In using notarial records, my paper will de-emphasize the exotic and mythical image of Saint Louis’ signares by instead highlighting their more human and realistic nature. This paper explores how these African and Eurafrican women navigated the socio-economic complexity of Saint Louis in their roles as entrepreneurs, negotiators, diplomats, friends, wives, mothers and matriarchs. It will demonstrate that not all signares were famous and successful, but that those who were knew how to embrace multiple identities, cultures, laws and affiliations when it served a particular need. The wealthiest and most respected signares were those women who mastered the ability to identify as French one minute, African the next, and Eurafrican after that. By tracing the individual stories of these women over a period of 100 plus years, this paper will demonstrate how signareship in Saint Louis passed through three main stages: the “Intermediary” phase (1670s-1740s), the “Landlord, Broker and Negociant” phase (1740s-1830s), and the “Figurehead” phase (1830s- 1900).
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