Congratulations to Dr. Cassia Roth, who will be joining our history faculty in August. Dr. Roth received the Berkshire Conference on Women Historian’s Prize for best article in the fields of the history of women, gender, and/or sexuality for “From Free Womb to Criminalized Woman: Fertility Control in Brazilian Slavery and Freedom,” Slavery and Abolition 38, no. 2 (2017).
This article explores how the abolition of slavery affected the prosecution of abortion and infanticide in Rio de Janeiro. Analysing judicial documents, criminal and civil legislation, and travel writings, it demonstrates that the state did not prosecute enslaved women for fertility control due to the contradictory legal status of their bodies as both property and person. After abolition, the state prosecuted all women, but particularly poor women of colour, for these crimes. The article argues that as patriarchal control over women’s reproductive capabilities moved from the private to the public sphere, fertility control became a central axis on which the state articulated gendered and racialized power. “From Free Womb to Criminalized Woman: Fertility Control in Brazilian Slavery and Freedom,” Slavery and Abolition 38, no. 2 (2017).