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Book Chapter

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On December 4, 1867, the ninth day of the convention to write a new post-Civil War constitution for the state of Louisiana, delegate Edouard Tinchant rose to make a proposal. Under the Congressional Reconstruction Acts of1867, the voters of Louisiana had elected ninety-eight delegates-half of them men of color-to a constitutional convention charged with drafting a founding document with which the state could reenter the Union. Edouard Tinchant was a twentysix- year-old immigrant to New Orleans, principal of a school for freed children on St. Claude Avenue. Having made something of a name for himself as a Union Army veteran and vigorous proponent of equal rights, he had stood for and won election from the multiracial Sixth Ward of New Orleans. In this speech on the floor of Mechanics' Hall, Tinchant proposed that the convention should provide "for the legal protection in this State of all women" in their civil rights, "without distinction of race or color, or without reference to their previous condition." Over the next weeks, Tinchant plunged into additional debates on voting rights and public accommodations, staking out a position in favor of a wide suffrage and the same "public rights" for all citizens. Then, in the last days of the convention, he returned to the topic of women's rights, and particularly the recognition of conjugal relationships that had not been formalized by marriage. He proposed that "to prevent concubinage in this State, the General Assembly shall enact such laws that will facilitate all women, without distinction of race or color, to sue for breach of promise [of marriage]. The General Assembly shall also provide to compel to marriage upon application of one of the parties, such persons who may have lived together not less than one year consecutively."