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Women and Slavery in the Caribbean : A Feminist Perspective Rhoda E. Reddock Latin American Perspectives 1985 12: 63 DOI: 10.1177/0094582X8501200104 The online version of this article can be found at: http://lap.sagepub.com/content/12/1/63

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Women and Slavery in the Caribbean A Feminist Perspective by Rhoda E. Reddock* Much has been written on the subject of New World slavery, and indeed it may seem that the time has come for all such considerations to cease. For the people of the Caribbean, however, slavery is a crucial aspect of their historical experience, and its existence and legacy are not confined to the distant past. In Cuba, for example, slavery still existed less than a hundred years ago. The study of history is important not for its own sake, but in order to acquire an understanding of the workings of we can apply to our present experience. In the women’s throughout the world, women have had to reexamine and reinterpret history and often rewrite it in order to make women visible. In this article I shall attempt to reinterpret the history of slavery in the Caribbean from a woman’s perspective. I hope by so doing to expose 1 some of the ideology that conceals material oppression.’ Caribbean slavery has been attributed varying positions in Marxist mode-of-production analysis. To some (Padgug, 1976-1977; Genovese, 1967) it was a particular form of production within the worldwide capitalist system. To others (e.g., Post, 1978), however, it was a distinct mode of production, though it was incorporated into the sphere of exchange of the capitalist one. This view is justified by the fact that most, if not all, surplus value was derived from slave labor. According to Post (1978: 22-23), &dquo;It was based upon a particular combination of capital, land and labour-power, and as Marx showed, the mere presence of capital, even in conjunction with ’free’ labour, let alone chattel slaves, does not make a social formation capitalist.&dquo; I take the position that New World slavery in general, and Caribbean slavery in particular, can be seen as the capitalist harnessing of an




*Rhoda E. Reddock (Trinidad and Tobago) is currently on the staff of the postgraduate program of Women and Development at the Institute of Social Studies (ISS) at The Hague. She is working at present on a social and labor history of women in Trinidad and Tobago entitled Women, Labour and Struggle in Twentieth-Century Trinidad and

Tobago. LATIN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES, Issue 44, Vol. 12 No. 1, Winter 1985 63-80 @ 1985 Latin American Perspectives


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archaic form of economy. Whatever one’s position, the relationship between New World slavery and the emergence of capitalism is clear, and Williams (1944) has shown that slave production provided much of the basis for European industrialization. African-Caribbean slavery might be said to have begun in 1518, when Charles V of Spain, on the advice of Bartolomd de Las Casas, &dquo;protector of the Indians,&dquo; formally granted permission for the importation of 4,000 African slaves to relieve the labor shortage in the Antillean mines. Portugal, Spain, Britain, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Sweden all took part in the slave trade that ensued and, with the exception of Sweden, in the slavery that was established in their colonies (Knight, 1978: 214). Conditions varied somewhat from one area to the next, and the debate over the relative cruelty of the systems continues. What is important, though, is that at a particular time in history, the slave mode (or form) of production proved a most efficient means of capital accumulation for Western Europe in the sugar-plantation colonies of the Caribbean. Whatever tears may be shed at the thought of past brutality, economically for Western Europe there can be no regrets. It is against this background, therefore, that we can approach the study of women in Caribbean slave society, where there was no necessity to conceal oppression or the profit motive. The facts revealed in this analysis, though derived from a very particular situation, are relevant to the study of the oppression of women internationally today.


