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When compared to life as an indentured servant, although still repressed and underprivileged, the life of a company town woman carried a larger amount of freedom. Although often bound to the company town because of marriage to a worker or due to financial reasons, woman did not risk legal penalties if they were to leave. In addition, especially with the coming of World War II, women saw their first opportunities to negotiate their working conditions with their employers, something that was unheard of for indentured servants.
Case #5 Virginia Gazette (Purdie) Williamsburg, August 21, 1778
Of the many reasons a slave may wish to run away, being split apart from family and loved ones was one of the most heart-wrenching reasons. Children were sold away from their parents, husbands from their wives, and it is reasonable to conclude that this caused a great deal of resentment among the victims. One such case in 1778 seems to be an example of just such cruelty and involved a 35-year-old runaway black slave woman named Nanny. She was described as middle-sized and well-shaped, and was last seen wearing a blue plains waistcoat and petticoat. On the first of July 1778, after being sold to a Mr. William Finnie, and in the act of being transported to her new owner, she jumped from the wagon and ran away.
The ad told that Nanny had a husband at Dixon and Hunter's printing office, and it appeared as if she went there after fleeing from her new owner. It is obvious that being split apart from her husband was what forced Nanny to take such dramatic steps, as there was no mention of any previous escape attempts. And since the ad stated that she was seen there in the time after her escape, she must have not wanted to be separated from her husband. Unfortunately her need to stay close to her husband probably doomed her effort to escape as there were many professional runaway slave catchers and in order to remain free, a runaway had to keep one step ahead of these men. Although there were no records of her fate, if she was staying in one place continually, especially if the place was known as where her husband worked, then in most likelihood she would have been recaptured.
Hill, J. (2008) Case Studies in Indentured Servitude in Colonial America. Constructing the Past, 9(1), 55 -- 62.
National Humanities Center Resource Toolbox. (2010) Slaves for life, and Servants for a time. Becoming American: The British Atlantic Colonies, 1690 -- 1763, Available from: nationalhumanitiescenter.org/pds/becomingamer/.../servitude.pdf. 2012 July 21.