MISSING - Within the Plantation Household: Black and White Women of the Old South (Gender and American Culture)

by Elizabeth Fox-Genovese

Paperback, 1988


Checked out
Due Sep 10, 2022


University of North Carolina Press (1988), Edition: Later Printing, 568 pages


Discusses how class, race, and gender shaped women's experiences in the South.


½ (21 ratings; 3.6)

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LibraryThing member mdobe
An account of the lives of antebellum slave owning women and black slaves within the plantation household setting. Fox-Genovese uses primarily diaries and letters as her source material to recreate the women's' culture of this particular environment.

In the Prologue, she shows that elite white women
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are able to develop an identity because they had intense and uninterrupted familial ties and networks of friends to buoy them up in hard times (p. 11). Much of this identity, however, was dependant upon the support given them by their husbands. This is at least the case with Sarah Gayle (p. 12).

Slave-holding was a very important source of the sense of self for women like Sarah Gayle. Despite the close bonds which Sarah develops with Mike and Rose, two of her slaves (p. 26), the proximity of living conditions also led to friction, as was the case with Hampton (p. 23). Sarah Gayle benefited from the slave system. Likeable though she was, she was complicit in maintaining the slaveocracy (p. 27).

Suzanne Lebsock, "Complicity and Contention: Women in the Plantation South," Georgia Historical Quarterly, LXXIV (1990), 59-83; and reply by Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, pp. 369-371.

Lebsock finds untold contradictions in Fox-Genovese's logic. She finds her sources and scope all too limited for the conclusions drawn (p. 62). She dismisses her "theory of identity" for black women as ambiguous (p. 66). The biggest problem, though, is her simplistic thinking on where white slave-holding women stood on slavery (p. 73). She has subjected these poor women to an unreasonable test of "ideological purity" (p. 75), and as a result missed the nuanced moral struggle that people like Mary Chestnut had with the idea of slavery in favor of the "honorary man" Louisa McCord (p. 78). Women responded to slavery in a way that was different from men. That is true for both white and black women. Gender is a useful category, if one that needs to be employed with greater subtlety when class loyalties and race come into play.
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LibraryThing member heidilove
Excellent exploration and analysis from the primary sources.
LibraryThing member LilleesUncle
Some of it took some serious slogging through sociology lingo and was pretty dull going, but it was interesting.


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9.02 inches


080784232X / 9780807842324
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