Harriet Jacobs

“When they told me my new-born babe was a girl, my heart was heavier than it had ever been before. Slavery is terrible for men; but it is far more terrible for women. Superadded to the burden common to all, they have wrongs, and sufferings, and mortifications peculiarly their own”(Jacobs 1820).

All slavery is wrong for both men and women. Women in particular though carry much heavier burdens than men do. Their sufferings are much heavier than men. Many women are used as breeders and sex slaves. In my mind this seems to be the most awful thing a woman should have to go through. To be used sexually and to breed children to undergo the same hardships that they are going through must be the worst feeling. Of course you don’t want to produce more females that are younger than you and once you have been used up, they will be used in the same way that you were. A women’s morality is taken away, she is left used and abused. Since these women are constrained by their white male slaveholders, they are also denied the access to romance. To be denied of the basic right to love is heart wrenching. This also explains how these women have their own burdens that men are still given the right to have. They may not be able to love in a sense that they’re separated from their loved ones, but they aren’t used as sex slaves or breeders. Another right these women are denied of is the right to keep their family together and not have their children taken away from them. All in all these women denied romance, sexuality, as well as establishing a home with their children. Jacobs really presents this tragedy when discussing the thought going through these women’s heads when realizing they are having a young girl. No mother wants to bring life into this world knowing that her child will have to endure the same hardships that she is currently going through, physically and emotionally.


“When they told me my new-born babe was a girl, my heart was heavier than it had ever been before. Slavery is terrible for men; but it is far more terrible for women. Superadded to the burden common to all, they have wrongs, and sufferings, and mortifications peculiarly their own” (1820).

I think that Jacobs is building an argument about the way slavery affects men and women. Both endure suffering, however, in many ways, slavery is worse for women because they must deal with sexual abuse and violence. They must bear the burden of birthing the children of their slave masters, and then witness the removal of their children from the plantation. They must sit by and wait patiently as their masters rape and harm their daughters. It is important to differentiate between slavery among men and women because women experience racial and gender oppression all at once. Slavery is harsh enough, but sexual slavery is far worse.

“For his sake, I felt that I ought not to link his fate with my own…with me the lamp of hope had gone out. The dream of my girlhood was over. I felt lonely and desolate” (1815).

Linda decides not to marry the man she falls in love with because she understands that she cannot make that dream a reality. I connected the “dream of her girlhood” with Fanny Fern’s “Aunt Hetty on Matrimony”. Fern states that there is a type of “bewitchment” about marriage, however this bewitchment is just an illusion. Linda herself realizes that everything she learned and fantasized about marriage is false. She comes to understand that she will not be allowed to chose who she wants to marry. Her freedom to pick a husband has been stripped away from her by her master. I wonder what Jacobs stance on marriage is because she poses the question: Why does the slave ever love? Considering everyone and everything a slave feels a sense of attachment is taken away from him/her should a slave try and suppress the emotion?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *