PILOT GROVE — Author Diane Mutti Burke, PhD, of the University of Missouri at Kansas City gave a scholarly presentation to a large interested audience Sunday afternoon at the Otterville Presbyterian Church. Her research into the life of an Otterville area housewife in the early
1800s provided the subject of her recent book, "On Slavery's Border..Missouri's Small Slaveholding Households, 1815-1865".
Her discovery of a diary at the State Historical Society of Missouri years ago as a graduate student inspired her interest in what life was like for the families who imigrated into Missouri territory from Virginia, Kentucky,Tennessee-called the "upland South".
The diarist was Pauline Stratton-who came to Missouri as a young mother with her husband and three young children bringing a slave family along to help establish a large homestead between the village of New Lebanon and Otterville. It was Paulines first taste of freedom after living with her mother-in-law for her first years of marriage. The unpleasant interactions between the women was well described in the diary.
The theme of "dominance", maintaining superiority, on the one side with humility and forbearance required by the other was continually played out in early households where
slaves were involved. Unlike in the deep south where an overseer managed the slave labor on plantations in the Boonslick blacks and whites worked together in the house and in the fields every day. Arguments could have disastrous consequences.
Burke's extensive research into court records, WPA transcriptions,pension information, more diaries,etc. has produced the first hard look at a lifestyle peculiar to the "border states". It is an engrossing picture and not pleasant.
The meeting concluded with refreshments in adjoining Wear Hall where the speaker signed her books. Besides copies of "On Slavery's Border" her recent book "Bleeding Kansas, Bleeding Missouri" was available.