Domestic Labor: 1836–1839

Joan D. Hedrick

in Harriet Beecher Stowe

Published in print July 1995 | ISBN: 9780195096392
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199854288 | DOI:
Domestic Labor: 1836–1839

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The complexities of Harriet Beecher Stowe's response to slavery and “the negro problem”—embroiled with racial prejudice for even ardent abolitionists—may be laid in part to these entangled domestic relations. During the formative period of the 1830s her consciousness was divided between that of republican defender of free speech and that of middle-class, white, household mistress. That she was herself trying to escape being a “mere household drudge” and “domestic slave” intensified the contradictions; she turned to her writing to make money that would enable her to hire household help—and she was dependent on household help to relieve her of duties so that she was free to write. The political economy of the household was intimately connected with the political economy of slavery. Both were patriarchal institutions that subordinated the labor of one group of people to the leisure and well-being of another. As a woman, Stowe's own labor was a commodity in this exchange.

Keywords: Harriet Beecher Stowe; slavery; domestic slave; household help; labor

Chapter.  6510 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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