Paper Type

Master's Thesis


College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Arts in History (MA)



NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of History

First Advisor

Dr. Denise Bossy

Second Advisor

Dr. Carolyn Williams

Rights Statement

Third Advisor

Dr. Aaron Sheehan-Dean

Department Chair

Dr. Dale Clifford

College Dean

Dr. Barbara Hetrick


The purpose of this study was to investigate the role and status of women in Alachua County, Florida, from 1821 through 1860. The secondary literature suggests that women throughout America had virtually no public role to play in antebellum society except in limited circumstances in some mature urban, commercial settings. The study reviewed U.S. Census materials, slave ownership records, and land ownership records as a means to examine the family structures, the mobility and persistence of persons and households, and the economic status of women, particularly including woman headed households. The study also examined laws adopted by the Florida legislative bodies and court decisions of the local trial court and the state Supreme Court, church records of a local congregation, and the correspondence of women who lived in the county for portions of the antebellum period to focus on the relationships between men and women, particularly in household relationships. The principal conclusion of the study was that the most likely route to success for an antebellum frontier woman was through marriage to one who valued the many economic and personal contributions to household life she made. This was so despite the wealth that a very few widows built or maintained and even though Florida jurists differed in their approach on the extent to which married women should be treated as strictly subordinate to their husbands.