Newspaper Advertisements for Black Wet Nurses (1821-1854)

[It was a common practice in Brazilian cities to purchase or rent slave women to serve as wet nurses (amas de leite) for infants of the more prosperous classes. The women so employed were usually teenagers or in their early twenties, both African and Brazilian-born, unmarried, and frequently without children of their own. This absence of children resulted in part, of course, from Brazil's heavy child mortality, particularly high among babies born of slave women, but it was also sometimes alleged that the unwanted babies of slave women were often abandoned or left at orphanages as a means of increasing the market value of new slave mothers. Many of these women attached themselves intimately to the families that employed them, and many were freed later in life as a gesture of respect or gratitude on the part of the masters whom they had cared for in infancy.
The following characteristically blunt advertisements for the purchase, sale, or rental of wet nurses are drawn from issues of nineteenth-century Brazilian newspapers]

For rent, a wet nurse with very good milk, from her first pregnancy, gave birth six days ago, in the Rua dos Pescadores, No. 64. Be it advised that she does not have a child [cria]. Jornal do Comercio, Rio de Janeiro, December 10, 1827

Will trade a good black boy [moleque] 15 to 16 years of age, accustomed to the country, a good cook, does all the work of the house, makes purchases, does washing; for a wet nurse who has good milk, who also knows how to take care of a house, and who is without vices. Our reason [for trading] is that we have more need of the latter than of the former. Apply at house No. 39, Rua do Proposito. Also we will sell the said boy for no less than 350$000 reis. Jornal do Comercio, Rio de Janeiro, December 10, 1827

For sale as a wet nurse or simply as        personal servant girl [mucamal an African who is twenty years of age, without a child, whose talents aside from the usual ones, are an ability to sew reasonably well, to iron, cook, and wash. She would be especially valuable for the service of any bachelor, or farmer, because she understands everything more or less perfectly, and alone can do all the work which normally employs many slave
women. She has a good complexion, a good figure, and is for sale only because we have too many in the house. Her final price, free of tax, is 400$000, and she can be seen in the Rua dos Ferradores next to No. 385. Jornal do Comercio, Rio de Janeiro; December 12, 1827

In the street behind Rua do Hospicio No. 27 we have for sale or for rent a black woman of the Mina nation with a six-day-old child, with very good milk and, healthy. She is without vices or bad habits, since she is new in the country and does not even know how to get about in the streets. Jornal do Comercio, Rio de Janeiro, December 13, 1827

Whoever wants to buy a creole slave, still a young girl, with good milk and in great quantity, who gave birth twenty days ago, should go to Rua das Marrecas, facing toward the public plaza. Diario do Rio de Janeiro, June 18, 1821

For sale a black woman, wet nurse, without a child [cria], gave birth ten days ago from first pregnancy, 18 to 19 years of age, without any faults, knows how to wash, iron, cook, has learned the rudiments of sewing, and is capable of the full management of a house, in Rua do Sabao da Quitanda, upper section. Diario do Rio de Janeiro, July 30, 1821

For rent two wet nurses, one Brazilian-born, the other African, both first pregnancies. One gave birth forty days ago, and the other twenty-six days ago. Both very healthy and very young with an abundance of milk. Whoever has use for them should go to Rua Estreita de Sao Joaquim No. 32. 0 Mercantil, Rio de Janeiro, March 5, 1845

For rent an eighteen-year-old girl, wet nurse, healthy, and with much good milk for the last two months. She is for rent because her child has
died. In the Rua da Candelaria No. 18A. 0 Mercantil, Rio de Janeiro, April 30, 1845

In this printing office there is for rent a wet nurse, without a child, very healthy and affectionate. 0 Observador, Sao Luis do Maranhao, March 22, 1854