“Look’d Like Milk”: Colonialism and Infant Feeding in the English Atlantic World

In: Journal of Early American History
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  • 1 Rutgers University, New Brunswick, USA

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Abstract

While wet nursing interactions between enslaved women of African descent and colonial women have received extensive scholarly attention, much remains to be done in understanding colonial and Native women’s interactions around breastfeeding and infant feeding. This article close-reads two captivity narratives in which baby food features prominently: God’s Protecting Providence, Jonathan Dickinson’s 1699 narrative of being shipwrecked among Ais, Jeaga, Jobé, Santaluces, and Surruque Indians in coastal Florida in 1696; and God’s Mercy Surmounting Man’s Cruelty, Elizabeth Hanson’s 1728 narrative of being captured by Wabanaki people during Dummer’s War in 1724. Captivity rendered the colonists dependent upon intimate Native care for the survival of their children. When Dickinson and Hanson crafted their narratives of their captivities, however, they sought to reinscribe colonial supremacy after experiences that called it into question. The complexities of colonial-Native interactions around infant feeding in these sources demonstrate the need for further scholarship on reproduction and settler colonialism.

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