As sugar plantations spread throughout the Americas and Caribbean, women took on several different roles on the plantations. Some were forced into slavery while others maintained households. Regardless of their role, they tended to have a fairly easy life on sugar plantations.
Women who owned sugar plantations were referred to as mistresses while their husbands were known as the master. Men were looked as the “leader” of the plantation, laying down the law in a sense. The women often tended to the homes and their day to day operations. They also were in charge of giving orders to slaves. Overall, mistresses would take care of their family, food, and clothing.
Slave women that worked sugar plantations served the same purpose as some males. However, their work would not be as strenuous. Women in fields handled planting bundling, and carrying sugar cane. Approximately 60% of women in the Caribbean served as field workers and slaves.
Some women held domestic roles in the sugar industry serving as seamstresses, cooks, or caregivers to children in the main house of the sugar plantation. These roles were looked at as skilled labor, which meant very few women held these positions. Women working in the house were typically considered to be mannered and good looking, some even earning income for their work.
Lastly, some women served as teachers which were named governesses. These women were hired to teach the teachers of the female—and sometimes male—children who lived on the plantations. The teachers taught basic reading, writing, and arithmetic skills. Also, they taught needlework, cooking, and other general necessities.