Within the Plantation Household

Black and White Women of the Old South

By Elizabeth Fox-Genovese

568 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 31

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-4232-4
    Published: December 1988
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-6422-7
    Published: November 2000
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-6572-4
    Published: November 2000

Gender and American Culture

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Awards & distinctions

1988 C. Hugh Holman Award, Society for the Study of Southern Literature

1989 Outstanding Book Award, Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights in North America

1989 Julia Cherry Spruill Prize, Southern Association for Women Historians

Documenting the difficult class relations between women slaveholders and slave women, this study shows how class and race as well as gender shaped women's experiences and determined their identities. Drawing upon massive research in diaries, letters, memoirs, and oral histories, the author argues that the lives of antebellum southern women, enslaved and free, differed fundamentally from those of northern women and that it is not possible to understand antebellum southern women by applying models derived from New England sources.

About the Author

Elizabeth Fox-Genovese (1941-2007) was Eleonore Raoul Professor of the Humanities and professor of history at Emory University. Her other books include Feminism Without Illusions: A Critique of Individualism and Fruits of Merchant Capital: Slavery and Bourgeois Property in the Rise and Expansion of Capitalism.
For more information about Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, visit the Author Page.


"Asks us to put aside simple generalizations and explore the complicated world that masters and slaves built together on their terms, not ours. . . . Fox-Genovese provides a rich analysis . . . without losing her critical eye or her amazing capacity for empathy. Like no other historian before or since."--Civil War Times

"[A] well-written and thoroughly researched social history."--New Yorker

"Elizabeth Fox-Genovese undertakes the enormous tasks of telling the life stories of the last generation of black and white women of the Old South, and of analyzing the meanings of these connected stories as a way of illuminating both Southern and women's history--tasks at which she succeeds brilliantly."--Mechal Sobel, New York Times Book Review

"We have to thank a daughter of the Deep North for digging up and presenting more neglected testimony of plantation mistresses and their servants than has ever before been assembled so fully or organized and analyzed so cogently and provocatively."--C. Vann Woodward, New York Review of Books

"Virtually every sentence stimulates and every page challenges. . . . With a graceful and intelligent narrative, the author shows how and why Southern women did not--indeed could not--'participate in a sisterhood.' A vivid, extensive chonicle of Southern women's daily existence . . . is documented by passages from letters, diaries and oral histories--selectively and, consequently, effectively."--Publisher's Weekly

"An ambitious book that succeeds as history and as historiography. Weaving together multiple strands of analysis--including the psychological--Elizabeth Fox-Genovese elevates American women's history to a new level of sophistication."--Nell Irvin Painter, Princeton University