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The Plantation Mistress

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  181 ratings  ·  16 reviews
This pioneering study of the much-mythologized Southern belle offers the first serious look at the lives of white women and their harsh and restricted place in the slave society before the Civil War. Drawing on the diaries, letters, and memoirs of hundreds of planter wives and daughters, Clinton sets before us in vivid detail the daily life of the plantation mistress and h ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published February 12th 1984 by Pantheon
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As Catherine Clinton states in this fascinating insight into plantation life, "the plantation mistress continues to be a prisoner of myth", as much bound and constrained by history as she was in life. Whilst the life of a plantation wife was and remains in no way comparable to slavery, as Clinton makes all too clear, white planter women in the Old South were in their own way restricted, hemmed in, constrained. Their life was very far from the Gone with the Wind stereotype of graceful belles and ...more
I Be Reading
More like a 4.5. I found this book very informative. Most importantly, I appreciated that the author made it clear throughout the entire book that plantation mistresses/slaveowning women were just as responsible for the horrors of slavery as the male planters/slaveowners. However, their experiences were very different from that of white men so although I personally have little to no sympathy for them as a collective, it was interesting to learn about that.

I would recommend it for anyone who has
I normally do not read a lot of fiction,unless it is based on an era of history I am interested in. I purchased this book after viewing an old plantation home in the south. I found it so far from the fiction, that books show, and movies describe, it was amazing. Gone was the world of Tara ,with the beautiful Scarlett, and her dances, and neighbors. the truth was much like seen ,after the war. Wives worked very hard, and had little enjoyment ,or even close neighbors. They held the full responsibi ...more
This was assigned for a class and it was really interesting. My copy is still bursting with post-it notes!
Really interesting to read some of the truths behind that romantic South we have in our minds. I enjoyed the section on the master of the plantation and the children that miraculously would appear that would be lighter skinned and noticeably similar to the master or his white children.

Great read!
I really enjoyed this book because the life of the southern women was told through letters that still exist from that time in history. I was especially intrigued by the ideas of slavery often being different from their plantation owning husbands. I also was very touched by their real fear of childbirth in those days and how they had very little support system and lived rather lonely, hard working, difficult lives. Didn't sound much like the "Gone With the Wind" southern belles we always hear abo ...more
Interesting book of the role of white women on plantations in the ante-bellum south. This book was written in 1982, and is well researched. I think it gives a better understanding of what women's lives were like, and it was not all parties at Twelve Oaks. I have read only a little about womens lives during that time. period, and now feel that i have a much more thorough understanding.
Scholarly. Fascinating data and anecdotes, but not an easy read.
Mary Alice
Eyeopener. The plantation mistress was Scarlett AFTER her hands got rough and Rhett was no longer impressed. It does seem like the mistress' daughters had it made UNTIL they got married. Then they were little more than slaves themselves.
An interesting book that sheds light on the often misunderstood role of the Southern women in the antebellum south. The myth of the plantation belle is definitely shattered with all the meticulous research inside.
"The Plantation Mistress" remains a classic. The mothers of Scarlett didn't have it easy. No wonder she learned to say, "I'll think about that tomorrow."
I've barely begun this book, and already I've learned many things; and I grew up in the South! Fascinating sociological info.
Not fun. Too scholarly - this was clearly a dissertation that was published.

Too bad they didn't encourage her to re-write.
good, but not enough to keep me going at this point in my life. I'll be keeping it, though.
Melissa Jean
A little dated but very important as the first history of antebellum southern women.
Interesting realistic view of the plantation wife's duties
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Professor of history at Queen's University, Belfast, Northern Ireland. Specializes in American history, African-American history, the Civil War, and women's history. Previously taught at Brandeis and Harvard universities. Born in 1952, grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. Studied sociology and history at Harvard, earned a master's degree from Sussex and a doctorate from Princeton.
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