The central argument of this moving slave narrative is the way that slavery, whilst it is terrible for men to endure, is actually much worse for women, because of the particular hardships and difficulties faced by women who are in the position of slaves. Whilst men will suffer tremendous physical hardship and difficulties, and often have to cope with terrible physical conditions such as being whipped and then, if they manage to escape, coping with a very difficult trip to freedom, women have to endure physical as well as emotional hardships that make their lives much more difficult to cope with than men. For example, women have to endure sexual harrassment as well as the loss of their children, who were often taken away from them. Jacobs includes various anecdotes that demonstrate the pain and suffering experienced by female slaves who have their children forcibly removed from them, and others who become objects of sexual attraction to whites. Her central argument in this book then is that women have a much harder time through slavery than men do, as this quote demonstrates:
Slavery is terrible for men; but it is far more terrible for women. Superadded to the burden common to all, they have wrongs, and sufferings, and mortifications peculiarly their own.
To support her position, Jacobs adds her own story of being sexually victimised, and being forced to consent to a sexual relationship that she had no wish at all to engage in. However, because of her powerless position, she had no other option but to allow what would technically today be called rape.