This paper compares the lives of women in NYC in the early 1800’s to the slaves on southern plantations. 3+ pages; 2 sources; MLA citation style.
Many writers have referred to slavery in the United States as the “peculiar” institution. The use of the word indicates that it is considered almost unique. However, there is a parallel system: that of poor working women in New York City in the early 1800’s. Obviously the two are not identical, but there are sufficient similarities to make a comparison viable.
This paper will compare the lives of working women in the North to the slaves in the South, and discuss similarities and differences in the two systems.
There are at least two similarities that are striking, and they are related to one another. The first is the idea that someone can legally own another person; coupled to that is the idea that violence is an acceptable way to resolve disputes with the person who is owned.
In the South, slavery was legal and planters held an army of slaves in bondage to work the land. In the North, slavery was not recognized as a legal institution, but many women were little better than slaves, held in bondage by the ideas, passions and prejudices of a patriarchal society that was also extremely misogynistic. Although not formally slaves, women were expected to obey their husbands (or their men) in everything. Women had their existence primarily “within the sphere of the family.” (Stansell, p. 217).
On September 23 rd, 1862, Abraham Lincoln provided our wonderful nation with The Emancipation Proclamation. This speech declared all slaves free in those states still in rebellion against the United States on January 1 st, 1863. The statement only applied to the states which, after that date, were under the military control of the Union Army. It did not apply to those slave states such as ...
And in that sphere, as in the master/slave relationship, men could (and did) beat their wives if they disobeyed.
Violence in the two systems had a similar object: keeping the women and slaves under control. Although it would seem logical for an oppressed class, such as the slaves, to band together in a general revolt, they were unable to do so. First, they were poorly fed and clothed, kept deliberately weak so that rebellion was physically beyond them. It seems illogical to buy a slave and then treat him/her badly, but the slaveholders knew they were hated, and took measures to protect themselves. It’s a sad fact that they could always buy more slaves.
Second, the slaves would have faced armed opponents with little else than their bare hands. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there is a sort of psychological hopelessness that comes over people who are held captive. Their captivity wears them down to such an extent that they might not be able to take advantage of freedom if it were offered to them.
In the North, the increasing industrialization made women even more dependent on men. Like the southern slaves, they had nowhere to go – except the streets — if they did succeed in getting away from their men.
Thus a sense of futility, along with the threat of violence and the fact of slavery, either real or implied, is found in both systems.
Perhaps the greatest difference in the two systems is the fact that working women in New York were able, over the years, to better themselves and gain a voice in deliberations over their own future. The slaves never reached this status.
The difference here is that the North was a capitalist system, and the South a slave system. A capitalist system works best when the workers, as well as the factory owners, manufacturers, and others, have a stake in the future of the enterprise. In such a system, women were sometimes able to better themselves by hard work and ingenuity; for example, a few of the women Stansell discusses owned their own businesses.
In a slave system, all profits go to the slaveholder; the slave himself is no better than an ox yoked to a plow. With no way out of his chains, no share in the profits, and nothing to look forward to, the slave couldn’t be expected to care whether the plantation harvest was good or poor. The Northern women at least had the opportunity, slight as it was, to better themselves.
Women and Men Communicate Differently The process of neo-Liberal dogmas, such as celebration of diversity and elimination of sexism, being showed up peoples throats, brought about a situation, when employment policies correspond less and less to the objective reality of interaction between genders at workplace. Men and women are expected to execute their professional duties with the same ...
Both of these systems were difficult on those who had to live under their rules, but the Northern capitalist system held at least a glimmer of hope, while Southern slavery did not.
Northup, Solomon. Twelve Years a Slave. Baton Rogue: Louisiana State U. Press, 1968.
Stansell, Christine. City of Women. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1986.