This 2002 book presents the true and dramatic accounts of two nineteenth-century Brazilian women - one young and born a slave, the other old and from an illustrious planter family - and how each sought to retain control of their lives: the slave woman struggling to avoid an unwanted husband; the woman of privilege assuming a patriarch's role to endow a family of her former slaves with the means for a free life. But these women's stories cannot be told without also recalling how their decisions drew them ever more firmly into the orbits of the worldly and influential men who exercised power in their lives. These are stories with a twist: in this society of radically skewed power, Lauderdale Graham reveals that more choices existed for all sides than we first imagine. Through these small histories she casts new light on larger meanings of slave and free, female and male.
In The Press
"Two women, different roles, both shaking the structures of established male authority through the intransigence of their personal moral decisions. In this marvelous book Lauderdale Graham retrieves two sinuous stories from ecclesiastical and legal archives, and through their close analysis lays bare the stresses, ambivalences and the surprising elasticity of the slave system as practiced in a river valley in southeastern Brazil during the middle decades of the nineteenth-century. 'Brazilian Slavery' will never look the same again." Inga Clendinnen, Reader in History Emeritus at La Trobe University