Among slaves the housewife did not exist. From the age of 4, slave girls as well as boys worked on the estate. According to Orlando Patterson (1967: 157), &dquo;In Rosehall Estate (Jamaica) girls started work at four and remained in the Hogmeat Gang (which consisted of young children employed in minor tasks such as collecting food for the hogs, weeding, and the like) until the age of nine. Between the ages of 12 and 19 occupations varied.&dquo; In one particular group, one girl aged 12 and two others aged 19 were in the field, two were attending stock, one was &dquo;with Mrs. Palmer,&dquo; and another was a domestic. The majority of women in Jamaica between the ages of 19 and 54 worked in the fields. By the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, women outnumbered men in the fields because of their lower mortality rates (Patterson, 1967; Craton, 1978; Dunn, 1972). By 1838, when slavery in the British colonies Downloaded from lap.sagepub.com by guest on February 7, 2013



abolished, the proportion of men in the fields had fallen below 40

percent (Craton, 1978). This is interesting when one notes that job discrimination on the basis of sex is often justified on the ground that have lower physical strength and endurance. In fact, according to Craton, slave women participating in field work similar to men’s lived up to five years longer than men. In slavery, therefore, women were often as important as productive field laborers as men. In the words of Gwendolyn Midlo Hall (1971: 17), &dquo;slave manpower has been compared to plant equipment. The purchase price of the slave was the investment, and the maintenance of the slave was a fixed cost that had to be paid whether or not the slave was working.&dquo; Therefore, says Patterson ( 1967: 67), &dquo;Slavery abolished any real social distribution between males and females. The woman was expected to work just as hard, she was as indecently exposed and was punished just as severely. In the eyes of the master she was equal to the man as long as her women

strength was the same as his.&dquo; What was work like on these estates? In mid-nineteenth-century Cuba the working day in the grinding season was as long as twenty hours. Four or five hours’ sleep was considered adequate. Women cut cane even during the ninth month of pregnancy (Knight, 1970: 76). According to Hall, by the end of the grinding season in Cuba even the oxen were reduced to mere skeletons, many of them dying from overwork. In Brazil, also a booming plantation society in the nineteenth century, one coffee planter calculated on using a slave for only one year (few on his estate could survive longer than that), during which he could get enough work out of the slave not only to &dquo;repay the initial investment, but even to show a good profit&dquo; (Hall, 1971: 19). Despite their use in hard field labor, says Craton, women were always excluded from the more prestigious and skilled jobs, including, for example, work with the boilers, carpentry, and masonry. Patterson also noted that male slaves had a much wider range of occupations than female slaves, who were confined to being field hands, domestics, and washerwomen. The most prestigious jobs for women appear to have been those related to health, in particular, nursing. Tables for 1823 in Jamaica list two midwives and one woman doctor as being among the staff of one estate. This situation can be seen as the introduction of the sexual division of labor that had been instituted in Europe into one sector of slave society while not extending it to areas in which it was not

economically advantageous. A minority of women (and men) became &dquo;house slaves,&dquo; participating mainly in domestic activities such as cooking and cleaning. In the Downloaded from lap.sagepub.com by guest on February 7, 2013


hierarchy of slave societies, house slaves were a breed apart, and the class division between women who did household labor and those who did not may have started here. It is possible (although this is pure conjecture) that field slaves envied the position of the house slave not so much because of a love of housework as from a desire for a less strenuous existence and the higher status that went with proximity to white people. Patterson (1967) points out, however, that not all field slaves envied the house slaves’ position. To many, the field offered more stability and relative freedom, for there they were not constantly at the mercy of masters and mistresses. These views would, of course, have varied from one plantation to another and over time.

WOMEN AND REPRODUCTION The main factor differentiating men from women is the capacity of produce human life. Throughout history the subordination of women has been centered around the necessity to control this important capacity. This question of reproduction, hitherto ignored in the social sciences, is now receiving increased attention with the emergence of academic studies on the subject of women, inspired by the women’s movements of the 1970s. Because of the crudeness of the social relations of production in slave society, the study of slave women and reproduction reveals much about the ability of the ruling classes to control the reproductive capacity of women to suit the economic necessity of the moment. Craton, in his sociodemographic study of Worthy Park Estate in Jamaica, identifies a &dquo;Christmas-tree effect&dquo; in population pyramids constructed from plantation records; the number of children is very small, whereas the middleaged population is much greater and gradually tapers off into old age. He rejects the view that this situation reflects the planters’ preference for &dquo;buying rather than breeding.&dquo; Instead, he suggests that it is because of the long period of lactation among African women, during which sexual intercourse was taboo; high infant mortality rates because of disease and diet deficiencies; the biological and psychological effects of dislocation, stress, and overcrowding, analogous to conditions in a Nazi concentration camp; and the abortions performed by slave women who did not want to bring children into slave labor (Craton, 1978: 97-98). These are the factors he believes are responsible for the high frequency of sterility among slave women and the fact that more than half of them never gave birth at all. women to

