Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Gravestone of the Day: Dinah

Dinah, 1762, Newport Common Burying Ground

June 12th, 1762
died Dinah aged
28 Years Servt.
to John Tweedy
Wife of Haman
Servt. to
James Tanner

This stone neatly encapsulates the nested dependency of enslaved women in colonial New England. Marriages among slaves were sometimes recognized as legal in Rhode Island, but married slaves were not permitted to form independent households. I always think of stones like this whenever I read debates over whether women should change their surnames at marriage. What did a surname mean to Dinah? I choose to call her Dinah, rather than Dinah Tweedy or Dinah Tanner because I just can't answer that question definitively.


Roy said...

I actually remember this stone! In fact, on the walking tour I once took with the Newport Historical Society this was pointed out as one of "Zingo Stevens's" stones. In fact this is one of William Stevens's stones; it's not signed, but the style is very much William's. I found it unsettling that the NHS was perpetuating the Zingo myth.

Caitlin GD Hopkins said...

It's too bad that that has not been corrected. I have an article coming out soon in Common-place where I talk a bit about Pompe Stevens, but it's not focused on the erroneous Pompe/Zingo conflation.

I do argue, however, that the evidence present on the two stones that Pompe Stevens signed (Cuffe Gibbs and Pompey [Lyndon]) indicate that he had a degree of training that was probably similar to the training John Bull received during his truncated apprenticeship. Therefore, it is reasonable to infer that Pompe Stevens's work is present on many stones that are attributable to the William Stevens shop. The investment in Pompe Stevens's carving skill strongly implies that William Stevens expected to exploit his skilled labor. I argue in the article that Pompe Stevens's lettering style is somewhat distinct from other examples from the William Stevens shop, but other elements (particularly his borders) are indistinguishable. It is certainly possible that Pompe Stevens contributed to this stone, but it is not a straightforward attribution.