This article explores gradual manumission policies on the Order of Saint Benedict's slaveholdings in the Northeastern province of Pernambuco, Brazil, between 1866 and 1871. Relying on private religious records from the Monastery of Saint Benedict of Olinda (in Pernambuco) and parliamentary debates, we contend that the Benedictine order was the first corporate enslaver to implement institutionalized strategies of gradual manumission in Brazil. To do so, they relied both on enslaved women's reproductive capabilities and on their adherence to church-sanctioned gender roles. We further argue that the order's decisions and actions were ahead of national developments in several important ways, and that, to some degree, these projects were a test case for future national abolitionist policies. Although the congregation did not involve itself in political debates, its actions created a working example of gradual abolition based on enslaved women's bodies that abolitionists used to make their case nationally.

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