‘Worse than [white] men, much worse than the Negroes . . .’
Sexuality, labour and poor white women in North Carolina
in Engendering whiteness
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This chapter explores two interrelated themes: the socio-sexual control of poor white women, and their participation in North Carolina's colonial and antebellum economy. By the mid-eighteenth century, North Carolina had evolved into a patriarchal hierarchical social order founded on distinctions of race, gender and social class. Some states, including North Carolina, went so far as to sentence the illegitimate children of white women and black men to terms of servitude for the first two to three decades of their lives. The meanings and effects of white racial identity shaped the contours of white women's lives throughout the colonies. Divorce law in North Carolina was certainly more liberal than in other Southern states, but the sanctification of the patriarchal family as the bedrock of Southern society invariably made it difficult for married couples to obtain divorces.

Engendering whiteness

White women and colonialism in Barbados and North Carolina, 1627–1865


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