Women of the Confederacy, Slaves and Freed Woman – Thesis Proposal Example

The paper "Women of the Confederacy, Slaves and Freed Woman" is an excellent example of a thesis proposal on history. The position of women in the confederacy is often difficult to analyze in-depth because of lack of evidence. Recently, however, historians have sought a more balanced view by looking at those narratives written by slave and freedwomen which do exist, and evidence from newspaper and court records showing how women were treated, and how they reacted to this treatment.  Topic.
Two categories of womanhood in the period of the confederacy demonstrate some of the most acute tensions and paradoxes of the slave ideology: slave women and freedwomen. The former live their lives under the yoke of a racist regime with no knowledge of what it is like to be free. The latter makes the transition from slave to freedwoman and thus experience the confederacy from two different perspectives. Paradoxically, the freedwomen found themselves still oppressed in a racist society.
Thesis Slavewomen and freedwomen made their choices to resist slavery, or to work within it, but the experience of the freedwoman proves that the real problem was patriarchy, and from that, there was no escape.
Part II Women’s roles working within confederate ideologies.
IIA Slaves’ roles within confederate ideologies.
“Whether a white wife or a black slave, the ideal woman was happily nurturing, pious, loyal and subordinate to her husband or master” (Bynum, 1992, p. 36) Many slave women spent their whole lives resigned to slave status, making the best of their situation. They were strong in their societies, but for reasons to do with white racist structures:
“If slave women seemed strong and held more power in the family than did black men or white women, it was because slavery stripped men of traditional forms of power. And while slave women might be less beholden to black male domination, they, like white women, were always controlled by white men.” (McMillen, 2004, p. 197) Slave women bore the brunt of white male aggression, and white women were complicit in this since it allowed them to escape the violence from men and the drudgery of housework. (Roberts, 1993, p. 31)
IIB Freed women’s roles within confederate ideologies.
Dignity and respect were values that freedwomen coveted above all else. Many of them lived quiet and reserved lives, far from the glare of publicity and demonstrating all the virtues of Christian womanhood. For some, the road to freedom had entailed marriage, or cohabitation, with a man who could afford to buy her freedom, and this was accepted as a necessary bargain which then had to be honored for the rest of the woman’s life. Voluntary subordination to a man in marriage was seen as a more bearable burden than the ignominies of slavery to a master, and this perpetuated the status quo.
Part III Women who resisted confederate ideologies.
IIIA Slaves who resisted confederate ideologies.
“... many slave children did not grow up in two-parent households. Yet the family was a bulwark against the dehumanization of slavery and thus,... a vehicle of resistance and source of strength” (McMillan, 2004, p. 199). A good example is the fictionalized slave narrative of Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl opens with the line “I was born a slave, but I never knew it till six years of happy childhood had passed away” (Jacobs, 1987, p. 11) This book describes loving and stable family relationships centered around the strong figure of her grandmother, who is the moral compass of the whole family. Linda made a difficult compromise in choosing one white male master to father her two children, rather than succumbing to the attentions of another particularly odious white master, Dr. Flint. She argued that slavery changes all of the standard rules and is an exceptional case demanding special consideration. Linda argues passionately “There may be sophistry in all this; but the condition of a slave confuses all principles of morality, and, in fact, renders the practice of them impossible” (Jacobs, 1987, p. 39). Speaking out about slavery, or any form of “impudence” was seen as “not merely behaviourally deviant and thus morally and socially offensive, but treasonable and insurrectionary in its underlying implications.” (Bontemps, 2008, p. 124)
IIIB Freed women who resisted confederate ideologies.
“...black women, whether they adhered to or rejected the imposed images of ‘Mammy’ and ‘Jezebel’, resisted slavery in ways that usually reflected their gender and individual temperament.” (Bynum, 1992, p. 5) “More male slaves than female became skilled artisans, giving men greater opportunities to purchase their freedom, hold positions of authority, or escape.” (McMillan, 2004, p. 198) The dilemma for freed women was how to negotiate life in a society that was still deeply racist, and discriminated on grounds of gender as well, making it very hard for them to gain access to all the basic building blocks of a secure existence such as a steady job, a place to live, and even permanent rights over the upbringing of their own children. Single freedwomen often found themselves at the mercy of prejudiced court proceedings which simply removed children from their unmarried mothers and allocated them to the care and often outright ownership of white families.
Part IV Slavery and patriarchy
IV A Slave women overcame some aspects of patriarchy in their own segregated domain within the structures of a society based on slavery.
IV B Freedwomen overcame some aspects of slavery to step outside its most obvious confines but were confronted with insurmountable prejudices of patriarchy.
Part V. Summary and Conclusion
Both patriarchy and slavery created adverse conditions for women. Some slave women had the hope of working for their own freedom or making a bargain to obtain it, but the transition to the status for freedwoman proved that the greater evil was patriarchy. Slavery was a terrible symptom of this even greater prejudice, and the freedwoman discovered slavery could be overcome, but that there was no hope of escape from patriarchy.