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We Have Raised All of You

Motherhood in the South, 1750-1835

368 pages / 6.00 x 9.00 inches / no illustrations

ebook available

Southern History | Gender Studies

  Hardcover / 9780807152232 / November 2013

Winner of the SAWH Julia Cherry Spruill Prize

White, black, and Native American women in the early South often viewed motherhood as a composite of roles, ranging from teacher and nurse to farmer and politician. Within a multicultural landscape, mothers drew advice and consolation from female networks, broader intellectual currents, and an understanding of their own multifaceted identities to devise their own standards for child rearing. In this way, by constructing, interpreting, and defending their roles as parents, women in the South maintained a certain degree of control over their own and their children’s lives. Focusing on Virginia and the Carolinas from 1750 to 1835, Katy Simpson Smith’s study examines these maternal practices to reveal the ways in which diverse groups of women struggled to create empowered identities in the early South. 
 
We Have Raised All of You contributes to a wide variety of historical conversations by affirming the necessity of multicultural—not simply biracial—studies of the American South. Its equally weighted analysis of white, black, and Native American women sets it distinctly apart from other work. Smith shows that while women from different backgrounds shared similar experiences within the trajectory of motherhood, no universal model holds up under scrutiny. Most importantly, this book suggests that parenthood provided women with some power within their often-circumscribed lives. Alternately restricted, oppressed, belittled, and enslaved, women sought to embrace an identity that would give them some sense of self-respect and self-worth. The rich and varied roles that mothers inherited, Smith shows, afforded women this empowering identity.

Katy Simpson Smith, a writer living in New Orleans, received her PhD in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Praise for We Have Raised All of You

“[Smith’s] aim is ‘to move the conversation from whether or not women had power to something more complex: what power meant, what forms it took, how it was practiced, when it was manipulated or contested, and how it structured women’s lives’ (p. 269). This is no easy task. It requires a broader and deeper cultural exploration of women’s inner lives, their values, and their beliefs. Smith’s book is a promising first step in achieving that end.”—American Historical Review

“[Katy Simpson] Smith incorporates a variety of evidence into her study. . . Given the nature of the sources,the section on white mothers offers more direct access to the inner lives of elite women through letters and diaries, but Smith also skillfully teases out what she can about the lives of poor white women through legal records.”—Journal of the Early Republic

“Smith has made a valuable contribution to gender and southern studies by effectively complicating and humanizing the concept of motherhood. . . . Her text will join the ranks of the few others that tackle this universal and timeless subject.”—Journal of American History

“Smith is . . . using mothering practices as a lens through which to highlight a more nuanced reading of the realities of women’s significant but limited power. This wide-ranging book is a valuable addition to both southern and women’s history.”—North Carolina Historical Review

“Bringing together the experiences of Indian, white, and black mothers into one book certainly makes this work historiographically important but so, too, does the more complex and more complete picture of motherhood in the early South that Smith offers. . . . That one book can not only successfully bring together the multiracial experiences of women but also prove how motherhood ‘offers the key to understanding women as instigators of change’ in this era makes We Have Raised All of You an essential contribution to the field.”—Virginia Magazine of History and Biography

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