After decades of scholarly neglect, the pivotal roles played by enslaved African women in the sociocultural and economic development of New World plantation societies is finally receiving critical attention as historians embark on gendered reappraisals of Caribbean history. Understanding how African women experienced slavery has considerably enriched our knowledge of the complexity of gender, race and sexuality in structuring colonial social relations. However, considerably less attention has focused on the experiences of white women within these societies. Dismissed, at best, as the languid and leisured wives of male planters, and at worst, as a socially and economically unproductive parasitical category, white Caribbean women arguably constitute the most marginalised of social actors within Caribbean history. This article seeks to disrupt the uncritical representations that frame our epistemological understanding of the experiences of white colonial women. Taking the plantation society of Barbados as a case study, the author argues that white women were crucial actors in the reproduction and social stability of successful slave economies. In Barbadian plantation society, ideologies of white supremacy legitimised African slavery, and race became the principal mode of social stratification
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