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Maria

b. 1798
Female
Enslaved Workers
Work: 
Spinner

Maria worked as a spinner at Monticello and Poplar Forest .  Born to Nanny (b. 1778) and an unknown father at Jefferson’s Poplar Forest plantation in 1798, Maria was the eldest of 10 siblings.  At age 13, Maria learned to “spin on the small wheel” with other enslaved girls.  When Jefferson introduced mechanized cloth production at his textile “factory” at Monticello in 1812, he sent for Maria to “learn to weave & spin” on the new machinery under head weaver William McLure; Jefferson soon pronounced that “Maria is becoming a capital spinner.”  After returning to Poplar Forest, Maria schooled other enslaved girls on spinning jennies.  Because Maria was “one of our best hands,” she was able to increase her bargaining power with Jefferson.  In 1818, she gave birth to a son, James Hubbard, and Jefferson instructed his overseer that “Maria now having a child, I promised her a house this winter.”  Soon after, Maria was given a doctor’s treatment for “constant pain in her hip and back.”  In 1821, Maria had a second son, William, at Poplar Forest; two years later, she was “Valued, with her two children, at $600.”

This account is compiled from Lucia Stanton, “Those Who Labor for My Happiness:” Slavery at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello (University of Virginia Press and Thomas Jefferson Foundation, 2012).

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