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Other writers, however, have seen this also as the result of definite preferences on the part of the planters. Noel Deere (1950: 227) noted that &dquo;natural reproduction of the slave population was not encouraged in sugar colonies; it was held to be cheaper to buy than to breed, since a child was an expense for its first twelve years of life.&dquo; Similarly, Hall

( 1971: 24) reports: Sources from St.

Domingue indicate


calculated the work

of a

negresse during an eighteen month period (that is the last three months of pregnancy and the months during which she breast-fed her infant) was worth 600 livres, and that during this time she was able to do only half of her normal work. The master therefore lost 300 livres. A ftfteen month old slave was not worth this sum.

Patterson attempts a more systematic discussion of the question, discussing the attitudes of slave owners toward reproduction in different periods of slave history. Using examples from Jamaica, he notes that during the early period, from 1655 until the beginning of the eighteenth

century, estates were small and had few slaves. As a result, the treatment of slaves was better than it would become later, and &dquo;natural&dquo; reproduction was encouraged. During the eighteenth century, however, the rising

planter class shifted to the large-scale monocrop production of sugar, and &dquo;natural&dquo; reproduction was abandoned. Thus by mid-century, Dr. Harrison could state that no encouragement was given to slaves to raise families, the general opinion being that it was cheaper to buy new slaves than to


children. As late


the 1830s

Henry Coor,



millwright, estimated in the West Indian Reporter (March 1831) that the cost of rearing a slave to age 14 was £112 in Jamaica, £165 in Trinidad, £109 in Barbados, and £122 in Antigua (Patterson, 1967: 105). At this time the comparative market price of a field slave was £45 in Cuba (Hall, 1962: 306). Patterson further states that it was considered &dquo;a misfortune to have pregnant women or even young slaves.&dquo; He also observed that &dquo;the attitudes of the owners were reflected in those of the slaves&dquo; (1967: 106). All the available data indicate that slave women disliked having children. At first this was limited to &dquo;creole&dquo; slaves, that is, slaves born in the region, but as the population of creole slaves increased, this attitude became more widespread. As a result of this, abortion and, to a lesser extent, infanticide were widely practiced (1967: 106-107). The conditions of life and work for slave women physically discouraged reproduction. Gynecological disorders were rife because of the absence of facilities for pregnancy and childbirth, the poor sanitary

