Incidents in The Life Of A Slave Girl
Topic: How much harder was slavery for women than men?
No one in today's society can even come close to the heartache, torment, anguish, and complete misery suffered by women in slavery. Many women endured this agony their entire lives, there only joy being there children and families, who were torn away from them and sold, never to be seen or heard from again. Thesis
In the book, Incidents in the Life of Slave Girl, Linda Brent tells a spectacular story of her twenty years spent in slavery with her master Dr. Flint, and her jealous Mistress. She speaks of her trials and triumphs as well as the harms done to other slaves. She takes you on the inside of slavery and shows you the Hell on Earth slavery really was. She tells you the love and heartbreak she experienced being an unmarried slave mother. At around the age of twenty or so, Linda escapes and ends up in very small garret only nine foot long and seven foot wide. So small she could not even stand up. She lived in this hole with no light, no fresh air, and barely ever moved for almost seven years. She finally escaped and made it to the North where she and her children lived much happier and most of all they lived free.
Linda Brent said, "Slavery is terrible for men, but is far more terrible for women." She makes a good and true point, for when her life and the life of other slave women is compared to men's, mentally, slavery takes a much larger toll on the suffering of women. Women are responsible for their children, because the children follow the mother and mothers often fill guilty for bringing children into the cruel world of slavery. As Linda Brent expresses, "I often prayed for death; but now I didn't want to die, unless my child could die too . . .(Benny) it's clinging fondness was a mixture of love and pain . . . Sometimes I wished that he (Benny) might die in infancy . . .Death is better than slavery". In the book Linda has mixed feelings about her children because she so dearly loves them. She doesn't want them to suffer in slavery as she has so she wishes they would die, but she loves them and she doesn't want to lose them as many slave mothers had. How torn and incapable she must have felt as a slave mother. Linda also speaks of "The Slaves New Year's Day", this was the time that slaves everywhere were sold and leased. Many mothers were torn from their husbands and their children. Linda speaks of one woman she witnessed, "I saw a mother lead seven children to the auction-block. She knew that some of them would be taken from her; but they took all . . .(The woman screamed) Gone! All gone! Why don't God kill me?" Linda explains that things like this happen daily, even hourly. This is only a small piece of the torture it was to be a woman in slavery. Linda's master often made perverted comments to her in which she expressed as to filthy to tell. He began to fill her mind with awful thoughts and words. He often slapped Linda and kicked her around. He was constantly threatening her and her life explaining that he would never sell her and that she would be in their damily as long as he had an heir. When Linda became pregnant with the son of a white man, he became very angry and he constantly reminded her that her baby was to be his property, like a piece of land to be bought. When she had the boy she named Benjamin, he was premature and she became very ill. She refused to let anyone send for a doctor, because the only doctor that could treat her was Dr. Flint. Finally when they thought she would die they sent for her master. He treated her and she refused him as much as possible, but she lived and so did her little Benny, although sometimes she wished he would've died. Almost three years later she had a daughter who she called Ellen which angered him even more and when Benny began to run to cling to his mother when he was striking her, Dr. Flint knocked the child all the way across the room nearly killing him.
Linda finally escaped and hid at various places, in a white friends house, where she was made very sick when concealed in a very damp place under the floor. She then remained in a locked storage room upstairs until she found out her children were sold to their father, who never really claimed them, Mr. Sands. He handed the children and their papers over to her grandmother. The woman she was staying with finally thought it best for both of their sakes that she left, because people were becoming suspicious. When she left they had no where to conceal her so, they disguised her and she sat out at the snaky swamp for two days while they were building her a small garret outside her grandmother's house. At the swamp she claimed the snakes were so plentiful that they had to push them away with a stick and the air was so thick with mosquitos she became ill from all the bites. They finally finished and she hid out in the small garret that was about three feet in height, nine feet in length, and five feet in width. She spoke of the suffocating air, the dampness always about during the rains, and the smothering heat in the summer. She even talked about the rats and mice crawling over her body. She told about watching her two children Ellen and Benny grow up through a small peep hole. Her grandmother would bring her food at night and talk with her. Even as her great aunt was dying she could not leave to tend to her, all she could do was stay in her little smothering space. Soon Dr. Flint began saying that the children belonged to his daughter and the contract of their sale was not legal because she was too young to consent to sale them. So in fear that he would take Ellen, Mr. Sands said he would send her to stay with a cousin, in the North where she would go to school. Linda and her grandmother agreed and Ellen was sent to Boston. The night before Ellen left her mother came out of her hole and into the house to talk with her. She told Ellen, "I am your mother." Ellen replied, "Are you really my mother?" Ellen couldn't even remember what her own mother looked like. She spent that night with her and they wept on each other and spoke of the things that had happened over the years. Ellen departed the following morning. Finally Linda received work that there was a safe way to get to the North and she left, after spending almost seven years in that tiny space. Linda finally made it to North, safely and prudently, no one suspected a thing. Dr. Flint assumed she'd lived in the North for years, he'd even gone in search of her several times. Although it wasn't everything she though it would be, she was for the most part free. The people weren't as nice as she thought they would be, many of them were still extremely prejudice. On her train ride to New York she had to pay to ride in a back car full of the smells of tobacco and whiskey. Alarmingly, when she got there her Ellen had not been living very well.She worn thin clothes and sometimes no shoes. She hadn't even been sent to school even though there were public schools she could to for free. Ellen was extremely unhappy. She had actually been given to his niece as a handmaid! Although Linda was extremely angry she said nothing for fear of the selling her daughter. She found a job being a nurse to nice family by the name of Bruce and eventually got her daughter back and they later sent her son to be with her also. Dr. Flint continued to come to the North and search for her, but she had many friends who concealed her. Not but a few years after she'd stayed in the North did they pass the Fugitive Slave Law enacted in September 1850 it made it easy to legally seize and enslave and black man or woman at large. All they had to do was get the person, go before the commissioner, swear to the ownership of him or her and get a certificate of arrest. The commissioner received ten dollars for giving the certificate and five for denying it. The black man or woman accused of being a fugitive slave had no right to a trial and jury. Dr. Flint's daughter was not long after married to a man by the name of Dodge and sent a letter to Linda to come home that they might welcome her with "open arms". Soon after Dr. Flint died, and so did her dear grandmother who she wished to go to and help as much as she'd helped her, but she could not. Linda began reading the papers everyday to see the new people checked into town and look for her mistress, Mrs. Dodge, whom she'd heard had been very low of funds and needed Linda simply to get some money. Sure enough she showed up, Linda ran with the baby she nursed to California to stay with her brother. Benny was learning a trade with her brother and Ellen was in boarding school. At last her dear friend Mrs. Bruce bought her for three-hundred dollars. The Dodge's were so certain they'd never find her and so low on finances that they probably would have sold her for anything. At last Linda and her children were free. Never to become captured by the Fugitive Slave Law. Never to have to look over their shoulder for someone that might know them and turn them in. What a relief that must have been after living such a long life as a fugitive slave and poor slave mother.
As you could see Ms. Linda Brent was a very strong woman who's love for her children and determination for them not to live the horrible slave life she had made her and her children free. Free to what though? Freedom just to say that they weren't a piece of property. Freedom to build and live in their own home and raise a family without fear that any person might take that happiness away at any moment.
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