Harriet Jacobs Gender

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For thousands of years, men and women have carried out traditional gender roles as dictated by their cultures. In many cultures, traditional gender roles prescribe that men belong in the public sphere, while women’s best place is in the domestic sphere; this belief is commonly referred to as the ideology of separate spheres. In America, this ideology came to rule social and political thoughts during the first half of the (nineteenth) century during the Industrial Revolution. The ideology of separate spheres emphasized that the proper place for a true woman is within her home, taking care of her husband and children while the man's place is in the public sphere, working outside the house. This concept was further boosted by the religious view…show more content…
In her autobiographic account of slavery, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Harriet Jacobs illustrates the “breadth and power” of the ideology of separate spheres in early nineteenth-century America in which traits of motherhood and purity were significantly glorified. It was women’s ultimate goal to keep up with the standards of true womanhood, and most succeeded in becoming true women by adhering to these ideals. However, Jacobs’ own experiences in slavery articulate a very different story about slave women’s relationship to the ideology of separate spheres. Although Jacobs was raised by her grandmother to be virtuous, yet as an enslaved black woman, she was not fully able to meet all the standards of a true womanhood due to the cruelty of slavery, which promoted sexual exploitation, forced labor, and deprivation of…show more content…
Although, Jacobs found true happiness from being a mother and also strived to protect her children just like any mother would have done, her motherhood had different implications. Motherhood was not the same for slave women whose role in the society was different from that of white women. In her autobiography, Jacobs pleas to her white female audience that she too is capable of motherhood and that while “she may be (considered) an ignorant creature, degraded by the system that has brutalized her from childhood; she has a mother’s instincts, and is capable of feeling a mother’s agonies” (Jacobs, 26). Just because, for obvious reasons, she could not take care of her own children, she should not be perceived as someone who neglected her mothering responsibilities. Jacobs proves her point really well with the example of her grandmother who, put her mistress’s children and family before her own. Jacob’s grandmother even breastfed Jacobs’ mistress, which perhaps was also due to selfless reasons. Jacobs also showed love and self- sacrifice for her children when she chose stay in hiding after her escape. She feared that Dr. Flint will use her children as collateral to get her back or will sell them and she will likely never see them again. Hiding allowed her to hear and see her children and to know their

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