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conditions, the mistreatment of pregnant women, and the heavy labor for long hours. One of the most common disorders was amenorrhea (absence of menstrual periods); this was usually due to severe malnutrition, injury to the ovaries, or problems in the endocrine system caused by severe beatings. Another was menorrhagia (excessive flow at the period). These menstrual problems often resulted in early menopause and therefore in a reduced fertile time span. Thus the practices of the ruling class during the sugar era, determined by its production needs and international market opportunities, led to the emergence of a dominant ideology in which both masters and slaves found the costs of bearing and rearing children greater than the benefits. This ideology led to a practice by slave women that served the interests of the ruling class even though it was derived from different considerations. In the Spanish Caribbean colonies, the same position was held by the planters, but it was manifested in different ways. Prior to the early nineteenth century there were very few women on slaveholding estates; in 1771 in Cuba the ratio was 1:1.9. A female slave, because of her risk of childbearing, was seen as a poor investment. As Francisco d’Arango y Perreneo, the father of the slave plantation system in Cuba, put it (quoted in Hall, 1971: 24), &dquo;During and after pregnancy, the slave is useless for several months, and her nourishment should be more abundant and better chosen. This loss of work and added expense comes out of the master’s pocket. It is he who pays for the often ineffective and always lengthy care of the newborn.&dquo; As a result, female slaves cost one-third the price of male slaves (Hall, 1971: 26). Nineteenth-century Spanish moralists justified this situation in terms of the undesirability of the coexistence of the sexes on the estates without marriage. Thus male slaves were condemned to celibacy (or homosexuality). The nuclear family was actively discouraged by planters in all the Caribbean colonies. Where such families did develop, they could be easily destroyed through sale of members to creditors and/or to other plantations. In Jamaica, children were taken from their mothers after weaning and placed with a drivereSS2 first in the grass gang’ and then in other gangs as they grew older. Similarly, in Cuba slave mothers returned to work about six weeks after childbirth, at which time the child was turned over to the plantation nursery (Knight, 1970: 76). Patterson (1967: 167) notes with some regret that &dquo;the male head could not assert his authority as husband and father as his ’wife’ was the property of another.&dquo; This illustration lays bare the realities of marriage and the nuclear family. In this period in Caribbean history, this form of

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organization did not meet the needs of capital. Therefore, there

need to construct the ideological support for the nuclear family that conceals its fundamental nature even today. In response to the attitudes of the masters, contempt for marriage was great among slaves, especially young ones (both female and male) in towns. Women in particular disliked marriage because, according to Patterson, it meant extra work and being confined to one man. Regular sexual activity began very early in life, especially for girls, and both men and women maintained multiple associations. One writer observed in 1823 that &dquo;the husband has commonly two or three wives, and the wives as many husbands which they mutually change for each other&dquo; (Patterson,1967: 164). As old age approached, however, couples usually settled down into stable monogamous unions. It has been suggested that in the later years of slavery, when women were allowed to keep their children, the woman may have assumed a &dquo;matriarchal&dquo; position in the household, all the children being hers and not the man’s. was no

AMELIORATION AND REFORM: NEW LAWS AND WOMEN As the last two decades of the eighteenth century drew near, the slave trade that had up to this point efficiently supplied the Caribbean slave owners with labor began to face difficulties. One source of these was the rise of industrial capitalism in Europe. It was at this time, after years of campaigning, that more attention was beginning to be paid to the abolitionists. In a controversial interpretation, Williams (1944) identified a contradictory relationship between monopoly slave-grown sugar production and new industrial production. The former, in giving rise to the latter, had sown the seeds of its own destruction because it was the capital accumulated from slavery that fueled industrialization. In addition to this, the increasing competition from &dquo;free&dquo;-grown sugar from India and the East Indies and the demand of British sugar producers in that region for equal treatment provided another source of support for the campaign against slavery and the slave trade. Williams’s book has been subjected to numerous criticisms, and the specific details of his interpretation of abolitionism are no longer reliable. But his general point-that the antislavery movement gained political force once it served the needs of a rising industrial capitalism-

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has held up well (Davis, 1975: the humanitarians

347-350). As Williams (1944: 136) states,

could never have succeeded a hundred

years before when every important capitalist was on the side of the colonial system. &dquo;It was an arduous hill to climb, &dquo;sang Wordsworth in praise of [the abolitionist Thomas] Clarkson. The top would never have been reached but for the defection of capitalists from the ranks of slave-owners and slave-traders.

