May 07, 2019
The Double-Edged Sword of Motherhood Under American Slavery
H.E. Hayward and Slave Nurse Louisa, Missouri History Museum, St. Louis, Missouri.
This post accompanies “Motherhood in Early America,” episode 237 of Ben Franklin’s World.
by Emily West
Mother’s Day offers opportunities to reflect upon motherhood in relation to ethnicity and class. Racial discrimination and poverty mean that a narrow conceptualization of biological motherhood associated with domestic care and nurture is not applicable to all in the past or present. This is especially true when considering the lives of enslaved women, for whom motherhood was a double-edged sword and many of whom endured a complex relationship with mothering. Women knew that their babies held pecuniary value to slaveholders and that they might be forcibly separated from their offspring at any time. Maternal love for children therefore co-existed alongside more ambivalent attitudes towards motherhood among enslaved women who rightly feared that their children might be wrenched away or otherwise fail to survive under the slave regime. Read More
Ben Franklin's World
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