Meet Sarah L. Franklin: Author and HistorianAugust 22, 2012
With a new book on the market, 2009–10 American Fellow Sarah L. Franklin has a lot to celebrate. Women and Slavery in 19th Century Colonial Cuba explores how patriarchy functioned in the lives of Cuban women. Franklin’s interest in women and slavery motivated her to investigate the subject further. While most historians have focused on the “man in the field,” Franklin chose to analyze slavery through a different lens because “women’s experiences are very different.” Her new book examines the perspectives and experiences of slave women in the Caribbean, specifically in Cuba, which differed greatly from the stories of slaves in the southeastern United States. Franklin hopes that her book reveals some of these significant differences.
Researching such an extensive topic yielded plenty of opportunities for new discoveries and interesting connections. Franklin noticed a correlation between slave women who worked as wet nurses and the money they earned for freedom. Wet nurses seemed to earn freedom more often than other slaves. She found this bit of information most surprising because this occupation demanded that slave women be under their master’s authority 24 hours a day, seven days a week as opposed to most women who earned money to buy freedom. Franklin looks forward to additional research on this phenomenon.
Franklin’s success story is very inspiring for undergraduate students who are questioning their career paths. She was uncertain about what career to pursue when she started her undergraduate journey. However, her love of and passion for history led her in the right direction. “I realized that that’s what I enjoyed the most,” she says. By her junior year at Auburn University, Franklin knew that she wanted to be a historian and a teacher.
The idea of writing a book didn’t cross Franklin’s mind until she became a graduate student at Florida State University. What began as her doctoral dissertation eventually expanded into her book. “The AAUW American Fellowship played a huge role and helped a lot,” she says, adding that she is thankful for the funding because it allowed her to restructure the manuscript and publish the book.
Franklin considers her book to be her biggest accomplishment of 2012. She explains that writing a book can take quite some time to complete. “You don’t think you’ll ever finish,” she says. But publishing the book gave her a feeling of triumph and satisfaction. Franklin currently is researching the role of women in slave uprisings in Cuba and is conducting a quantitative analysis of the household structures of slaves and free people who lived in Cuba. She hopes to continue to focus on the role of women in Caribbean society. “I am fortunate and blessed enough to do what I love,” she says. Her advice to those working toward a rigorous goal is to keep working: “Remain focused and remain consistent on your work.” After all, perhaps nothing worth having comes easy.
Franklin’s fellowship was sponsored by the Anne Pannell Taylor American Fellowship, established in 1980 by AAUW of Alabama members, and the Lucy Somerville Howorth American Fellowship, established in 1973 by AAUW of Mississippi members.
This post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants Intern Bianca Rhule.