‘Their Coats Were Tied Up like Men’: Women Rebels in Antigua’s 1858 Uprising


Lightfoot, Natasha. 2010. “‘Their Coats Were Tied Up like Men’: Women Rebels in Antigua’s 1858 Uprising.” Slavery & Abolition 31 (4): 527-45.

Author: Natasha Lightfoot


This paper presents the story of the 1858 riot and its primary causes, including Antigua's economic downturn since emancipation in 1834 and the dissatisfaction which black working people had with the post-slavery social order. The disturbance originated between dockworkers from both Antigua and Barbuda competing for jobs in Antigua's capital, but expanded to involve hundreds of working-class Antiguans assailing Barbudans, white planters, Portuguese immigrants, and black and mixed-race policemen. As many Antiguan women formed the forefront of the uprising, the article concentrates on the gendered dimensions of the violence, from the brutal acts Antiguan women perpetrated against Barbudan women to their masculinisation in the press and the trial, being alleged to have dressed and carried themselves 'like men' during the fray. The study raises critical questions about the hardships of Antiguan freedwomen in the post-slavery period seeking to maintain their lives and livelihoods, and how those hardships drove them to the front lines of the conflict. Overall, the essay examines the goals of the Antiguan rioters and investigates the changing targets of their violence during the insurgency, as a way to engage their conceptions, however contradictory, of what freedom was and who should enjoy its privileges.

Topics: Combatants, Female Combatants, Gender, Women, Violence Regions: Americas, Caribbean countries Countries: Antigua & Barbuda

Year: 2010

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