In the eighteenth-century French Atlantic world, masters and mistresses sometimes sent their enslaved seamstresses to Europe to learn the latest fashion trends; other seamstresses resided in colonial towns and they moved about freely as they traveled to the linen markets or to the homes of their clients. In addition, skilled seamstresses often negotiated for compensation especially when such slaves were leased to other men and women. Enslaved seamstresses also occupied the top echelons of the slave hierarchy. Slaves involved in the preparation of cloth practiced occupational sabotage—they struck out at their masters using the tools of their trade. These characteristics—mobility, the ability to make money, a privileged position in the slave hierarchy, and occupational sabotage—often translated to freedom. Male slaves most often possessed these qualities; enslaved women, burdened doubly with field work and home work, did not. Hence, as enslaved seamstresses sewed, they also fashioned freedom.


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pp. 44-59
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