Visual Sources- Early Photographs of Factory Operatives and Slave Women…


The photo above is the one that caught my attention the most, out of all other photos. This photo is of “the Hayward family’s slave Louisa with her legal owner” (c. 1858). The women Louisa is the slave who nurses the baby she is holding in her arms, whom also happen to be the one who owns her. A baby, that can not even walk or talk…owns her! That really shocked me to say the least. 

This picture is of great importance during this era because it showed the importance of the black slaves as a part of the family; they were seen as “mammies” to the children and were trusted and loved servants, not the typical harshly treated slaves of the era. The whites who typically took these types of pictures accepted the slaves on an intimate level. Although the whites felt this way, many of the African women saw this as “unpaid labor”. Many did not even want their pictures taken, but had no choice in that. The women in the photograph was bought at a slave auction specifically to take care of the young baby and be a nursemaid at the age of twenty-two. From looking at her facial expressions in the photograph, she does not look to happy. I can assume she did not view her “job” as something to love and being a part of the family, but just was it was…another job.



The picture above is of Thomas Easterly and “Family with their slave nurse” (1850). This picture is the similar to that of “Louisa and her slave owner” above. In this picture, it is stated to view the importance that there is no elder white women (or mother) in the photo. There is a father, two children, and the black slave nurse. It’s either the mother passed away, left, or just did not want to be in the photo (the latter is which I doubt was the case). From the photo, I am assuming that the nurse is raising the children as her own, as the mother would have done. Her facial expression matches that of everyone in the photo- really expressionless if I must say so. It seems that the photograph was taken just to show their closeness as a “family” with the nurse. 




The picture above is “Plantation in Beaufort, South Carolina” (1862). This photo is of great importance because it was during the time that these specific slaves’ owners fled their plantation leaving the slaves in the photo free and without any supervision, but the slaves stayed at the plantation and continued working. Soon, the a man names O’Sullivan crossed by with the union army and kept supervision over the slaves. This picture can show how black slaves were so closely tied to their plantation that even when freed, they remained. (Page 247). 


The photo above is known as “Two Women Mill Workers” (1860). Along with “Four Women Mill Workers” (Page 241), these two images showed the female textile factory operatives. The women in these photographs showed their specific skills by holding their working tools in their hands. These women took pictures in such ways to show how proud to be a part of the growing industrial economy in their era. The women particularly took group photo to show their collective effort and how closely knit they were as coworker, friends, and that they considered themselves as family. One thing that really caught my eye was that all the women in the photographs are dressed alike/similarly, and even have the same hair-dos. That shows more significance to how close they were relationship wise, not just women who happen to be working together.





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