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The Power of Their Will, The Power of Their Will, 0817320792, 0-8173-2079-2, 978-0-8173-2079-9, 9780817320799, , , The Power of Their Will, 0817393358, 0-8173-9335-8, 978-0-8173-9335-9, 9780817393359,

The Power of Their Will
Slaveholding Women in Nineteenth-Century Cuba
Teresa Prados-Torreira

Trade Cloth
2021. 144 pp.
7 B&W figures / 2 maps
Price:  $49.95 s
E Book
2021. 144 pp.
7 B&W figures / 2 maps
Price:  $49.95 d

A valuable narrative of the often paradoxical and conflicting human bonds between female owners and the enslaved in nineteenth-century Cuba
In the early nineteenth century, while abolitionism was rising and the slave trade was declining in the Atlantic world, Spain used this opportunity to massively expand plantation slavery in Cuba. Between 1501 and 1866, more than 778,000 Africans were torn from their homelands and brought to work for the Cuban slaveholding class.
An understudied aspect of Cuban slaveholding society is the role of the white Cuban slave mistress (amas). The Power of Their Will: Slaveholding Women in Nineteenth-Century Cuba illuminates the interaction of female slaveholders and the enslaved during this time. Teresa Prados-Torreira shows, despite the lack of political power in a highly patriarchal society, Cuban women as property owners were instrumental in supporting the long duration of slavery, whether by enforcing the disciplining of the enslaved in the domestic sphere or helping to create the illusion of slavery as a humane institution. Thousands of Creole slaveholding women relied on slaves to lead a comfortable life. Even the subsistence of many poor women depended on the income derived from the hiring out of their enslaved.
In this accessible cultural history, culled from government documents, fiction, newspaper articles, traveler’s accounts, women’s wills, and archival research, Prados-Torreira coalesces a valuable narrative out of the often paradoxical and conflicting stories of the human bonds between the female owner and the enslaved. Narrative chapters, enlivened by vignettes, describe the daily life of slave mistresses in the main cities of Havana and Santiago and other towns, workings of sugar mills and coffee plantations, how slaveholding women coping with slave rebellions and wartime during the Ten Years’ War, and how personal relationships could occasionally affect the balance of power.
Teresa Prados-Torreira is professor of American history at Columbia College Chicago. She is author of Mambisas: Rebel Women in Nineteenth-Century Cuba.
“Like no other work on the subject I am aware of, The Power of Their Will gives the reader the information needed to gain insights into the external lives of Cuban slaveholding women as they went about their prescribed tasks and permissible pleasures.”
—D. J. Walker, editor and translator of Manuel Ciges Aparicio’s On Captivity: A Spanish Soldier’s Experience in a Havana Prison, 1896–1898
The Power of Their Will is engaging and draws on evocative examples primarily from traveler’s accounts, notarial records, and petitions for reversals of property confiscations during the Cuban War of Independence.”
—Adriana Chira, assistant professor of Atlantic World history at Emory University
“This engrossing and elegantly written study foregrounds the lives, importance, and influence of female slave owners in Cuba in the 1800s. It fills a gap in Cuban, women’s, and slave history that scholars have ignored. Drawing on a wide variety of sources, ranging from fiction, wills, and foreign travelers’ accounts, Prados-Torreira draws a compelling portrait of the largely Creole women who owned and profited from the enslaved. Her nuanced story makes clear the extent to which owning other human beings gave female slave owners power and status even as the patriarchal norms of Cuban society subordinated and limited them. It also reveals the complex relations that existed between the slave mistresses and the enslaved and, in the process, sheds new light on both groups on both a social and intimate level.”
—Margaret Power, author of Right-Wing Women in Chile: Feminine Power and the Struggle against Allende, 1964–1973
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