The Plantation Mistress is written by Catherine Clinton. Her purpose of writing is to inform readers the chaotic lives of the white female gender in the slave society before the Civil War. Clinton goes into specific detail describing the situations that southern women endured every day. She collected memoirs and diaries of actual planter wives and daughters. These confessions magnify the reality of trials and tribulations during a dark time in American History.
Furthermore, there are many specifics that are explicated in The Plantation Mistress. One aspect discussed in detail is the issue of cousin marriage. From an early age, and even when separated geographically, cousins developed close and warm relationships that continued throughout a lifetime. Children were isolated on the plantations and rarely met people of their own age outside their kinship network as they were growing up. Also, the older ladies could only associate themselves with men who were related to them. This confinement of only associating with your blood ties caused an easy escape for intimacy. Cousin marriage also kept the money within the family. The wealth and property remained inside the family alliance.
Moving on, another specific topic covered in The Plantation Mistress is the birth of children. It is the most celebrated of family events; however, female babies were discriminated against greatly. It was a disappointment to give birth to a daughter because southerners without sons were faced with the extinction of their family name and inheritance. Only sons would continue family traditions and carry on the name.
In addition, the view of American History that is presented in The Plantation Mistress is a deep sincerity toward the white southern female during the slave society.They had great responsibilities from keeping the house in order to watching over the slaves in the fields. The book shows the importance of the plantation mistress, and how the American Society in the south would not be possible without these avid workers.
Furthermore, The Plantation Mistress departs from what is taught in the American Passages textbook. The important place in American History of the plantation mistress is not expressed in the textbook. They are overlooked and not given credit for their duties in the past. On the other hand, The Plantation Mistress greatly adds to what I have learned in the textbook. This is mainly because I was never revealed the vital role that the southern female has played during the slave society.
Also, a new concept that I have learned from The Plantation Mistress is that during the slave society, women were actually slaves in their own aspect. They were sold off into marriage with little regard for their dignity and human status. Likewise, women were put in a complex position within the plantation society. They were subject to their father’s will, and a married female was by law under her husband’s total control. Females were inferior to males in every point of view.
One event that is particularly outstanding in The Plantation Mistress is the sharp rise in female education in the late eighteenth century. To birth a new nation built on liberty, New Englanders and Southerners alike promoted female education. Also, education maintains class status. A woman’s future status is importantly determined by her education. Regardless of social status, a good education for a female attracted upper class men. Moreover, fathers of the planter class believed that education gave their daughters an advantage on the marriage market. They invested time and money in their daughters because the maternal reward of a successful match could mean financial help from a wealthy mate.
In addition, this event is important to American History because it shows that proper schooling can make anyone a successful person. Even in today’s society, a good education is needed to get ahead in life. Regardless of social status level, a person with a vast knowledge can achieve their goals and expectations. Women are now achieving better jobs than men. It just goes to show that female education has come a long way through history.
Moving on, a person in The Plantation Mistress that is worthy of being an American Hero is Jeroboam Beauchamp. He was a son of a local planter and was married to Ann Cooke. Cooke was the daughter of a Virginia planter and received an excellent and liberal education. Before she was married to Beauchamp, Cooke was in love with Colonel Soloman Sharp, and he had promised to marry Cooke. Instead, she was deserted by him and was left in abandonment. This scorned Cooke for life. Beauchamp was fired both with passion for Ann Cooke and with a desire for revenge upon her seducer. Beauchamp was determined to murder Sharp for the hurt he caused to his wife. He plotted his vengeance and stabbed Sharp to death. Beauchamp tried to explain his actions claiming that upper class men should not take advantage of unfortunate orphan females. It is a great iniquity to shatter the hopes and dreams of a woman. Beauchamp’s sincerity to do whatever it takes to avenge a loved one’s pain makes him an American Hero.
Furthermore, I feel that every student in the American Society needs to read The Plantation Mistress. It appears that the social scene in America overlooks these miracle workers in the harsh reality of the slavery society. The American Passages textbook does not give the credit that the plantation mistresses deserve. These women play a significant role in paving the foundation of America. Without these essential women, the great plantations of the south would cease to prosper and function properly.
On top of that, Catherine Clinton brings these forgotten females back to reality. She is the concrete voice, speaking on behalf of the many plantation mistresses of long ago. There is more to United States History than great wars, presidential elections, and treacherous voyages. It is also about daily life, and Catherine Clinton brings the daily life of plantation mistresses to touch the lives of today.