Part 1: 1450-1750
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Part 3: 1791-1831
Part 4: 1831-1865

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Modern Voices
Fath Ruffins on the supervision of women slaves
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Q: In New England, are these women supervising themselves or were they working under the supervision of white women?
Fath Ruffins

A: Generally speaking, they would have been working under the supervision of white women. Although class makes a difference. At higher class levels, there may have been one mistress; they would be working directly under their supervision. At the lower classes, people who were lower level merchants, they were working kind of alongside these white women. So the extent to which there was a rigid hierarchical system, it may not have been. It may have been much more on a more or less equal basis. However, of course, the fundamental basis remained, which is that the black women were enslaved, and the white women were free. The biggest difference that I would say between women's work and men's work is that more of the women's work may have been more group-oriented -- it's more a shared activity that they're all engaged in.
Fath Davis Ruffins
Scholar and Researcher
The Smithsonian Institute

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