Enslaved Females Drawing Water and Pounding Rice, Madagascar, 1850s


William Ellis, Three visits to Madagascar during the years 1853-1854-1856 (New York, 1859; reprinted, Philadelphia, 1888), p. 139; also published in Harper's New Monthly Magazine (1858-59), vol. 18, p. 596. (Copy in Special Collections Department, University of Virginia Library)


Caption, (left) house occupied by Mr. Ellis in 1854; (center) female slaves filling bamboos with water at the well; (right) female slaves pounding rice. Ellis (1888, p. 114) writes: My house was . . . situated in the midst of the settlement . . . . Their houses . . . stood in a large enclosure, part of which was cultivated as a garden. In the front was a well . . . . about twenty feet deep, sunk through the sand, which was kept up by boards at the sides. The water was drawn up in a large bullock's horn fastened to the end of a string made of bark, and let down by the hand to the water. Numbers of slave-girls came every morning with long bamboo-canes for water. These canes were six or eight feet long, and, the partitions at the joints inside being broken, formed cylinders three or four inches wide, in which the water was conveyed from the well to the adjacent houses. . . . In the same enclosure other slaves might often be seen pounding rice in a large wooden vessel to separate the husk from the grain.

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