Sirens of the Sea: Female Slave Ship Owners of the Atlantic World, 1650-1870

Maria Vann

Abstract


Throughout the active years of the transatlantic slave trade, some European and American women gained economic and social influence by involvement as participants in the slave trade. They challenge the dominant narrative that the slave trade was practiced exclusively by white men. This article, focuses on female slave traders from Britain and its American colonies during the period of 1650-1760 with a concentration on New York, a former Dutch colony that fell under English rule after 1664.

This research is largely based on review of historical sources including the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, slave ship records, newspapers, journals, court records, and diaries. Sources were evaluated with intentional focus upon women who were previously overlooked. Their existence during the early years of the transatlantic trade challenges common notions about both gender and the slave trade and additionally raises important questions about the role of women slavers in other times and places.

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