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Women Before the CourtLaw and Patriarchy in the Anglo-American World, 1600-1800$
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Lindsay R. Moore

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781526136336

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.7765/9781526136343

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PRINTED FROM MANCHESTER SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.manchester.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Manchester University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in MSO for personal use.date: 27 July 2021

Masters and mistresses, servants and slaves: patriarchy and subordinate agency in the household

Masters and mistresses, servants and slaves: patriarchy and subordinate agency in the household

Chapter:
(p.59) 3 Masters and mistresses, servants and slaves: patriarchy and subordinate agency in the household
Source:
Women Before the Court
Author(s):

Lindsay R. Moore

Publisher:
Manchester University Press
DOI:10.7765/9781526136343.00010

This chapter examines how the legal status of female servants and slaves evolved over the course of the seventeenth century, and how women in service challenged the structures of patriarchy that governed familial relationships. Female servants had a relatively wide spectrum of legal rights and routinely filed petitions with the courts for breach of contract. The legal relationship between a master and a female servant was dependent on a contract that stipulated the amount of time to be served, as well as the remuneration the servant would receive for her labour. The legal action taken by female servants shows that although they were at the bottom of the household hierarchy, they exercised a form of subordinate agency in the courts. In contrast, slaves had no legal standing. A master owned the labour of his servants while they were under contract, but not the servant themselves. The legal relationship between a master and a slave, however, was not subject to the terms of a contract. Masters owned not only the labour of their slaves, but also their persons; this made it legally impossible for slaves to bring any grievances against their masters to court.

Keywords:   masters, servants, slaves, patriarchy, agency, contracts, petitions, labour, seventeenth century

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