A set of data uncovered by University of California-Berkeley professor reveals southern white women played a heavier role in the enslavement of Africans than previously thought.
“For them, slavery was their freedom,” Jones-Rogers states in her book.After Martha Washington married President George Washington in Virginia in 1759, George is said to have possibly owned around 18 people. But his wife, one of the richest women in the state, owned 84 and dramatically increased the local slave population.Arguing that white women are trained to be engaged in the slavery industry at a young age, Jones-Rogers stated, “their exposure to the slave market is not something that begins in adulthood—it begins in their homes when they’re little girls, sometimes infants, when they’re given enslaved people as gifts.”
Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers,
an associate professor of history at the university, combed through data from the 1850 and 1860 census and revealed that white women made up around 40% of slaveowners.
“Consistent with the deep-seated prejudices held by most white suffragists, Catt included no plaques to commemorate the thousands of African American women who actively participated in the struggle. Regional chauvinism was an issue as well: All the domestic suffragists were from the East Coast, with New York State vastly overrepresented. There was no one from California or the West, nor anyone from the South, unless you counted the Grimké sisters who left their native South Carolina to settle in Philadelphia and later New Jersey.
For too long, the history of how women won the right to vote has closely paralleled Catt’s suffrage forest: top-heavy and dominated by a few iconic leaders, all white and native-born. Moving away from that outdated approach reveals a broader, more diverse suffrage history waiting to be told, one that shifts the frame of reference away from the national leadership to highlight the women — and occasionally men — who made women’s suffrage happen through actions large and small, courageous and quirky, in states and communities across the nation. Suffrage activists campaigned in church parlors and the halls of Congress, but also in graveyards on the outskirts of college campuses, on the steps of the Treasury building and even on top of Mount Rainier.”