struggle against monopoly and in favor of free trade was the main reason for the &dquo;defection of capitalists&dquo; in England from the cause of the planters. The new industrialists needed cheaper raw materials and markets for manufactured goods. A second difficulty with the slave trade was the growing shortage of slaves along the west coast of Africa, which forced slavers to go deeper inland in search of them and made


slaves fewer and more expensive. For these and other reasons, the colonial governments of all slave holding territories, whether French, Spanish, or English, sought to address themselves to this problem around the same time. In contrast with the shortsighted planters, the metropolitan ruling classes saw the slave plantation economy within the framework of their wider colonial interests. For example, the increasing incorporation of Africa as a supplier of raw materials and a producer of cash crops necessitated some control over the depletion of its labor force (Wallerstein,1979: 28-29). In addition, possible slave revolts presented a continuing threat to the plantation system. In the words of Hall (1971: 112): The get-rich quick mentality of the planters and their managers generated conditions which were highly destructive to the slave population and undermined the stability of the colony. Revenues from these colonies, both direct and indirect, were vast, and the metropolis had a great deal at stake as it sought to prevent interest groups within the colonies from killing the goose that laid the golden eggs. Generally the metropolis embraced a broader, more long-range point of view than did the planter class.

Each of the three governments responded with a body of laws and regulations aimed at appeasing the abolitionists by &dquo;humanizing&dquo; slavery and increasing local reproduction of labor through measures directed at women and family organization. The British Amelioration Acts of 1787, the French Ordonnances de Louis XVI, and the Spanish C6digo Negro Carolino of 1785 and C6digo Negro Espanol of 1789 in

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general all advocated the same reforms: the encouragement of marriage and the nuclear family and the discouragement of &dquo;illicit&dquo; relations, which tend to reduce fertility; restrictions on the work hours of female slaves, especially pregnant and nursing ones; improvement in the nutrition of pregnant slaves; provision of facilities such as infirmaries for newborn slave infants; the allocation of &dquo;provision grounds&dquo; on which slaves could produce their own food; and the allocation of minimum yearly clothing allowances. In general, the response of the planters to this was negative. Although they recognized the necessity to increase the &dquo;natural&dquo; reproduction of the local slave population, they resented any attempt to reduce their control over the life and labor of the slaves and their immediate profit. Resistance was greatest in the Spanish colonies, in particular Cuba, where the Cuban slave plantation economy was just gaining momentum. Consequently, the 1789 code, written for the entire Spanish empire, was never promulgated in any of the Spanish slave plantation areas of the Caribbean (Hall, 1971: 103). The planters of Havana justified this in terms of fears that if slaves heard about these reforms, instability would result. A Real Cddula of 1804 exhorting that slaves be treated humanely and that &dquo;female slaves be introduced on estates where there were only males until all desiring marriage were married&dquo; (Hall, 1971 : 107) also failed to be published. A further slave code passed in 1842 reinforced some of the more oppressive aspects of slavery. The results were similar where reforms were developed or supported by the local planter class. The attempts to increase local slave reproduction at best yielded only modest increases. In Tobago, for example, in 1798 (Williams, 1964: 60-62), a committee of both houses of the legislature set up to look into &dquo;the causes which had retarded the natural increase of the slaves&dquo; made the following proposals:

( 1)

That the commodities and quantities which should be provided for slaves be fixed at: (a) 3 lbs. salted pork or 4 lbs. salted beef or 4 lbs. salted fish, or 4 lbs. good herrings per week for each working slave and pro rata for children of different ages; (b) 7 quarts weekly of wheat flour or oatmeal or ground provisions such as Indian corn, peas, plantains, yams, potatoes or eddoes for each working slave and pro rata for children of different ages;

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For Men a cloth jacket, hat, frock and a pair of trousers in June and another frock and pair of trousers in December. For Women a cloth jacket, hat and coarse handkerchief, a petticoat and a wrapper in June, and another petticoat and wrapper in December. A duty on all imported slaves above 25 years and a premium on all female slaves between the age of 8 and 20. The erection of a comfortable house on each estate with a boarded platform for the accommodation of slaves. Slave women should be prevented by law from taking young children into the fields and every estate is obliged to establish a nursery for the care of young children. The distribution of good land to the slaves, and the allocation of time to work on it. The erection of a comfortable house at the expensee of the slave owner for a young woman on her marriage, plus a gift of livestock valued at $16 to $20 and clothing of a superior quality. That a law should be passed entitling a midwife to a fee of $1.00 for every child which she delivers alive. That a law be prescribed preventing women from working up to five weeks after having a child and then work to begin only on production of a surgeon’s cretificate. That mothers of six or more children be granted a total exemption of all labour. That overseers of the six plantations with the highest natural increase be given bonuses ranging from $100 to $50.




