This essay considers the participation of Port-au-Prince women in municipal and national politics during the later decades of the nineteenth century. The growth of Port-au-Prince changed the dynamics of these contests, as newly arrived women joined expanding popular neighborhoods, and many assumed a central role in feeding the city. Women moved freely through the heart of the capital and the immediate countryside on personal, commercial, and sometimes directly political itineraries. While formally excluded from electoral politics, working women made their political desires well known, as they exerted an influence on the military movements that toppled the administration several times. These armed contests, as well as the stratification and militarization of the political scene during peacetime, provoked gendered violence. Simultaneously, working women confronted disdain from journalists who would discipline the women’s great influence. Nevertheless, these women commanded considerable respect in political contests that often seemed to have as their stakes the very independence of the nation itself.

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