‘[S]he could … spare one ample breast for the profit of her owner’: white mothers and enslaved wet nurses’ invisible labor in American slave markets
Assistant Professor, University of California at Berkeley
November 8, 2017
2203 Social Sciences and Humanities
Andrews Conference Room
This paper examines the market that white mothers created for enslaved wet nurses, the intimate labor that they performed in southern households, and the ways that this market intersected with slave marketplaces in the antebellum era. It argues that white mothers’ desires and demands for enslaved wet nurses transformed bondwomen’s ability to suckle into a largely invisible, yet skilled form of labor, and created a niche sector of the slave market. In these ways, white mothers were crucial to the commodification of enslaved women’s reproductive bodies, their breast milk, and the nutritive and maternal care they provided to white children.
Sponsored by the Women and Gender in the World DHI Research Cluster