06 April 2021

BOOK: Kirsten SWORD, Wives Not Slaves - Patriarchy and Modernity in the Age of Revolutions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press). ISBN 9780226757483, 50.00 USD


(Source: University of Chicago Press)

The University of Chicago Press is publishing “Wives Not Slaves - Patriarchy and Modernity in the Age of Revolutions”.


Wives not Slaves begins with the story of John and Eunice Davis, a colonial American couple who, in 1762, advertised their marital difficulties in the New Hampshire Gazette—a more common practice for the time and place than contemporary readers might think. John Davis began the exchange after Eunice left him, with a notice resembling the ads about runaway slaves and servants that were a common feature of eighteenth-century newspapers. John warned neighbors against “entertaining her or harbouring her. . . or giving her credit.” Eunice defiantly replied, “If I am your wife, I am not your slave.” With this pointed but problematic analogy, Eunice connected her individual challenge to her husband’s authority with the broader critiques of patriarchal power found in the politics, religion, and literature of the British Atlantic world.

Kirsten Sword’s richly researched history reconstructs the stories of wives who fled their husbands between the mid-seventeenth and early nineteenth centuries, comparing their plight with that of other runaway dependents.  Wives not Slaves explores the links between local justice, the emerging press, and transatlantic political debates about marriage, slavery and imperial power. Sword traces the relationship between the distress of ordinary households, domestic unrest, and political unrest, shedding new light on the social changes imagined by eighteenth-century revolutionaries, and on the politics that determined which patriarchal forms and customs the new American nation would—and would not—abolish.


Kirsten Sword is a historian of early American and women’s history affiliated with Indiana University Bloomington.


Introduction: “If I am your Wife, I am not your Slave”

1. The Trials of Christopher and Elizabeth Lawson: An Introduction to Post-Reformation Debates about Marriage

2. Submit or Starve: Manby v. Scott and the Making of a Precedent

3. The Runaway Press

4. Marriage, Slavery, and Anglo-Imperial Jurisdictional Politics


5. A Matter of Credit: Husbands’ Claims

6. “In Justice to my Character”: Wives’ Replies

7. Wives Not Slaves

8. Rethinking the Revolutionary Road to Divorce

Epilogue: “The Rigour of the Old Rule”

Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s Legal Education

Manby v. Scott in the Nineteenth Century


Abbreviations and Source Notes




More info here

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