‘An Egiptian and noe Xtian Woman’: Gypsy Identity and Race Law in Early America

Ann Marguerite Ostendorf

Abstract

Though many scholars have referenced Joan Scott as the earliest Gypsy in North America, thanks to a 1695 Henrico County Virginia court record identifying her as “an Egiptian and noe Xtian woman,” none have explored her life further. Despite this, an examination of the fornication charge against Scott suggests much about her life. Scott entered the colony twenty years before her fornication charge and while unmarried bore a child whose father the court considered a man of color. In these ways, Scott’s life appears similar to her contemporaries. Yet, in other ways Scott’s experience differed. By allowing the court to believe in her Gypsy identity and non-Christian religion she worked the court in her favor and saw her case dismissed. When historicized and contextualized, the meager details known about Joan Scott enhance our understanding of the colonial American Gypsy experience and contribute to a broader American historical narrative. 

Keywords

Joane Scott; Egiptian; Virginia; Henrico County; fornication

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