Signares

Founded in 1659, Saint-Louis was the first French settlement in Africa. A busy centre for the trade of goods and slaves, it had developed into a large and wealthy town by the 1790s, marked by the cosmopolitan culture of a large métis (mixed-race) community, which defines Saint-Louis' cultural make-up to this day. The signares – women of mixed race who married wealthy European merchants temporarily based in the city – are the most famous example of this. Essentially bourgeouis female entrepreneurs, they formed a key part of the economic, social, cultural and political makeup of Saint-Louis, controlled most of the river trade and supported local Catholic institutions.