In a treatise published in , Anglican clergyman Morgan Godwyn, who had ministered to parishes in Virginia and Barbados , recounted the public flogging of an enslaved woman. Godwyn was shocked, but it probably did not strike the other onlookers as unusual. Certainly nothing about this scene would surprise Stephanie E. Indeed, they were as invested in slavery as their male counterparts and assumed central roles in buying, selling, and disciplining enslaved people in public as well as in domestic spaces. This is, as Jones-Rogers argues, a vast category when compared to the elite southern women who left behind diaries and letters and have never been studied systematically. Young girls were socialized to be enslavers. They were instructed in the arts of discipline and knew that they could demand, as did one three-year old, that her enslaved caretaker be punished by cutting her ears off and replaced. Parents gave or promised human property to daughters in order to attract suitors. As those girls matured and married, their control over their enslaved property did not diminish. Slave-owning girls became slave-owning wives who worked to protect their financial stake in enslaved people.
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White women of the pre-Civil War era were far more shrewd and sophisticated than stereotypes would have us believe. They were savvy economic actors, not airheads in crinolines and corsets. Jones-Rogers ought to dispel the myth of the Southern belle for good. She then cross-referenced their accounts with bills of sale, census data and other legal documents to paint a new picture of what female slaveholders were like. By showing the enormous financial interests white women had in slavery and the steps they took to secure those interests, Jones-Rogers provides proof that these women often were no different from their male counterparts. Yet, the image of the kind, nurturing white woman is deeply ingrained in our culture when it comes to race relations. Actor Allison Williams encountered this phenomenon after the release of Get Out in In an interview on Late Night with Seth Meyers , Williams revealed how white fans would question her about her character, Rose Armitage, who is at the center of a diabolical plot to entrap black men. The professor recently spoke about her research with The Undefeated. How does the way slave-owning women are depicted in pop culture affect our perception of them?
But fewer probably know that it was his wife, Martha , who dramatically increased the enslaved population there. When they wed in , George may have owned around 18 people. Martha, one of the richest women in Virginia, owned The high number of people Martha Washington owned is unusual, but the fact that she owned them is not.