While there is much written about the men of the Haitian Revolution, not much is known or written about the women who helped to emancipate the people of the island. Marie Sainte Dédée Bazile is notable as part of the Haitian Revolution. Born near Cap-Francais (now Cap-Hattian) to enslaved parents, we rely on oral history to piece together her life.
It is said that Dédée Bazile suffered from mental illness as a result of being raped by her slave master at 18, or after some of her family members were killed when Jean-Jacques Dessalines army was defeated by General Donatien Rochambeau. Either way, Dédée was also known as Défilée, Défilée-La-Folle: the Madwoman.
Dédée Bazile escaped her master and joined the resistance where she met Dessalines. She made her living providing food and supplies to the soldiers in Dessalines camp.
Toussaint Louverture is well known for sparking the Haitian Revolution, but Jean-Jacques Dessalines is remembered fondly for finishing the rebellion and declaring Haiti independent on 1 January 1804. Dessalines crowned himself emperor that same year and began an autocratic rule that led to resistance.
In a series of actions meant to prevent any renewal of white dominance over the blacks, who formed over 80 per cent of the population, he confiscated land owned by white people, made it illegal for them to own property, and, perhaps fearing them as potential subversives in the event of another French invasion, launched a campaign to exterminate the country’s white inhabitants in which thousands were killed. Resistance to Dessalines and his autocratic rule grew among the mixed-race elites.
On 17 October 1806, Emperor Dessalines former comrades Alexandre Pétion, Jean-Pierre Boyer, André Rigaud, and Bruno Blanchet ambushed and shot and killed Dessalines North of Port-au-Prince. They then brought his body into the city where the crowds stoned and mutilated it. It is alleged that the usurpers declared Dessalines body should not be buried.
Dédée Bazile ignored this declaration. She fought off soldiers as she gathered the remains of the Emperor in a sack and transported them to the cemetery in Port-au-Prince. She assembled the remains and ensured Dessalines was buried with dignity.
Dédée Bazile died around 1816 and was buried in Port-au-Prince, but her grave has been lost to time. She was survived by her several children including her son Colonel Condol Bazile, an officer of the constabulary under the Haitian president Faustin Soulouque.