They would have to watch their children being taken away from them and sometimes never see them again. Women had to also deal with their Master trying to sexually harass them. Thus, slavery was indeed more terrible for women due to the facts that they would have to face with many more hardships than men did. One of the many obstacles which women had to cope with during slavery was losing their children. One night a black woman’s child will be with her and the other morning he/she could be sold off to another Master.
The lives of female slaves were a little more trying than that of a male slave. This is partly due to the sexual harassment, which slave women must endure. Sexual relationships between masters and female slaves were very common on the plantation during the eighteenth century. These forced sexual relationships often began with cruel beatings before the slave would submit to savage rapes. Out of fear of pain or death, female slaves had no other alternative but to obey their masters.
In “The Trial of Girlhood” and “A Perilous Passage In the Slave Girl’s Life” Jacobs’s narrative emphasizes the problems that are faced by female slaves. She shares the sexual abuses that are commonly practiced by slave master against young female slaves. She does this through revealing the unique humiliation and the brutalities that were inflicted upon young slave girls. In this narrative we come to understand the psychological damage caused by sexual harassment. We also realize how this sexual harassment done by the slaveholders went against morality and “violated the most sacred commandment of nature,”(Harriet 289)as well as fundamental religious beliefs.
The children caused tension between mistresses and slave women. The mistresses had to deal with the results of their husband’s infidelity . They were usually powerless and there and at that time, divorce was not an option. Due to jealousy and rage they often took out their anger on the slave women and her slave children. The slave husbands had no control over their masters forcing their wives into having sexual relations with them.
With sexual abuse and fear of losing their children, slave women are being psychologically tortured and unable to achieve fulfillment in their lives. Jacobs’s account of the mental and psychological difficulties that women slaves face can best be described when she explains her feelings when having a daughter, “Slavery is terrible for men; but it is far more terrible for women. Superadded to the burden common to all, they have wrongs, and sufferings, and mortifications peculiarly their own” (119).
Did Gender Make a Difference within Slavery? Within slavery there were harsh conditions which Frederick Douglass tries to convey in his biography "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass." Within this narrative he dezribes how men and women slaves were treated differently by their masters. Women were abused by their master, physically, sexually, and mentally, while men were mostly abused physically and mentally. Many slave women suffered regular beatings.
That which commands admiration in the white woman only hastens the degradation of the female slave” (p. 27). With this, she explains that when a young black slave girl beholds beauty, it quickly becomes her biggest downfall, as the white slaveholders will pursue her in hopes of sexual affairs. Jacobs notes that slave girls simply did not have the option of being virtuous since their virtue was under constant assault. As in Jacobs’ case, she was told that she was Dr. Flint’s property and must subject to his will in all things. Many were raped and made to bear the children of their white masters and denied the marriage to one they love, she states, “I once saw a women almost die giving birth to a babe who was nearly white” and that, “the master said if she must have a husband, she may take up one
Slavery and the Life of Harriet Jacobs It is well known that slavery was a horrible event in the history of the United States. However, what isn't as well known is the actual severity of slavery. The experiences of slave women presented by Angela Davis and the theories of black women presented by Patricia Hill Collins are evident in the life of Harriet Jacobs and show the severity of slavery for black women. The history of slave women offered by Davis suggests that "compulsory labor overshadowed every other aspect of women's existence" (Davis 5). This is quite apparent through examination of the life of Harriet Jacobs.
She compares the life of men and women in the slave society, and how truly different they were. The roles of women are shown through the slaves’ life cycle, family life, slave society networks, and the civil war. Each of these various aspects of life are discussed very vividly in the book, and serve purpose in showing how African American women were treated so unjustly not only because of their skin color but the fact that they were women, therefore they were the most discriminated against in Antebellum America. Though they were discriminated against their nature proved them to not be submissive and subordinate in all aspects. The terms “Jezebel” and “Mammy” refer to African American women in this time period.
Slave Women in Harriet Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl and Toni Morrison's Beloved Slavery was a horrible institution that dehumanized a race of people. Female slave bondage was different from that of men. It wasn't less severe, but it was different. The sexual abuse, child bearing, and child care responsibilities affected the females's pattern of resistance and how they conducted their lives. Harriet Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, demonstrates the different role that women slaves had and the struggles that were caused from having to cope with sexual abuse.