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Women in the Caribbean from emancipation to national independence

Introduction

This is a new topic for me, so please consider this outline as a work in progress. The economy, society and culture of the Caribbean has been shaped by the period of slavery that brought people from Africa, Europe and India to the area and by the poverty and unemployment of the post-emancipation period that resulted in the migration of many Caribbean people to the USA, Canada, Europe and other parts of the world - the Caribbean diaspora. See essay by Ruel Johnson http://www.caricom.org/jsp/projects/uwicaricomproject/caribbean_diaspora.jsp

Slaves in the Caribbean receiving news of emancipation in 1834 Engraving in Cassell's Illustrated History of England 1820-1861 (1863). Image Reference cass2, as shown on http://www.slaveryimages.org sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the University of Virginia Library. URL: http://hitchcock.itc.virginia.edu/Slavery/details.php?categorynum=17&categoryName=Emancipation and Post-Slavery Life&theRecord=0&recordCount=13 Apprenticeship

1834 Slaves 'emancipated' - but had to work 40.5 hours a week unpaid for former owners for 4 years - called 'apprenticeship'. Owners got 20 million pounds compensation - slaves got no compensation (Fryer 1988) Apprentices got free food, clothing and shelter and could work extra hours for wages.Flogging made illegal. But planters imposed extra unpaid work for minor infringements of plantation rules and sent apprentices to the workhouse for punishment e.g. treadmill. Apprenticeship was a brutal system. Boa (2001) points our that the 'British Government underestimated the scale of the planters’ resentment towards abolition. Therefore, they failed to provide mechanisms to adequately protect apprentices from abuse. In addition, many of the special magistrates sympathised with the planters and imposed heavy punishments on apprentices' (401). The lives of women with children was made harder because they lost the nurseries, food and clothing allowances and reduced working hours that they had had as slaves. They used many of the protest methods they had used as slaves to resist the harsh conditions (Boa 2001).

Vasconcellos (2006) says that because children under 6 became free immediately in 1834, plantation owners had no obligations to them, no need to provide food or nurseries or medical care. Mothers could have got these facilities back if they had made their children apprentices but only nine children under six became apprentices in Jamaica between 1834 and 1838. In addition, the lives of children 6-15 got harder – planters worked them as hard as they could and made no concessions.

Vasconcellos (2006) also makes a link between the control over small children that the planters had lost and their support for expansion of primary education. Planters were eager that free children should be socialised into being docile workers. Working mothers needed schools to care for their children.

'All couples witnessed a decline in the time that they could spend together and their ability to carry out their gender roles as a result of the legal and illegal punishment practices adopted, such as time in the estate dungeon and repaying time lost in caring for a sick child. The punishment practices also affected the ability of couples to attain the attribute of monogamy as the most common form of female punishment— time in the workhouse—increased the risk of sexual abuse. In other words, while some couples found it easier to live up to the metropolitan ideal during the Apprenticeship System, the majority found it as hard as or even harder than under Slavery' (Altink 2004: 99). Condition of ex-slaves

After apprenticeship ended, plantation owners tried to keep labour costs down for both men and women workers. Women generally paid half of what men were paid for equivalent work (Reddock 1985). Planation owners also started to charge rent for the houses and...
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