Ties That Bound: Founding First Ladies and Slaves

University of Chicago Press
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Behind every great man stands a great woman. And behind that great woman stands a slave. Or so it was in the households of the Founding Fathers from Virginia, where slaves worked and suffered throughout the domestic environments of the era, from Mount Vernon, Monticello, and Montpelier to the nation’s capital. American icons like Martha Washington, Martha Jefferson, and Dolley Madison were all slaveholders. And as Marie Jenkins Schwartz uncovers in Ties That Bound, these women, as the day-to-day managers of their households, dealt with the realities of a slaveholding culture directly and continually, even in the most intimate of spaces.

Unlike other histories that treat the stories of the First Ladies’ slaves as separate from the lives of their mistresses, Ties That Bound closely examines the relationships that developed between the First Ladies and their slaves. For elite women and their families, slaves were more than an agricultural workforce; slavery was an entire domestic way of life that reflected and reinforced their status. In many cases slaves were more constant companions to the white women of the household than were their husbands and sons, who often traveled or were at war. By looking closely at the complicated intimacy these women shared, Schwartz is able to reveal how they negotiated their roles, illuminating much about the lives of slaves themselves, as well as class, race, and gender in early America.

By detailing the prevalence and prominence of slaves in the daily lives of women who helped shape the country, Schwartz makes it clear that it is impossible to honestly tell the stories of these women while ignoring their slaves. She asks us to consider anew the embedded power of slavery in the very earliest conception of American politics, society, and everyday domestic routines.
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About the author

Marie Jenkins Schwartz is professor emeritus of history at the University of Rhode Island. She is also the author of Born in Bondage: Growing Up Enslaved in the Antebellum South and Birthing a Slave: Motherhood and Medicine in the Antebellum South.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Apr 6, 2017
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Pages
416
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ISBN
9780226460727
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Historical
Biography & Autobiography / Presidents & Heads of State
History / General
History / United States / Revolutionary Period (1775-1800)
Social Science / Ethnic Studies / African American Studies
Social Science / Women's Studies
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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