Alert reader and friend Mary Ann, the Idaho Gardener, recently sent me some extremely helpful information on the origin of the use of the word “hoe” in reference to women.
I know many people, both gardeners and non-gardeners, have a certain image of women in mind when I discuss hoes, but I have always claimed ignorance that the word “hoe” could refer to anything other than a garden tool used for digging, scratching, and well, “hoeing” in the dirt.
But not any more! Now I have a brand new image for hoes.
Mary Ann’s book club is reading the book The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family by Annette Gorden-Reed and came across this quote:
“…In other words, black women who were out of slavery were treated like white men instead of like white women. As the years passed, the connection between black women and hard physical labor became so firmly entrenched in the minds of white masters that the women “were as one with their farming tools and called, simply, hoes.”
The quote is footnoted and credited to the book Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, and Anxious Patriarchs: Gender, Race, and Power in Colonial Virginia by Kathleen M. Brown.
I’m glad that’s all cleared up and am grateful that Mary Ann sent this to me! Thanks, Mary Ann!