Women enslavement in the United States was most rampant in the south during1780s. They were used by the Agricultural entrepreneurs in the south as farm workers. Most of these women were bought from slave traders who had brought them from Africa. When the first slaves arrived into America in 1619, they were hired by the landowners and were allowed to sign terms of agreement. Most of them then worked for a specified duration of time after which they were free to go. Infact, the landowners paid them wages for their services and therefore they could save some money for their future use. However, in 1640 a law was legislated by American government which gave slave owners exclusive authority to hire slaves and use them for lifetime without pay. According to this, women slaves were not granted indenture servitude and hence they were exploited for life. Especially, in Virginia and Maryland, whites owned many slaves and were using them in their firms. The state also instituted another law which allowed slave owners to brutally discipline the slaves (Horn & Schaffner, 2003, p.8). These laws rendered the slaves powerless and became victims of human torture by the affluent capitalist in the Southern United States of America.
Origin of Capitalism in the United States of America
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Historians have recorded that the capitalism in the United States of America was introduced by many people-men and women- whose origin is unknown. Capitalism is a system that is broadly composed of economic and social structure which upholds the principle of private ownership (Mink & O'Connor, 2004, p.123). This system basically, allows private owners to produce goods that are sold for profit. Interestingly, the free market system of the United States made it easy for the capitalism to thrive. The United States government had limited restriction and regulations that govern private ownership. The capitalist system encouraged competition between companies and maximization of profits. As a result, firms were forced to search for efficient and cheap systems of operation eventually leading to the exploitation of other human beings as slaves. It is believed that by 1770 the capitalist economy was well established and was driven by slaves. Many people have suggested that capitalism in the United States was introduced by small scale traders who dealt with buying of shoes from local artisans and directly exchanging with imported tea. They believed that as the trade flourished, the traders decided to mobilize labor and started making their own hand-sewn leather shoes. Eventually, by 1800 the merchants had established their own manufacturing companies, and were producing a hundreds of thousands of leather shoes per year. They hired women and men who worked for them long hours and they held them as slaves.
Established farmers in Pennsylvania rented their houses to interested people in exchange of labor services (Henretta, 1991, p.257). Most of those who rented houses and plots were landless men and women who spend most of their time weaving and cleaning of other people's gardens. It is noted that by the year 1780 the Established Agricultural entrepreneurs were exploiting most of these landless employees, and is estimated that nearly half of the Agricultural workers in Pennsylvania were landless. Mink and O'Connor (2004) asserted that the capitalist system was the cause of high poverty rates and inequality in the United States.
In 1784, the adult and children slaves were used in Agricultural farms for a pay of approximately sixty-five pounds in the state of Virginia. Henretta (1991) asserts that hiring of casual laborers 'was not a new culture in the 1780s, however its extent was' (p.258). The transition from simple to more intensive capitalism was attributed to four key factors. First, there was high demand for Agricultural goods from the transatlantic market. Second, the increases in population due to high influx of immigrants resulted to adoption of wage labor. Third, the American landowners and traders started intensive agricultural farming and utilized effectively the abundant labour and the market. Lastly, the political power was willing to support the needs of the entrepreneurs.
Women Slavery and its Aid to Capitalism
Slavery was a system that selfishly exploited free human labour for the benefit of an individual person. Slaves in the United States of America and especially Southern America were used as labour force to run agricultural plantation firms owned by white settlers. Specifically, the agricultural firms produced crops such as rice, cotton, indigo, corn, sugarcane, tobacco and many more. Black slaves were considered as inferior and were not allowed to sign any agreement as compared to other slaves. Horn and Schaffner (2003) pointed out that the South valued slavery in their lifestyle and considered it as fundamental in economic prosperity (p.8). However, some states were a bit human to the slaves and offered them compensation for their work. Besides, they allowed them to save their earnings and use it later to free themselves and their family members.
Slavery existed for a long period of time in the Southern United States; by mid-nineteenth century other regions of the United States had abandoned it but the South still practiced slavery at large. DenBeste et al. (2005) pointed out that 'in the South slave codes forbade slaves to own property' (p.192). In addition, slaves were not allowed to go out of the plantation farms without authorization from the firm owners. Worse still, they were prohibited from congregating at night and severe punishment was given to those who failed to observe these rules. Slaves working in the slave owners household were not treated harshly like their counterparts in the plantation firms; most of them, had good relationship with their masters. However, some women slaves were sexually assaulted by the male masters. Moreover, the female masters would sometimes release their anger to the female slaves for the problems that existed between herself and her husband. Some times these landowners women would either beat the slave women or increase the workload if they did a mistake.
