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Women and Slavery in Nineteenth-Century Colonial Cuba

Women and Slavery in Nineteenth-Century Colonial Cuba

Sarah L. Franklin
Volume: 54
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Women and Slavery in Nineteenth-Century Colonial Cuba
    Book Description:

    Scholars have long recognized the importance of gender and hierarchy in the slave societies of the New World, yet gendered analysis of Cuba has lagged behind study of other regions. Cuban elites recognized that creating and maintaining the Cuban slave society required a rigid social hierarchy based on race, gender, and legal status. Given the dramatic changes that came to Cuba in the wake of the Haitian Revolution and the growth of the enslaved population, the maintenance of order required a patriarchy that placed both women and slaves among the lower ranks. Based on a variety of archival and printed primary sources, this book examines how patriarchy functioned outside the confines of the family unit by scrutinizing the foundation on which nineteenth-century Cuban patriarchy rested. This book investigates how patriarchy operated in the lives of the women of Cuba, from elite women to slaves. Through chapters on motherhood, marriage, education, public charity, and the sale of slaves, insight is gained into the role of patriarchy both as a guiding ideology and lived history in the Caribbean's longest lasting slave society. Sarah L. Franklin is assistant professor of history at the University of North Alabama.

    eISBN: 978-1-58046-777-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Introduction: Patriarchy, Paternalism, and the Development of the Slave Society
    (pp. 1-20)

    On the night of December 14, 1807, in San Miguel, Cuba, just outside Havana, Doña Teresa Días left home. She ran away, taking all her clothes with her, and moved in with Don Marcos Valentín. Her husband, Don Dionsio de Meza was angry, so angry that he complained to a local government official. Teresa’s actions were a direct affront to the social and cultural norms and precepts of nineteenth-century Cuba. The state viewed the matter gravely as evidenced by its actions; it took Teresa into custody and “deposited” her in a house that met with government approval. Local officials sought...

  6. 1 Virgins and Mothers
    (pp. 21-37)

    The dramatic changes wrought by the escalation of plantation slavery in the wake of the Haitian Revolution would alter the role and place of women in Cuban society as traditional elites employed patriarchy to assure the maintenance of order. Yet, patriarchal standards require foundation. Society’s prescriptions for women were closely tied to marianismo, or the idea that women are morally and spiritually superior to men, and the veneration of women, religion, and motherhood played an important role in those prescriptions. Women were, in short, subordinate to fathers and husbands, and to God, a notion widely held in Hispanic America. Nonetheless,...

  7. 2 Wives
    (pp. 38-70)

    Marriage figures prominently in any discussion of women. A matter of great significance, marriage required the oversight of the state. The emergence of the family as the locus of state authority and the societal emphasis on motherhood ensured that not only would the state advocate marriage but also it would buttress the institution against any perceived offenses. If marriage were a way to order society, then adultery and divorce represented tremendous forces for disorder. Women could not be allowed to undermine hierarchy, and elites responded swiftly and directly to perceived affronts, further testifying to the significance of the institution of...

  8. 3 Pupils
    (pp. 71-101)

    Cuban society prescribed women’s roles in nineteenth-century Cuba, and education served to institutionalize that prescription and the hierarchical ordering of society. Cuba’s elites used patriarchy both to implement and to maintain the slave society, and education was a necessary component. If, as elites hoped, women were to know their place, they first had to learn their place. Scrutinizing education and how it evolved as the slave society did likewise allows the emergence of a clearer image of the proliferation of patriarchy in the lives of white Cuban women and reveals in high relief how crucial women were to the ordering...

  9. 4 The Needy
    (pp. 102-124)

    The maintenance of the nineteenth-century Cuban slave society required strict social control, and it did not begin with adult-age women but rather with young girls. Through benevolence in the form of institutionalized charity and direct response to individual incidences, the state effectively secured those individuals who did not occupy their preordained position in society, while maintaining the hierarchal ordering of the slave society. Such activities provide insight into how the instillation of ideas regarding familial ordering into young girls and women ensured the future of the plantation society.

    Elites who dominated the government and institutions such as the Sociedad Patriótica...

  10. 5 Wet Nurses
    (pp. 125-146)

    I have thus far sought to explore how Cubans employed patriarchy to implement and maintain the slave society of the nineteenth century. The method of doing so in large part involved discursive language and practice, espousing of social ideals, and exhortations about women’s behavior to preserve order. Yet, those prescriptions for women could not be extended unilaterally to women of color. In many ways, their existence was oppositional. White women were virtuous and infused with honor, according to the prevalent discourse; black women were not. They were lustful, without honor, and their lot was to labor. However, motherhood itself appeared...

  11. Conclusion: A Shifting Landscape
    (pp. 147-158)

    Elites employed patriarchy to impose a rigid ordering on society and to place women and slaves into social positions structured along familial lines. Although they used patriarchy to define social relations, paternalistic notions served to undergird patriarchal control of society by providing the apparatus to maintain the system. As the slave society of nineteenth-century Cuba declined, the system evolved to meet changing needs. Elites would preserve their grip on power, and although over time the model for the maintenance of power would change radically, they worked diligently to uphold the system.

    The advent of free labor in Cuba “meant a...

  12. Abbreviations
    (pp. 159-160)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 161-200)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 201-220)
  15. Index
    (pp. 221-223)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 224-227)