BATON ROUGE – Focusing on Virginia and the Carolinas from 1750 to 1835, Katy Simpson Smith’s “We Have Raised All of You,” now available from LSU Press examines maternal practices to reveal the ways in which diverse groups of women struggled to create empowered identities in the early South. This study contributes to a wide variety of historical conversations by affirming the necessity of multicultural – not simply biracial – studies of the American South. Its equally weighted analysis of white, black and Native American women sets it distinctly apart from other work.
Smith shows that while women from different backgrounds shared similar experiences within the trajectory of motherhood, no universal model holds up under scrutiny. Most importantly, this book suggests that parenthood provided women with some power within their often-circumscribed lives. Alternately restricted, oppressed, belittled, and enslaved, women sought to embrace an identity that would give them some sense of self-respect and self-worth. The rich and varied roles that mothers inherited, Smith shows, afforded women this empowering identity.
Smith, a writer living in New Orleans, received her doctorate in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.