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Within the Plantation Household: Black and White Women of the Old South

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  361 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
Documenting the difficult class relations between women slaveholders and slave women, this study shows how class and race as well as gender shaped women's experiences and determined their identities. Drawing upon massive research in diaries, letters, memoirs, and oral histories, the author argues that the lives of antebellum southern women, enslaved and free, differed fund ...more
Paperback, 544 pages
Published December 9th 1988 by University of North Carolina Press
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Feb 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Southern Women, History Buffs
Tantalizing tastes of Southern womanhood slip between the liberal lace of feminist phraseology as Within the Plantation Household begins with a Prologue. I am torn momentarily between the impulse to drop this book and find instead a complete unedited copy of Sarah Haynesworth Gayle’s diary.

Chapter one is more of the same minus the diary excerpts. It is a dry chapter of definitions discussing such terminology as “gender,” “race,” and “household.” I am convinced that the author is not herself a S
Some things to bear in mind when approaching this book:
1. Its publication date. At the time it was written, this was ground-breaking stuff. Actually focus on the lives of female slaves and their white female owners? Whoa, Nelly, pass the smelling salts!
2. It is an academic work. The author is a sociologist whose focus is feminism and slavery in the US pre-Civil War era. This is not a prettied up historical fiction; it is historical research. (Or, rather, the result of historical research.) It's
Michael Chornesky
Jun 22, 2013 rated it liked it
Genovese is most in her own when it comes to detail, and she paints a lucid tapestry of the on-the-ground experiences of women, black and white, in the antebellum South. A good piece adding color to more significant considerations of the antebellum South, but bereft of historiographical significance considering subsequent developments in considerations of women and race in the South.
Aug 19, 2009 rated it liked it
Some of it took some serious slogging through sociology lingo and was pretty dull going, but it was interesting.
An account of the lives of antebellum slave owning women and black slaves within the plantation household setting. Fox-Genovese uses primarily diaries and letters as her source material to recreate the women's' culture of this particular environment.

In the Prologue, she shows that elite white women are able to develop an identity because they had intense and uninterrupted familial ties and networks of friends to buoy them up in hard times (p. 11). Much of this identity, however, was dependant up
Aug 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2017
I really appreciated the political/sociological clarification of the difference between New England homes and Southern households, the Northern roots of the idea of a "woman's sphere" being dependent of the development of men's work away from home. This book is changing the way I read and understand women's diaries from the time, and helping me to begin to grasp the cultural differences between Northern and Southern white women as being certainly bound up with slavery, but also with a whole pate ...more
Sep 14, 2014 rated it it was ok
Elizabeth Fox-Genovese explores the female perspective and experience of living in the Old South: incorporating sources that speak to both black and white women. To be completely candid, there does not seem to be very much innovative or surprising here, but I am fairly confident that this is because I do not understand the historiography. Written in 1988, it is quite possible that everything she is saying is being said by a historian for the first time, and that women's perspective in the antebe ...more
Aug 15, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: library
I found the actual words of the women from that era to be interesting, although I would have preferred a much more balanced view between the black and white women. I understand that slaves rarely kept journals and such, but there were some well educated black women who fought for their peoples' freedom who gave speeches and such that could have been drawn on for this book. The whole subject was just extremely sad, and it was such a shameful era of our country that if I had not had to read this f ...more
Apr 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
I know that some historians have issues with this book, but I love it. I love the snippets from diaries to give the subjects a voice, and I love how economics creeps in to give more texture to understanding class, race, and gender relations. Fox-Genovese doesn't try to tell the 'whole' story of race and gender in the south, the focus is on plantation life, but it is still an interesting read.
Aug 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
This book contrasts the experiences of black and white women in the pre-Civil War South. It contains a great deal of information on a subject that doesn't get all that much attention. I learned a lot from the book and enjoyed it. However, the style is very academic and dense, so I would only recommend it to readers who are very interested in learning about the period.
May 19, 2012 rated it did not like it
While this seems like an interesting and informative book, it was not an easy read. It felt quite choppy in most places. To me, there was no real flow, so after a few chapters, I ended up skimming and finally putting it down. I have another similar read coming via inter-library soon. I hope it is much easier!
Aug 31, 2014 rated it liked it
The book talked more about slaveowners' perspective than the slaves, so I found myself often wondering how the slaves thought about something. I had to get used to the academic writing style; the book was a little drier than I like, but it was informative.
Susan Stans
May 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
Finally, I finished the book. Took me forever. I recommend this for scholars who are interested in the Civil War and the relationship between female slaveholders and female slaves. Very well researched. Reads more like a dissertation.
Dec 02, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History Lovers
Shelves: history
An in-depth examination of the interwoven lives of Southern women and their female slaves. It isn't all moonlight and magnolias, nor is it all Simon Legree. The text is a bit dry at times, but very informative.
Apr 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Long read but worth it if you are interested in women's history, slave history, southern history... I read this in graduate school and had to write and present a book analysis for the class. I chose this book. Still one of the best reads I had in grad school.
Jessica Jewett
Mar 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was a very necessary read for my research purposes but the writing was a little bit dry. It took me a while to get through it.
Hard to read. Not because of content, but the way it was written. I eventually gave up and stopped reading. It took me months to stop reading it. LOL!
Doris Raines
Apr 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: doris-shelf
I. Knew. There. Was. Not. Only. Blacks. In_slavery. Its. In. Black. And. White. There. Was. Also. Whites. In_slavery. And. Many. Others. Free. At. Last.
I read this book years ago. Bears a re-reading.
Marguerite Woodward
Lots of interesting facts and bits of information.
Nov 28, 2013 rated it it was ok
There was plenty of interesting information, but it was a difficult read.
Sep 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Wonderful resource for my thesis in college to obtain my BA in History. Fox-Genovese is the standard to which all authors in this genre should aspire.
Aug 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
rated it liked it
Jul 04, 2011
Maria Strayer
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Feb 19, 2013
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Jul 24, 2008
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May 28, 2011
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Nov 17, 2008
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Dec 02, 2014
Sergio Ramos
rated it it was amazing
Oct 25, 2017
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