This book is about the different ways that men and women experienced migration from the Southern seaboard to the antebellum Southern frontier. Based upon extensive research in planter family papers, Cashin studies how the sexes went to the frontier with diverging agendas: men tried to escape the family, while women tried to preserve it. On the frontier, men usually settled far from relatives, leaving women lonely and disoriented in a strange environment. As kinship networks broke down, sex roles changed, and relations between men and women became more inequitable. Migration also changed race relations, because many men abandoned paternalistic race relations and abused their slaves. However, many women continued to practice paternalism, and a few even sympathized with slaves as they never had before. Drawing on rich archival sources, Cashin examines the decision of families to migrate, the effects of migration on planter family life, and the way old ties were maintained and new ones formed.
Cashin's A Family Venture is a deceptively slim volume that packs quite a wallop. In a relatively few pages she comments intelligently, provocatively, and originally on many of the most disputed subjects in southern history-the structure and function of planter families, the status and power of white women, the temperament and achievements of western migrants, and the nature of master-slave relations. Writing with clarity and grace, Cashin brings fresh interpretations to complex problems. -- Jane Turner Censer * William and Mary Quarterly * This lively, human exploration of race, class, and gender in westering before the great leap of the 1850s provides a new look at the impact of individualism in unsuspected places. -- Sarah Deutsch * American Historical Review *