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The Value of Sons

Bearing male children brought special honor to a woman because sons meant security for parents. They could appear in court in support of their parents in lawsuits and protect them in the streets of the city, which had no regular police patrols. By law, sons were required to support their parents1 in their old age, a necessity in a society with no state-sponsored system for the support of the elderly like Social Security in the United States. So intense was the pressure to produce sons that stories were common of barren women who smuggled in a baby born to a slave in order to pass it off as their own. Such tales, whose truth is hard to gauge, were only credible because husbands customarily were not present at childbirth.

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