In 1788 the New Orleans directory listed 1500 unmarried free women of color (femmes de couleur libre) living in the little houses near the ramparts of the French Quarter. The French Code Noir of 1724 passed by King Louis XIV defined conditions that prohibited miscegeny in the French Colonial Empire.
Attempting to circumvent the legal prohibition of mixed marriages the practice of plaçage was set into place. Intermarriage eventually eroded perceptible differences between the races.
Young women were “placed” with an homme blanc, to whom they were expected to be faithful in exchange for marital support and patriarchal protection. Quadroon balls were the chief place for meeting prospective mistresses who were groomed to become the “acknowledged” daughters of wealthy American or Creole fathers.
Mixed marriages were frequent enough to inspire resentment, yet not all quadroon women became paramours…