Children’s Labor and Social Mobility among Family Farmers in Brazil, 1872–1920

Saturday, January 9, 2016: 3:10 PM
Room A707 (Atlanta Marriott Marquis)
Mary Ann Mahony, Central Connecticut State University
The cacao region of southern Bahia, Brazil, was remarkable for the presence of large numbers of small family farms and the ability of the owners of some of those farms to move into the local elite. The availability of and control of the labor of all members of the family, including the children, was central to the survival and success of these farmers.  Small farmers, however, especially those coming out of slavery, could not necessarily control the labor of their children.  Many of those children had once been ingenuos, children freed under the law of the free womb and under the guardianship of their mothers’ owner until abolition.  During those years, many slaveowners proved unwilling to forgo the labor of these children, at least those over eight years of age.  On the other hand, as children grew and became independent either from former owners or their parents, conflicts within the family led to the breakup of farms and the breakdown of family goals.   This paper documents the presence of children on small cacao farms, the ways that parents controlled and compensated that labor, and the extent to which the survival of children from birth through adulthood was key to the family’s ability to enter the local elite.