What was the difference between the way a black, mulatto women (basically any type of non-white woman)  may have been treated for giving birth to a son or daughter out of wedlock and the way a...

What was the difference between the way a black, mulatto women (basically any type of non-white woman)  may have been treated for giving birth to a son or daughter out of wedlock and the way a white women of any social class would have been perceived and treated by colonial Spanish American society for being an unmarried mother?

Asked on by isabel17

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coachingcorner | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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It is said that many 'mulatto' women were the mistresses of white men, so the chances of those women giving birth outside wedlock were obviously very high as they weren't married. Indeed, literature and film history is full of stories of men who, having become transfixed with the beauty of the women who seemed to combine the appeal of two races in one, deserted them the minute they discovered a 'black' parent in the background - or when they gave birth to a baby whose particular genetic mix made it seem more obviously black than white.

Sadly, as usual the treatment these expectant mothers received varied according to the status they had, which usually depended on luck or on how 'white' they appeared to others. Some 'mulatto' mothers were 'kept on' as mistresses and their children provided for, but kept in secret. One or two had status high enough to actually be married as the 'drops' of native blood in their ancestry were not discernible. Poorer 'mulattoes' fell into a slave-like category where perception of them was so low that 'loose morals' were only to be expected and no notice was taken of what was a common occurrence in their own communities. By contrast, white women of high status needed to adhere to the rigorous  code of purity set out by their own societies back home. Their honour was their value and needed to be protected and to be socially demonstrable, leading to such traditions as chaperones and long engagements. Should they fail, elope or become pregnant, they were often disowned by their families or cut out of any inheritance they previously had. They were told they were 'damaged goods' that no decent landed gentleman would want. As in many stories in history, whether black, mulatto or white, it was often the expectant mother who was abandoned with all the responsibility and expense and left 'holding the baby.'

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