Olivia Gail Sawi
HIST 210B – Hill
The Plantation Mistress
The Plantation Mistress: Woman’s World in the Old South
. New York:
Pantheon Books, 1982.
Pp. xix + 331.
By focusing on the southern plantation mistress and her actual experience, Clinton hopes
to transform our vision of the Old South and our understanding of the nature of slavery and sex
in the American past (xi-xii).
Clinton aims to provide a female counterpoint to the literature on the southern planter
She seeks to change preconceptions about the role of females in the Old South and argues
that although women were legally free, their political, social, and economic status made them
close to the status of the slaves.
She challenges traditional and sexist views of southern history
and the regional chauvinism of women’s history, what she calls the “New Englandization” of
women’s studies (xv), and also explores gender and the concept of “woman” in the Old South
By concentrating on the lives of white women on plantations, the understanding of slavery
as a whole will be increased (13)
Women’s studies and feminist literature (between Julia Cherry
Spruill and Annie Firor Scott, a counter point to Nancy Cott [xii-xiii]), “great men of slave
scholarship” (Kenneth Stampp, Stanley Elkins, Winthrop Jordan, Eugene Genovese, Orlando
Patterson, C.L.R. James, Fredrick Law Olmsted, Robert Manson Myers, C. Vann Woodward)
By focusing on women who lived on plantations of twenty slaves or more,
Clinton seeks to tell a story and provide a female counterpoint to the predominantly male
literature about the developmental stage in the history of the American south (xiii).
Literary sources, primary sources, published diaries and memoirs, travel
literature, personal records of planter families (xiii), manuscript collections, planter collections,
letters, family correspondence, personal papers – household inventories, papers of female
academies, commonplace books, physicians’ records, wills, poems, unpublished diaries and