Book review: plantation mistress by Catherine Clinton
The book “Plantation Mistress” by Catherin Clinton, takes the reader through the history of the Old South. The stories and issues raised by the author throughout the book, make one to rethink and gain a new angle of understanding on the peculiar institutions that existed during the slavery age before the civil war. Catherine Clinton, the author of this book is a professor of American History. She has held that position in various including Queens University Belfast and University of Texas (where she has been since August 2014). Being a professor in American History, she specializes in the history of the South. This book is in line with her field of specialization as it takes the reader through the history of the Old south. It the constraints and position of women in the society (those she refers to as plantation mistresses), the attitudes of Old South society to marriage and women, plantations and property. Writing this book was such an important task to Catherine Clinton as it enabled her gain more understanding in her field of specialization in the American History.
This book focuses on the class of elite women who were married to wealthy plantation owners. Clinton calls such women plantation mistress. These women were supposed to supervise agricultural business and slaves in the plantations. Through the daily experience of such women, Clinton argues that these women faced the same oppression as the slave due to the patriarchal system embraced by the Old South society.
Clinton has used various evidences to support her claim/ thesis. For example, women had not much choice regarding the man they married. They were married off to wealthy men from the same social classes as their families. According to her, in the Old South women were properties owned by their husbands, brothers and fathers. She also mentions that women were supposed to give birth to as many children as their husbands wanted and it is due to this that many women died early. Men owned large plantations but did not spend their lives there. Women were expected to live there with slaves; supervising them. Even with inadequate education and training on managing plantations and agricultural businesses, they were expected and ordered by their husbands to do so. This is evident by high mortality rates experienced by the plantation mistresses and their children while in those plantations. According to Clinton, they led constrained lives; secluded away from family, friends, parties and exclusive free will to do, live and talk as desired.
Clinton’s thesis and argument is effective. This is because she makes it clear that the life of the plantation mistresses and that of the slaves could not be compared. Nevertheless, she argues that these plantation women in the Old South were constrained, controlled and hemmed in. The Old South embraced an old-fashioned