Wives, Slaves and Servant Girls (Paperback)
Advertisements for Female Runaways in American Newspapers, 1770–1783
In an age when individuals could be owned by others, people were lost and found just like other property. Indentured servants and slaves absconded from the custody of their masters, and their value prompted the masters to seek their return. Wives ran from abusive husbands or into the arms of another. Newspapers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries carried large numbers of advertisements offering rewards for the return of runaways or announcing the detention of fugitives. Each ad provided a description of the individual and often included some circumstances of their elopement. The overall effectiveness of these advertisements cannot be measured, but the sheer number of ads suggests they were perceived as useful tools by those who placed them. What could not have been known at the time was the substantial contribution to history that these ads make. The descriptive advertisements provide textual snapshots of thousands of individuals who would otherwise be lost to history, people whose names might not otherwise be recorded. In Wives, Slaves, and Servant Girls: Advertisements for Female Runaways in American Newspapers, 1770–1783, historian Don N. Hagist focuses on the American Revolutionary period to provide a striking portrait of a substantial but largely forgotten segment of the population. Comprised of four
hundred advertisements presented chronologically, the volume provides invaluable descriptions of women’s clothes, footwear, jewelry, physical appearances, education, nationalities, occupations, and other details.
Don Hagist's remarkable book is testament to one of the darkest periods in the history of the human race - when people were enslaved just as they had been during the darkest days of the Roman Empire; the disturbing thing for me is the realisation that whilst you read this book, you cannot help but think about the countless millions of people still subject to such abuse and slavery elsewhere in the world today, the world in which we live. A fascinating collection of advertisements that will almost certainly give you an uncomfortable feeling of wretchedness that one group of people could do this to another group.Books Monthly