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'Free coloured' women

For some 'free coloured' women entering into a temporary, or occasionaly permanent, relationship as the 'mistress' of a white planter or manager offered a route to advancement. For others, selling sex was an option.

When the young soldier Thomas Staunton St Clair was sent to recuperate in Barbados in late 1806, he spent his first night at the 'hotel' in Bridegtown run by Nancy Clerk and described both Nancy and the owner of a rival establishment, Susy Austin [Susannah Ostrehan]. Nancy was the proprietress of the Royal Navy Hotel, the most infamous prostitution tavern in the port.

Susannah Ostrehan later moved to Berbice. Pedro L V Welch in “Unhappy and Afflicted Women?”: Free Colored Women in Barbados: 1780-1834 describes Susannah's career in Bridgetown and her role in securing the freedom of at least six female slaves, including Elizabeth Swain Bannister who, like Susannah, moved to Berbice.

In 1817 Susannah's return for her slaves in Berbice lists fourteen, of which six were children and six were female 'house servants'. This looks likely to have been a 'prostitution tavern' like that in Bridgetown.