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Database: Bastienne Josèphe

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Born: 1690s, near Port-au-Prince
Died: Unknown

An intelligent, outwardly outgoing woman, Bastienne Josèphe had many acquaintances and few friends. Born free and raised by her mother, a prostitute at La Dame en Rose, Bastienne made her first friends by selling glimpses of illicit acts to local children, but was shunned and labeled as morally corrupt as a young teenager.

Choosing to avoid prostitution herself, Bastienne learned to read, write, and manage financial affairs. In time she became the brothel madam’s indispensable right-hand woman. In this capacity, she bore witness to all the secret deal-making, political manipulation, and scandal among the brothel’s patrons, and learned the true power of the Madam of La Dame en Rose.

Engaged once, she ultimately avoided the altar, realizing it would deprive her of the freedom she had carefully cultivated for herself. She instead inherited the brothel following her mentor’s death, and took private pleasure in seeing the bullies and hypocrites of her childhood become her paying patrons once more.

In the successful business the previous madam had built, Josèphe saw potential for something more. Doubling her business, she then used the brothel to undertake two types of action on behalf of Maroons and enslaved Africans in Port-au-Prince. She used the proceeds to buy the freedom of slaves, and used the confidential veil of the brothel itself, in tandem with her control over the women who worked there to solicit political favors from powerful clients, including Gouverneur de Fayet and the scientist, Louis Godin.

In 1735, she met Adéwalé for the first time, and the two became uneasy partners in helping Augustin Dieufort and the Maroon cause. It does seem that a friendship developed between them, but it is unclear to what extent.

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