Reproduction on an 18th Century Sugar Plantation on a Plantation

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EXAMINE THE REASONS ENSLAVED FEMALES FOUND IT DIFFICULT TO REPRODUCE ON A TYPICAL SUGAR ESTATE IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY.

Life for the enslaved on a typical sugar estate was filled with harsh realities. Although they were women, they lived and labored under the whip. The domestics worked as cooks, washerwomen and nanas among other jobs. However the majority of enslaved women were field slaves. The nature of work done by the enslaved females therefore negatively influenced to a great extent their fertility. Several factors engendered the difficulty in the reproduction process, whether forcibly on the part of the planters or voluntarily on the part of the enslaved. Firstly enslaved females were overworked, since they labored from the time the conch shell sounded at dawn, until it was sunset. Hence they had little time to procreate because they would be tired and exhausted after a long day’s work. Also their work hours were extended during the crop season. According to author Marietta Morrisey ‘natural increase was at a low, especially when female slaves were pushed into roles as field workers.’ She further stated that on the Irvin Estate in St. James, females had to work longer hours than men. Secondly enslaved females were not allowed time off from work during pregnancy, therefore their work hours remained unchanged. This meant that they had to work right up until it was time to give birth, this lack of rest resulted in females having miscarriages or stillbirths majority of the time. Moreover neither their gender nor condition was considered when they became pregnant, because females still received punishment whenever they ‘broke’ plantation rules or were believed to be insolent. They were not spared the whip as they were still punished excessively. A so called ‘precautionary measure ‘taken’ when whipping pregnant females was to dig a hole roughly the size of their stomach and have the female place her stomach in the hole, while she was lashed...
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