Meanings of Motherhood: Maternal Experiences and Perceptions on Low Country South Carolina Plantations

Robynne Rogers Healey


This paper is a comparative study of the meanings of motherhood for black and white women in the antebellum South. Even the prescriptive literature concerning motherhood penned by women during the first half of the nineteenth century largely ignored the health-related aspects of motherhood. Records of the experience of white plantation mistresses and female plantation slaves in antebellum, low country South Carolina, however, reveal that concerns with health, both mortality and morbidity, dominated the maternal experience of these women. Furthermore, in this particular geographic location, motherhood itself was centred more in the extended family than in the nuclear family.

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