Rachel Pringle, Barbados, 1796

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This record was last updated on 18 Mar 2016

Image Reference

Illustration by Thomas Rowlandson, published separately by William Holland (London, 1796). Engraving held by the Barbados Museum.

Shows Pringle at the age of about 36 sitting in front of her hotel/tavern/house of prostitution in Bridgetown, capital of Barbados. The white man on left, presumably a planter has elephantiasis, a manifestation of filariasis, a common disease in West Africa during the era of the slave trade. In Barbados the disease mainly afflicted blacks but was also found among the island's white population. (For details on the disease, see Jerome Handler, Diseases and Medical Disabilities of Enslaved Barbadians [Journal of Caribbean History, vol. 40 (2006): 20-22.) Rachel Pringle was born a slave around 1753, the daughter of an African woman and her master, a Scottish schoolmaster. In the 1770s, she became the first free woman of color to own a hotel-tavern (and house of prostitution) in Barbados. When she died in 1792, at the age of 38, she was relatively wealthy. See Jerome S. Handler, Joseph Rachell and Rachael Pringle-Polgreen: Petty Entrepreneurs, in D.G. Sweet and G. B. Nash, eds., Struggle and Survival in Colonial America (Univ. of California Press, 1981), pp. 376-391. (Slide of engraving, courtesy of the late Neville Connell, Director of the Barbados Museum.)