(4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9)


These measures, however, met with little immediate success (Patterson,1967: 112): &dquo;slave women of child-bearing age, now largely creoles, were hardened in their anti-breeding attitudes with the result that most of the schemes for increasing the population by greater reproduction failed.&dquo; The rather modest changes in the material reality of slave women’s existence were not enough to change their dominant ideological positions. Thus although the planters desired increased reproduction, the slave women did not see it as in their interest to comply. In Cuba, in response to the failure of the new measures to increase local reproduction, some planters resorted to slave breeding similar to that in the slave states of the United States of America. One writer identified the estate of Esteban Cruz de Oviedo at Trinidad (in Cuba) as the most shameless of these establishments. This &dquo;farm&dquo;-&dquo;served by its female blacks&dquo;-yielded an estimated thirty blacks a year, whereas its loss per year was only ten (Moreno Fraginals, 1976: 143). Hall notes in relation to this that a child of good stock was worth 500 pesos. This method nevertheless also proved unsuccessful, and the slave trade, abolished in 1819-1820. continued illegallv. Downloaded from lap.sagepub.com by guest on February 7, 2013


The slave trade was abolished in the British colonies in 1807 and in the French in 1818. After this, methods aimed at increasing local reproduction were intensified. In most islands, more female slaves were imported during this period of illegal trade than prior to abolition. In many islands, abortion and infanticide were outlawed. In Jamaica, Sabina Park, a slave woman charged with the murder of her 3-year-old child, spoke in her own defense at the Half Way Tree Slave Court, saying that &dquo;she had worked enough for bukra (master) already and that she would not be plagued to raise the child... to work for white people&dquo; (Patterson, 1967: 106). To forestall the growing demand for abolition, in 1823 the British government attempted once more to impose reforms on the British slave colonies. These were enforced in the crown colonies of Trinidad and British Guiana in 1824 but were attacked by the self-governing legislatures of Jamaica, Tobago, and Barbados. They included new rules on punishment, including abolition of the flogging of slave women and girls; provision of the slaves with two days off work, one for the Negro market, and Sunday for religion; manumission reforms, including mandatory freedom of slave girls born after 1823; and judicial changes allowing slaves to admit evidence in court, and establishing a &dquo;Protector of Slaves&dquo; who would keep a legal record of slave punishments (Williams, 1944: 197-198). The planters strongly objected to most of these proposals, especially to the abolition of the Sunday market and of flogging for female slaves. They argued that &dquo;it was necessary to punish women. Even in civilised societies, they argued, women were flogged&dquo; (Williams, 1944: 198). A member of the Barbados legislature stated: &dquo;Our black ladies have rather a tendency to the Amazonian cast of character, and I believe that their husbands would be very sorry to hear that they were placed beyond the reach of chastisement&dquo; (Williams, 1944: 198). The Tobago planters similarly &dquo;condemned the prohibition of the flogging of female slaves as ‘tantamount’to unqualified emancipation at this hour&dquo; (Williams, 1964:


Attempts at reform and increased slave reproduction ran up against the resistance of slave


themselves and the reluctance of many

planters depart from their traditional means of exploiting and physically disciplining female slave laborers. The planter class, even when it accepted the necessity of biological reproduction of the labor force, considered harsh, physically damaging violence an indispensable weapon in its relations with slave women. In the flurry of activity of the early nineteenth century, the slaves in the British islands came to believe that emanicipation had been granted to

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in England but withheld by the local planters. This led to a series of slave revolts, rebellions, and suicides in the region and eventually, in 1833, to abolition. To appease the planters, however, in addition to £20,000 in compensation which was to be divided among them, a five-year transition period was established during which the new &dquo;free wage laborers&dquo; were still tied to the estates as apprentices.

