To Be My Own Mistress: How Women in Jamaica Shaped the British Empire, 1660-1760


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




Using Jamaica as a case study, this project examines how women played significant roles in expanding slavery and commerce in the early modern Atlantic world. In order to sustain a rampantly exploitative, yet highly lucrative form of colonialism, free people abandoned patriarchal customs and wove slave-ownership into the very fabric of the family, creating a society that was markedly different from the one they left behind. In Jamaica, one’s status as free mattered more than one’s gender, economic position, or race. Drawing upon a diversity of archival materials, this project studies different aspects of colonial life, including marriage, parenthood, inheritance, female slave-ownership, and women’s work. It reveals how the growth of slavery enhanced the economic, legal and social authority of free women of European and African descent.