Things were a bit worse for the slaves who worked in the plantation firms; men and women were subjected to long hours in the field with heavy work under very difficult conditions (DenBeste et al., 2005). Some slaves were authorized to look after other slaves in the firm and were given benefits such as more food than other slaves. During the period of harvest, the slaves spend long hours in the field. Female slaves were given a role of cooking and taking care of the other slaves' children. It is believed that the owners of the plantation firms were powerful politically, economically and in social life (p.194).
As stated earlier black women in the United States were forced into indentured servitude. By 1860 the white settlers who owned slaves were almost 400,000. These affluent white settlers mistreated the blacks and they insulted them. The blacks were not allowed to answer back any time they were insulted by white land owners. Surprisingly, even the poorest whites were accorded respect and were considered superior than the black slaves. More to this point, the affluent white settlers acquired big offices and extensive tracks of lands which they generously rented to poor and landless whites. In respect to this, they gained more power to influence other whites in the community (DenBeste et al., 2005). In this capitalist society women were supposed to respect men at all time. Their obligation was to take care of men and children and so, they were not allowed to go out. DenBeste et al. (2005) asserts that women in the South had only one right, 'right to protection'; this meant that they were supposed to be subordinate to men. The training centres in the south were only meant to teach women to be good mothers and wives.
It was ideologically believed that Agriculture was women's role in the United States since time immemorial. Women were mandated to clear and burn the agricultural fields to prepare it for planting of seeds. They planted 'corns, beans and squash' using wooden hoes (Horn and Schaffner, 2003, p.12). In the flood plain of south western part of the United States women grew cotton; they constructed tunnels which they used to irrigate their firms. Intriguingly, most of the Native Americans men declined to take part in agricultural work and they considered it as against their culture.
The slaves worked in the fields; however women were allowed to work as domestic servants in the merchants' homesteads and sometimes assisted on plantations farms. In 1619, more African slaves were imported to Virginia to support the existing workforce. According to Horn and Schaffner (2003) the population of the South States was approximately 22 percent Africans by 1770 (p.13). It is estimated that, two-thirds of the slaves in the south served in the tobacco plantation of Chesapeake Bay while the rest work in the rice and indigo plantation of Carolina and Georgia states (p.13). Most of the slaves who worked in the rice plantation suffered from the yellow fever and malaria illnesses.
Generally, slaves were organized into groups and assigned a specific task to perform within a specified time and when they completed the work they could participate in leisure activities. With expansion of intensive agriculture in the south, more slaves were imported and by 1800 about a million were already serving in the southern plantations farms (Horn and Schaffner, 2003, p.13). The increase in the population of slaves in the south contributed significantly to the high profits made by the Agricultural farms owners in 1860s. Horn and Schaffner (2003) revealed that 'slaves could produce 3,000 pounds of cotton in a year while costing only about 50 Dollars to feed and clothe' (p.13). Hence slavery practices sustained capitalist economy. The most widely grown crops in the South United States were cotton, rice and sugar plantation. The lower southern part grew rice and sugar plantation while the upper south area grew cotton. Thus, most of the lower south slaves worked in the rice fields while the upper south slaves served in the cotton fields. According to this, most of the lower southern slaves suffered from yellow fever and malaria diseases. Since the conditions in the lower south was harsh, slaves were threatened that they could be sold to the lower south if they don't work hard. Therefore, women slaves worked zealously fearing of being sold to the lower south.
Interestingly, about a quarter of the slave owners, owned more than 70 percent of the slaves in the south. Since they had excess slaves, they hired out some of these slaves to landowners who needed their services. The landowners persisted with their system of slavery even after the civil war. Horn and Schaffner (2003) notes that 'former slaves and poor whites often found themselves part of the sharecropping system' (p.13). Although the landowners rented their land to the freed African slaves, they imposed heavy fees to the tenants; they were obliged to pay the landlord nearly half of their years output for the rented house and land. Eventually, the landowners dominated the lives of these freed slaves again and controlled all what they do.
According to Kulikoff (1992) the white household often disagreed with the slave families due to unjust treatment. He elaborated that most of the black women taken to Carolina were forcefully separated from their families, and therefore most of the time they were anxious of the welfare of their loved ones. The southern states were entirely of capitalist society which depended upon the cheap labour from slave. Some slaves, especially women, were highly affected by their isolation from their families and they refused to work. Intriguingly, the slave owners adopted a system of inheritance whereby they gave out slaves to their daughters and sons. They gave out male slaves to their sons to provide labour in their plantation firms while female slaves were given out to the daughters to serve as house helps. This contributed to the splitting of the slaves families. But, some scholars have suggested that slave families got more united since the slave owners lived in adjacent neighborhood where it was a walking distance (Kulikoff, 1992, p.228).