THE TRANSITION TO POSTEMANCIPATION PRODUCTION AND REPRODUCTION As early as the beginning of the nineteenth century, signs of the decreasing productivity of the slave plantation system had begun to be

evident in the British Caribbean. This was usually attributed to the decline in sugar prices because of overproduction and increasing costs of production. Craton (1978), writing on Jamaica, suggests that two alternatives may have presented themselves to the planters, both based on economies of scale: to produce more with the same workforce or to produce the same amount with a smaller workforce. In view of their fear of overproduction, the latter solution was preferable, but trimming the workforce implied the substitution of &dquo;free wage labor&dquo; for slavery, something they were very slow to advocate (Craton, 1978: 172). For some years between 1815 and 1838, attempts were made to increase productivity by driving the workforce harder. This period was one of increasing alienation, forced labor, and rebellion. In Spanish Cuba, the 1820s saw the beginning of mechanization in sugar production. For the majority of planters only partial mechanization was possible, and large numbers of slaves were needed to maintain the level of production in the nonmechanized processes. These days have been described as &dquo;slavery’s darkest hours,&dquo; a rationalization process aimed at squeezing the last drop of work from the slave (Moreno Fraginals, 1976). With mechanization in all the colonies came increased specialization in particular skills of production. Women were more and more relegated to the manual and agricultural tasks whereas some men moved into the more highly skilled

operations. Examination of the transitional period immediately following slavery yields some insights into the direction in which female participation in the labor force was likely to develop. In his study of Worthy Park Estate, Craton (1978: 286) notes that discrimination between the sexes was established at the outset, the daily wage being determined by sex and Downloaded from lap.sagepub.com by guest on February 7, 2013


seniority. Female ex-slaves were paid only half as much as men for equivalent tasks (Craton, 1978: 287). In order to appreciate the significance of this fact, earlier-mentioned ones have to be recalled: that at the time of abolition females represented nearly two-thirds of the slaves working on estates in the British colonies and that slave women worked as hard as the men and were punished as severely. Women continued to be 70 percent of the cane-cutting gang, while men moved up to the more skilled and prestigious jobs, which were more highly paid as well. In Worthy Park, one head field woman is recorded as being paid 1 shilling 6 pence per day, whereas head fieldmen were paid 2 shillings. This differentiation in wages might be seen as a change equally as important as the introduction of the wage itself. It concretized differences within the newly emerging agricultural working class. Its effects as far as men and women were concerned must also have been important, for the status of the male as the official breadwinner must have been strengthened by the differential wages and access to skilled positions. As time went on, the participation of women in estate labor decreased as women continued to be relegated to the most menial and lowest-paid jobs. Planters and managers developed a marked preference for male laborers and justified this ideologically on the basis of the &dquo;relative unreliability of female labor.&dquo; Craton (1978: 286-287) reports that &dquo;the most notable change in the composition of the 1842 workforce was the the overall propordecrease once more in the proportion of women tion of males rose from just under 40% in 1838 to over 60%, a return to the ratio of the earliest days of slavery.&dquo; He notes, however, that at least 75 percent of the women continued as irregular workers during the early 1840s. One factor that contributed to the decline in the participation of women in social production was the continued introduction of new &dquo;labor-saving&dquo; technology, particularly in agricultural production. Around 1841, for example, the plough was introduced in Jamaica. The stipendiary magistrate4Bell (quoted in Hall, 1959: 49-50) wrote during this period: ...

The constant and improved use ofploughs in this neighbourhood has and will save almost a fourth of the money formerly disbursed for the digging part of operation for canes for instance, opening and preparing I S acres with the plough £15; digging etc., 15 acres with the hoe £60. This of course and OCCOMM~, with ~C the ~r~ labourers’ pockets, ~M
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