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Catherine Flon (1772 - 1831)

Updated: Jan 17

Haitian patriot, nurse and seamstress

Catherine Flon, heroine of the Haitian revolution and known for sewing the first flag of the independent black Republic of Haiti in 1803.

There aren't many written or archival accounts of Catherine's life but her story has been passed down orally from generation to genaration. Most oral accounts state that Flon was not only a seamstress but an avid supporter of the Haitian Revolution, during which time she served as a nurse, in a non-combatant role. Her unique place in the history of the revolution during the colonial war of independence (1802–1803), was precipitated by the revocation of the decret du 16 pluviôse an II, an attempt to reestablish chattel slavery that resulted in the French abduction of the Haitian revoluionary leader, Toussaint Louverture.

Flon was the goddaughter and principal assistant to Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the first leader of the independent republic of Haiti. The design of the Haitian national flag occurred during a three-day meeting of revolutionary groups in May 1803. It was during this gathering that Dessalines is said to have symbolically excised the white vertical band from the French tricolor flag, leaving the red and blue bands. Catherine then stitched together the remaining bands horizontally creating the first version of the Haitian Flag. The flag is believed to represent the Black and mixed-raced people of Haiti. Some scholars now believe the blue and red are an homage to the Vodou religion with the red and blue symbolizing the Vodun god of war, Ogou. Additionally, it’s said that the weapons and palm tree on the current flag are other signs of Vodun (though others argue that they are simply signs of freedom).

Flon now serves as a symbol for women’s activist groups and feminism in the country. Many associated social groups are named after her. During national holidays, it’s not uncommon to see young women dressed up as Flon to remember her role in Haitian history.

Her picture was featured on a 10-Gourdes Haitian banknote issued in 2000

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