[Ads-l] wench

Joel Berson berson at ATT.NET
Tue Mar 29 16:32:18 UTC 2016

Advertisements using "wench" to refer to a Negro (a black or colored, including Native American) female can be found in early 18th century American newspapers, perhaps as far back as 1704, the first year of the earliest newspaper in British North America.  (At the moment I could only quote from 1739.)

I now notice that the quotations I have always use "Negro wench" in combination.  That makes me wonder when "wench" alone began to denote a Negro.


      From: David Barnhart <dbarnhart at HIGHLANDS.COM>
 Sent: Tuesday, March 29, 2016 8:00 AM
 Subject: [ADS-L] wench
My son, Grant, found in his work for the Dutchess County Historical
Society, the following advertisement from 1809:

FOR SALE--A healthy
Negro Wench,
About 21 years of age, will suit in or country, can spin, and do any kind
of house work.

*Poughkeepsie Barameter*
[Poughkeepsie, N.Y.], March 8, 1809.

Compare eOED:

 *b.* *U.S.* (See quots.)
1765  *Boston Gaz.* 17 June  'Tis said the Fire was occasioned by a Negro
Wench carrying a Quantity of Ashes.
1828  Webster *Amer. Dict. Eng. Lang.*  *Wench*,..3. In America, a black
or colored female servant; a negress.
1848  J. R. Bartlett *Dict. Americanisms*
1891  *Cent. Dict.*  *Wench*. 3 (*c*) A colored woman of any age; a
negress or mulattress, especially one in service. (Colloq.)

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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