Women's Writing Before Woolf: A Social Reference/Mary Prince (1788–1833)/2

Mary Prince (1788-1833)Edit

BiographyEdit

Mary Prince was born at Brackish-Pond, Bermuda[1] on the 1st of October 1788 to an African slave family. Her mother was a house-servant of Charles Myners. Her father was a sawyer[2] owned by David Trimmingham. And Prince had three brothers and two sisters.

In her early life she was sold multiple times around the Caribbean, notably in 1800, to Captain John Ingham and his cruel wife, who flogged their servants often as “an ordinary punishment for even a slight offence” (Prince & Strickland, 1831)[3]. Prince was then sold to a salt raker[4] in 1806. The conditions were poor and then were “often forced to work up to 17 hours” ("Mary Prince", 2022)[5]. In 1810, a Bermuda master and his daughter bought Prince and she recalled being physically abused by her master often and was forced to wash him to avoid more beatings. In 1815, Mary was sold once more to John Adams Wood. She worked as a domestic slave and began to suffer from rheumatism[6], which hindered her ability to work ("Mary Prince", 2022).[5]

In 1817 she was baptized as part of the English Church.

In Antigua[7], 1826, “Prince married Daniel James, a former slave who had bought his own freedom” ("Mary Prince", 2022).[5]

Eventually Prince was brought to England in 1828, continuing as a servant to the Woods family. Adams Wood refused to emancipate[8] Prince, this meant as slavery remained legal in Antigua, Prince could not go back to her hometown, and her husband, without being captured and given back to Wood.

Literary WorksEdit

Prince was illiterate[9], but told the story of her life to Susanna Strickland, a lady who served as secretary to London’s Anti-Slavery Society[10]. Strickland wrote Prince’s slave history and life, and it was published as ‘The History of Mary Prince’ in 1831. It is known to be the first account of a black female slave in the United Kingdom. The written accounts of the brutal reality of enslavement and the cruelty Prince faced were a considerable influence on the growing anti-slavery movement.

After the publishing of Prince’s account and the commotion it caused, and her freedom from a life of slavery in roughly 1828, it is not known if she ever returned to her husband in Antigua. Very little is known about her life after her book was published. Scholar MacFadyen notes that “…there is a very strong possibility that she returned to Antigua in the fall of that year. [1833]” (Maddison-MacFadyen, 2010)[11] but there are no actual records of her later life and movements.

Reputation and LegacyEdit

Prince’s book had critical effects on the publics’ opinion. It was printed three times in its first year. Prince’s personal recount was something that touched many people as anti-slavery was a growing movement at the time. Although there were people that said it was a great inaccuracy. James MacQueen[12], editor of The Glasgow Courier, and “large critic of the anti-slavery movement”, framed Prince as a “despicable” tool of the movement ("Mary Prince", 2022)[5]. On the other hand, in more recent history, “In 2012, Mary Prince was recognized as a National Hero of Bermuda, and beginning in 2020, August 2nd is celebrated as Mary Prince Day in Bermuda.” (Maddison-MacFadyen, 2010).[11]

Prince was a rebel who influenced a crucial political and social movement, that changed the world dramatically. “In 2007, the Museum in Docklands opened a new gallery and permanent exhibition entitled London, Sugar & Slavery, which credits Prince as an author who "played a crucial role in the abolition campaign".” ("Mary Prince", 2022)[5]. To this day Prince’s legacy lives on, in 2018, to mark her 230th birthday a Google Doodle[13] was dedicated to her. ("Mary Prince", 2022).[5]

Further ReadingEdit

Margot Maddison-MacFadyen wrote her PhD dissertation on Mary Prince. Read more[14] including excerpts from the Government of Bermuda Archives, with references to Prince’s slave registry and note of the payments made to buy her.

The Museum of Turks and Caicos website is also a collection of history and culture of the time Prince endured. The website has a page[15] dedicated to her story also.

ReferencesEdit

  1. An island located in the North Atlantic Ocean.
  2. An occupation: someone who saws wood.
  3. Prince, M., & Strickland, S. (1831). The History of Mary Prince, A West Indian Slave (1st ed.). F. Westley and A.H. Davis. [Find at: https://gutenberg.org/files/17851/17851-h/17851-h.htm]
  4. The raking of crystalized salt into piles, often to be stored, shipped then sold.
  5. a b c d e f {{w|Mary Prince}}
  6. A chronic inflammatory disorder that affects joints and more.
  7. Native name: Waladli or Wadadli. An island in the Caribbean.
  8. To be freed from control or the power of another.
  9.   Unable to read or write.
  10. The Society for the Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of Slavery Throughout the British Dominions.
  11. a b Maddison-MacFadyen, M. (2010). The Slave Narrative. Mary Prince. Retrieved 20 September 2022, from https://www.maryprince.org/.
  12. One of the most outspoken critics regarding British antislavery in the 1820s and 1830s.
  13. Temporary alteration of the logo on Google's homepages intended to commemorate holidays, events, achievements, and notable historical figures.
  14. https://www.maryprince.org/primary-sources-
  15. https://www.tcmuseum.org/culture-history/slavery/mary-prince/