They Were Her Property
White Women as Slave Owners in the American South
by Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers
Pub Date 19 Feb 2019
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Bridging women’s history, the history of the South, and African American history, this book makes a bold argument about the role of white women in American slavery. Historian Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers draws on a variety of sources to show that slave‑owning women were sophisticated economic actors who directly engaged in and benefited from the South’s slave market. Because women typically inherited more slaves than land, enslaved people were often their primary source of wealth. Not only did white women often refuse to cede ownership of their slaves to their husbands, they employed management techniques that were as effective and brutal as those used by slave‑owning men. White women actively participated in the slave market, profited from it, and used it for economic and social empowerment. By examining the economically entangled lives of enslaved people and slave‑owning women, Jones-Rogers presents a narrative that forces us to rethink the economics and social conventions of slaveholding America.
“One of the most significant books on the history of women and slavery.”—Edward E. Baptist, author of The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism "Stephanie Jones-Rogers has written a highly original book that will change the way we think about women enslavers in the United States. A must-read for anyone interested in the history of gender, slavery and capitalism."—Daina Ramey Berry, author of The Price for Their Pound of Flesh: The Value of the Enslaved, from Womb to Grave, in the Building of a Nation "This is a deeply researched and powerfully argued book that completely overturns romanticized notions of the plantation mistresses and resistant southern white women. Stephanie Jones-Rogers reveals how deeply complicit slaveholding white women were in upholding the everyday cruelties and barbarity of racial slavery."—Manisha Sinha, author of The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition "They Were Her Property casts brilliant, unsparing light on the history of slaveholding women and the terrible oscillation of domination and dependence that defined identities—as wives, as mothers, as mistresses—purchased in the slave market."—Walter Johnson, author of River of Dark Dreams “They Were Her Property is nothing less than phenomenal. It shatters many sacred cows about women’s history and legal history and shows how slaveowning women skirted the limitations of gender norms and statutory law in ways that have been previously underestimated. The findings are buttressed by reading anew a rich and prodigious body of primary sources. This is a must read.”—Tera W. Hunter, Edwards Professor of History and Professor of African-American Studies, Princeton University