Date Awarded

Winter 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




Scott R Nelson

Committee Member

Cindy Hahamovitch

Committee Member

Hannah Rosen

Committee Member

Henry L Gates


This dissertation examines the economic contributions of enslaved and free women’s domestic and reproductive labor in the antebellum slave trade from 1820 to 1865. By looking for women’s work in unexpected places, such as the slave market, which historians have argued is a masculine space, this project highlights the various ways that feminine labor, including sewing, washing, and nursing, contributed to the economy of the slaveholding South. The nature of the slave market, with its cash valuation of human flesh and emphasis on the appearance and health of enslaved men and women, gives a brutal example of how domestic and reproductive labor is monetized. In order to make these connections tangible, the dissertation considers five case studies of women who labored in the domestic slave trade. their lives demonstrate how the household was connected to the marketplace, how domestic labor blurred the lines between public and private, and how women’s labor is the foundation of economic growth.



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