Women in Missouri History: In Search of Power and Influence

By Leeann Whites; Mary C. Neth et al. | Go to book overview

“May We as One Family Live
in Peace and Harmony”

Relations between Mistresses and Slave
Women in Antebellum Missouri

Diane Mutti Burke

After two weeks of conflict between the slave and slaveholding members of her household, Paulina Stratton pleaded to God in her diary, “[M]ay we as Christians forgive one another and as one family live in peace and harmony.” Stratton not only described her family as including both white and slave members, but her words also evoked a highly personal system of economic and social relations, much more “domestic” than that which prevailed in the plantation South. Such a description would have rung true to many of her contemporaries, for in Missouri most slaveholding farmers owned only one family of slaves, living and working alongside them in their homes and fields. 1.

____________________
1.
Missouri slave mistress Paulina Stratton wrote these lines shortly before migrating from the Kanawha Valley of western Virginia to central Missouri. She expressed the same kind of sentiments after moving to Missouri, for the nature of her relationship with her slave women did not change dramatically after their move. Like Missouri, western Virginia was also a region of small-slaveholding and yeoman farmers. Slaveholding migrants brought to Missouri methods of slave management they had learned in the small-scale slavery districts of the Upper South. See Fall 1852, Pauline Stratton Collection (hereinafter cited as Stratton Collection), Western Historical Manuscript Collection—Columbia, University of Missouri—Columbia (hereinafter cited as WHMC-C). See also Harrison Trexler, Slavery in Missouri, 1804—1865 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1914), 19.

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