress and serving their needs for a long period. On the other hand, women slaves who were not assigned to the domestic chores were forced to do more challenging task in the fields normally from morning to evening (Norton and Alexander 19). They were subjected to intense physical jobs. In the antebellum American, more than 50 percent of the slaves working in the large plantation farms were women (White 3).

The emotional, physical, sexual abuse among the women slaves normally started when girls were in their puberty. Meanwhile, their mistresses, masters and master’s family members propagated the abuses (White 3). Moreover, the white employees in the farms were given freedom to sleep with teenage slave girls. In most cases, women slaves and slave girls were victims of rape and sexual exploitation (Bland 11). The male slaves also committed the cruelties against slave girls or women. The mistreatments against women slaves were more as compared to their male counterparts because when they questioned their masters, they were brutally subjected to beatings, which were aimed at creating warning for others (Jacobs 23). Some severe beatings also degenerated into death. In some instance, the punishment involved deprivation of food including among their children. Other women who did contrary to their master’s wishes were sold off to even crueller slaveholders. Their lives were equated to the type of labour their generated as they were not given any human dignity (Norton and Alexander 20).

Slaves were typically valued as their master’s property just like livestock. In this regard, women slaves were normally prohibited from declining sexual demands from their white masters. Unfortunately, those who rejected such advances were severely punished (White 7). Furthermore, women slaves who gave birth to children from their masters were also victims of punishments. In a number of instances, they were accused on seducing their white masters hence subjected to tougher beatings (Jacobs 25). Children from white masters were sometimes considered slaves hence they were compelled into slavery just like their mothers.

The sexual mistreatment among women slaves had many negative effects as compared to their male counterparts. In fact, it was more dehumanizing and demoralizing relative to racial mistreatment they experienced in the daily lives (Gaspar and Hine, Eds 11). As Harriet Jacobs puts it that women slaves were persistently in danger because their masters could fanatically torment them by expressing their desire to rape them (Jacobs 13). Harriet describes the special type of abuses and hardships that women slaves had to overcome. The sufferings were more pronounced among young slave girls because it was an additional to the common burdens. More notably, the sufferings were more severe among women because their black bodies were constantly devalued. The slaveholders had legal entitlement to the slaves’ bodies hence raping black women was not a crime (Jacobs 27). In this respect, it was a powerful approach of violence against women slaves with an aim to dehumanize and devalue their black bodies.

Racial discrimination was also a big challenge, which had huge effect on the women slaves. Slavery influenced concepts about the lives of black women, which shaped their stereotypes (White 5). In the American society, there were two major stereotypes among women slaves, which include mammy and Jezebel. The term mammy referred to black women slaves who possessed asexual features. On the other hand, the Jezebel was used to refer black women slaves as promiscuous people (Norton and Alexander 22). For this reason, most of the women slaves suffered from rejection because they could not conform to the Victorian model of ‘real womanhood’ since there was domineering social views in the society (Fogel and Engerman 21).

Women slaves also experienced many hardships relative to their male colleagues because of the burden of sustaining a stable family. Slaveholders had the powers to separate partners and move children away from their mothers. Most of the women slaves in a relationship were traded to another farm in order to separate them from their husbands (White 7). Unfortunately, those who were sold off were never given a chance to visit their family members left behind. In most instances, women slaves found themselves alienated from their children and husbands by long distances. Other plantation proprietors normally deprived slave girls their rights to marry (Jacobs 27). However, some believed that women slaves were more productive if they were given freedom to live in families. Some owners also allowed women slaves who were referred to as breeders. The main aim of having breeders was for them to bear more children hence increasing the number of slaves (Bland 15). Women slaves who were discovered to be poor breeders were subjected to mistreatments. In some instance, poor breeders were assigned more jobs and sometimes being punished. Female slaves were also victims of forced pairing which involved compelling certain slaves to marry. For instance, slaveholders could purchase slaves from other plantations and then ask them to wed without consent in order to expand his workforce. Those who refused to form desired pairs were thoroughly punished (Norton and Alexander 25).

Agricultural slaves worked as the key of the labour force on both cotton and rice plantations. In these farms, the artisan jobs were earmarked for men slaves. In this regard, female slaves performed most of the jobs that demanded use of hands (Bland 17). Women slaves comprised approximately 60 percent of the coastal plantations and field workforce. For instance, women slaves were assigned the task of picking cotton because they were more productive than their male counterparts were (Gaspar and Hine, Eds 9). In addition, women slaves started picking cotton in the early morning (before dawn) and were only released as late as seven and nine in winter and summer, respectively. Furthermore, they were also required to prepare land, clean the ditches, dug, hoed plant, cut stalks and pick cotton (Fogel and Engerman 29). Female slaves were also compelled to package and clean the farm products or shipment.

Young slave girls also began working in the house and in the fields at early age as compared to boys. Most of them started even before their seventh birthday. The job of female slaves was dependant on the size of the plantation (Jacobs 30). Where the size of the plantation was small, both men and women worked on similar assignment. The majority of tasked given to women restricted their movement as compared to men’s job which involved transportation of farm inputs, supplies and crops. Men also worked as craftsmen and artisan (Norton and Alexander 37). Women slaves were less likely to escape from slavery because their responsibilities confined them as compared to their men counterparts.


Echoing the words of Harriet Jacobs, slavery among women is more terrible as compared to that of men. Women slaves are more susceptible emotional, physical and sexual abuse than their male counterparts are (Jacobs 20). In the ambellum American society, female slaves were subjected to rape from their masters, other male slaves or farm employees. In particular, the slave owners had rights to sleep with young slave girls during this puberty. Furthermore, female slaves who got pregnant from the whites were severely punished as they were accused of seduction (Fogel and Engerman 21). Some of the slave owners separated the women slaves from their children, which led to emotional challenges. On the other hand, female slaves suffered from physical torture, as they were required to work in the farms for a long period. Precisely, women slaves did not receive any formal training for the job; hence, they performed heavy tasks in the fields such as picking repackaging cotton (Gaspar and Hine, Eds 5). On the contrary, male slaves received training on certain tasks while some masters reserved special jobs for them. Therefore, slavery has many negative effects in the lives of women as compared to that of men.

Work Cited

Bland, Sterling Lecater, ed. African American slave narratives: an anthology. Vol. 3. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2001. Print.

Fogel, Robert William, and Stanley L. Engerman. Time on the cross: The economics of American Negro slavery. Vol. 1. WW Norton & Company, 1995. Print.

Gaspar, David Barry, and Darlene Clark Hine, eds. More than chattel: Black women and slavery in the Americas. Indiana University Press, 1996. Print.

Jacobs, Harriet Ann. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Schomburg Library of Nineteent, 1990. Print.

Norton, Mary Beth, and Ruth M. Alexander. "Major Problems in American Women's History Documents and Essays." (1996). Print.

White, Deborah Gray. Ar'n't I a woman?: Female slaves in the plantation South. WW Norton & Company, 1999. Print.

July 24, 2021

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