Knowing that her slave status would be passed down to her children, a slave mother could become depressed and even suicidal. The high proportion of suits for freedom instituted by women in St. Louis may be due to the special forms of duress they suffered. Examples of this stress abound, and there were some particularly gruesome cases. In a famous Missouri case of 1855, State v. Celia, it was proven that a slave woman, forced to bear the children of her enslaver, killed him with a stick and burned his body in the fireplace of her cabin. Celia was caught, tried, and hanged. A woman named Margaret in Cole County, Missouri, killed her own baby in 1848. And when a Marion County woman's three small sons were purchased in 1834 and were due to be taken from her, she killed them all and then committed suicide with an ax.
Last updated: April 10, 2015