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Women and Captivity on the Barbary Coast

            Many women were captured and enslaved by the Moors on their way to transatlantic destinations. Some of them were forced to work and endure the most horrible of tortures, whereas others were literally treated like queens and princesses. How they were treated did not always depend on their status in their home countries, nor on their beauty; in fact, there were no fixed criteria, which determined the fate of these women. There were some cases, in which women were released after a really short time, like for example Laurentia Whan, a woman captured on 30 July 1671 and released after only ten days or an English woman who was captured and brought to Algiers and was released shortly after because she was the niece of a consul in Venice, who could afford to pay a high ransom, due to her status (Matar 98).
             Other women like for example Mary Velnet were not that lucky, she had to suffer for seven years before the Italian consul paid the ransom to set her free. She had to work under hard conditions and after having tried to escape from the Moors, she was imprisoned and tortured almost to death. Her duties were first to keep company to a women in agony, then she had to work in the kitchen, and after Tripoli was attacked she had to strip the clothes off of dead bodies. (Velnet 172). As mentioned above, Mary Velnet's attempt to flee ended not well as she was punished in the most cruel way: "the spears or spikes which it contained, soon pierced my flesh to the bone; four ropes were then made fast to my wrist and ankles, and drawn taught by means of the four posts turning like a windless as before mentioned, and which were turned at intervals until every bone in my arms and legs were wrenched out of joint, the spikes on which I lay at the same time tearing and hackling my flesh in a manner not to be described" (Velnet, 181).
             Some women captives like Eliza Bradley, even though they were slaves had some privileges in contrast to men, because The crew of the ship had to walk barefooted on the boiling hot sand of the desert, whereas Eliza was allowed to ride on a camel, for she was worth more than men and she had to be treated better, since she was more valuable alive than dead.

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