The world of the sugar baby, companion or mistress has deep roots in cultures throughout time” Guest Author Texasugah

Imagine flowing, jewel toned silk, lace, satin and fine linens; a dressing room filled with the heady scent of French parfum; her closet filled with rows of handmade shoes and matching purses. Imagine a lady dressed in lovely foundations, corset and stockings; the walls of her townhome laden with art de jour and custom furnishings; a servant to cater to her whims and take away her daily cares while she awaits a visit from her lover; a world of decadence with elegant balls, dinners and passionate evenings.

Many know the story of Sally Hemmings once reported to be the most notorious woman in America.  Sally’s lifelong love affair with Thomas Jefferson was confirmed with DNA tests performed on their descendants in 1998. Yet there is another story of women of color who lived in their own high society in the South through the 1700 and 1800s.

The Plaçage (French for “to place with”) was a widely recognized system whereby free women of color enjoyed comfort as mistresses of wealthy white men

It was an open and respectable society in its own right. These women, known as placées, were generally maintained in city homes that were bought for them by their lovers (not unlike a Sugar daddy purchasing a townhome for his mistress). These ladies were considered Creole, quatroons (1/8th black) or mulatto( ½ black) and prized for their beauty. In most cases, these women were well educated and multilingual.

In these, “mariages de la main gauche” or left handed marriages, many of the women had children

Children born to these unions were not considered black but “gens de couleur” or people of color. The lovers arranged for the boys’ educations in prestigious private schools in France. In some cases, the boys returned to inherit their father’s businesses if there were no other male offspring. The girls were taught by governesses to become mistresses themselves because, in many cases, this was the best option for women of color.

Placées found themselves in a quandary. Existing outside of the general society, they were forbidden from legally wedding their white lovers, were accustomed to finery that the average Creole man could not provide and were too educated and elevated to consider freed slaves. Some who didn’t remain in a lifelong arrangement became courtesans who commanded $10 per hour when the average laborer made only $.22 cents per hour. A great number of the Placee women continued to establish their own small businesses, inherited and manage their own plantations.

The celebrated New Orleans Ballroom was once home to the Quadroon Ball

These opulent events were depicted in “The Courage to Love” featuring Vanessa Williams. Wealthy white southerners, of “good family” were invited to mingle with light-skinned women of color in hopes of acquiring mistresses (if only it was so easy to meet a sugar daddy today).  These men were predominantly in their early 20s and created families until they were able to take on “legitimate families “ as interracial marriage was illegal. Arrangements were generally negotiated by a woman’s mother. Typically, the parent were compensated (yes, mom got an allowance, too), complete care for the mistress and legal recognition of any children born of the union. Beyond complete support during the relationship, should her protector and lover die before her, she could challenge the courts for up to a third of his property.

An influx of Northern whites cast a shadow on the Plaçage society.  It was seen as reprehensible and this sentiment was fueled legally by bitter wives, religious and social activists. It was seen as a form of prostitution and was maligned despite the fact that for many decades these ladies outnumbered the number of free black men.  What was a lady to do?

Famous Placées

Marie Susanne

A child of placage herself, entered into a life long placage with a planter. She successfully managed her own affairs and died in 1838 leaving an estate valued at over $ 1.5 million in 2011 currency.

Rosette Rochon

Born 1767, was the placage of both Joseph Forstal and Charles Populus, both wealthy White New Orleans Creoles. She leveraged her position to buy real estate in New Orleans. Throughout her career she purchased rental property, open grocery stores, bought and sold mortgages and rented out slaves. Her son became a government official in Haiti.

Marie Laveau

The voodoo queen of New Orleans, lived with her lover Dumesil de Glapion. He was so in love with her that he refused to live separately from her and posed as a man of color to keep their relationship respectable. They had fifteen children. One of them, Marie Euchariste or Marie LeveauII, looked so much like her mother that many thought Marie had been resurrected.

Over the years, the extraordinary story of these beautiful ladies has been largely forgotten taking with it a very unique and vibrant culture.

Written by Geisha Diaries Guest Author & Sugar Baby, Texasugah