Agency on the Edge: Women of Colonial St. Louis and the Power They Held


  • Andrea Wilson Wichita State University


education, family economics, libraries, property rights, public libraries, settlers, St. Louis, women's rights


In 1763, the city of St. Louis began its life on the western side of the Mississippi River. From its inception the city had aspects that were uncommon for a frontier village. The people there still dealt with normal frontier problems, like relations with neighboring Native American tribes, taming and shaping the land, and supplying the town. However, its location gave St. Louis an interesting history. It was first settled by French merchants who quickly found themselves under Spanish rule. The Spanish would last until 1803 when Louisiana was given back to France then promptly sold to the United States. Through all of these changes the people remained steady, and they developed somewhat uncommon views of women for the time. Those views were reflected in how women came to settle in the city, spent their days, appeared in courts, and how they obtained education. The unique circumstances of women in St. Louis make it an interesting setting for a case study of how women in the early nineteenth century had different levels of agency in their own lives.