Women Also Know Washington

“Life of George Washington — The Farmer,” painted by Junius Brutus Stearns ; lith. by Régnier, imp. Lemercier, Paris, 1853. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. By Lindsay Chervinsky In the preface to You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George… Read More

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“By the Meanes of Women”: Jamestown on the Vanguard of English Women’s Settlement

by Emily Sackett Emily Sackett was awarded an OI–Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation fellowship in spring 2019. She spent the month of September 2019 in residence at the Omohundro Institute and conducted extensive research in the collections at Jamestown Island. The OI offers numerous short-term fellowships for… Read More

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Making the Personal Historical: Reflections on Pregnancy and Birth

“A Lady & Children,” mezzotint (1780), British Museum. This post accompanies “Motherhood in Early America,” episode 237 of Ben Franklin’s World. It was originally posted at the Junto and has been lightly revised. by Lindsay M. Keiter Human reproduction is simultaneously unchanged and radically different over time and across cultures. Read More

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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

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