Performance of Capitalist System
Slavery in the United States increased significantly in the early 1790 and continued till 1808 when the slave trade was abolished. By this time approximately 235,000 African slaves had entered America (Matson, 2007, p.346). Studies have revealed that both female and male slaves contributed to the increase in output from cotton production in the Southern United States. Infact, Matson described that, more acres of land were cultivated for cotton growing in the south. The landowners got high yields that were enough for the local market and for export. In respect to this, Southern States was pronounced as the largest exporter of cotton in America. The cotton was exported to Europe through Transatlantic trade that existed between United States and the Europe countries. Slaves and specifically women played a crucial role in the growth and development of the capitalist economy in the south. Women worked tirelessly, in cotton plantation farms without any pay. While most of the profits accrued from selling these, cotton was invested in the Northern America banks. It was also noted that the capitalist used part of their income to construct railway lines and roads which were intended to serve the manufacturing industries that were springing up.
Leiman (1993) asserted that slavery was the stronghold of cotton industry in the Southern United States. He believed that without the slaves' labour, cotton industries would not have emerged and prospered as it was. Most of these slaves working in the cotton industry were women; entrepreneurs preferred women than men. Hence slavery was viewed as of economic importance in the south. More to this point capitalist controlled largest number of slaves; studies have revealed that, they accumulated a lot of wealth from the sell of the products from their farms, and this is attributed to the cheap labour from the slaves. The entrepreneurs furthermore, developed more manufacturing industries from the profits acquired from the sale of agricultural products. Leiman explained that about 20,000 manufacturing companies had been established by the year 1860 with a capital of 96 million dollars (p.27). The companies employed about 110,000 workers including white workers.
To reduce racial and gender discrimination an access to employment affirmative action was introduced in the United States of America. It was introduced to end the slavery, isolation and racial-based hiring of workers. It is noted that largest percentage of African American women spend more hours working than the white women (Horn & Schaffner, 2003, p.4). They are believed to work longer years in their lifetime than the white women and still earn less wage than their white counterparts.
Their work is entirely, cooking, cleaning, driving taxis, teaching at local schools and working as bar maids but they are not respected. The Second World War brought new fortunes to the African American women; they were able to be absorbed into better paying jobs in well established industries such as electrical manufacturing factories, transportation and automobile industry. During the civil war in United States the slaves participated in the fight, however, they also engaged themselves in trade union war attempt to liberate black slaves (p.9). This movement by the women contributed greatly to the emancipation of women from the slavery in the Southern United States and America at large.
In conclusion the slaves and especially female slaves contributed immensely to the prosperity of the capitalist economies in the Southern America. The development of capitalistic economies in the United States was facilitated by the 'free market' which had limited regulations on private ownerships. It is not well known who introduced the capitalist system in the United States, however, it is believed that the process evolved simultaneously from simple artisan sewing shoes to well established entrepreneurs employing several workers. The high demand for cotton, sugar and rice led to the development of intensive farming and plantation in the South. There was scarcity of labour in the south and the only available labour was very expensive. The landowners had to seek elsewhere for cheap labour that could sustain their need.
The first slaves to arrive in the United States were in 1619 from Africa. Most of these slaves were sold to the landowners to work in the plantation. More to this point they worked in the Southern United States of such as Georgia, Virginia, Mississippi, Texas, Meryland, Louisiana, Alabama and Carolina. Both male and female slaves worked in the plantation firms although some women were overworked in the white household. Women working in the plantation were subjected to long hours in the field under extreme conditions. The lower south of the Southern United States was considered to be having harsh conditions as compared to other places of the United States and the women slaves working in those areas suffered from illnesses such as yellow fever and malaria.
It is noted that by 1790s the production of cotton had increased and the south was able to supply enough cotton for industries and the surpluses to be exported. Most of the women and other slave workers were prohibited from going out and anyone failing to observe these rules was severely punished. Due to this Agricultural boom the landowners made a lot of profits and managed to oppress the slaves more. They rented land and houses to these landless men and women slaves and in return slaves paid them half of their total output from the land. Women worked in the whites household for long hours and many of them were sexually assaulted by the family husbands. All the African slaves were not accorded indenture servitude and were obligated to work for free in the slave owners firms. Since the women salves had not right over their life they were sold to other slave owners who needed their services. Finally, the enslavement of women by the capitalist economies in the Southern United States is a practice that all human beings should and must condemn and not allow to thrive in any society.
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