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“Husbands Are Men, Not Angels”

“Husbands Are Men, Not Angels”

Gender and Intimate Partner Violence in Antebellum New Orleans

(p.19) Chapter One “Husbands Are Men, Not Angels”
Intimate Partner Violence in New Orleans
Ashley Baggett
University Press of Mississippi

Before the Civil War, southern society defined manhood in part by maintaining control of the family. Neither the courts nor society recognized women’s personhood, but rather defined women under coverture as dependents of men. As such, men could employ corporal punishment to family members who did not fulfill their roles. With anti-slavery advocates on the rise, criticisms of the brutality of slave owners were met with the idea of paternal benevolence, which sought to soften the institution of slavery, and this carried over into gender expectations. The temperance movement also drew attention to alcoholic husbands who abused their wives and children. Despite the emergence of some legal challenges to intimate partner violence, abuse remained poorly prosecuted, often ending without conviction. Manhood required the submission of dependents, and womanhood required obedience. These constructs stalled any social or legal challenge to the male privilege of chastisement.

Keywords:   Manhood, Antebellum, Anti-slavery, Temperance, Abuse, New Orleans

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