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Thu, 03.11.1813

Henriette Delille made her spirituality work

Henriette Delille

*The birth of Henriette Delille in 1813 is celebrated on this date. She was a Creole abolitionist and religious leader.

She was offspring of one of the oldest families of free people of color in New Orleans. The daughter of Jean Baptiste Delille-Sarpy and Pouponne Dias, her mother was a quadroon and the mistress of her father, who was an aristocrat. Her great great grandmother, Nanette, was a slave. Like most young quadroon women during this time Henriette was trained from an early age to be acquainted with French literature, to have a refined taste in music and to be able to dance gracefully. Her mother also taught her nursing skills and how to prepare medicines from herbs.

As a teenager, Delille’s lifestlye included going to balls in New Orleans for the purpose of meeting members of the upper classes. The quandroon women were expected to become mistresses of the aristocracy. In 1824, Delille pursued a different course. During a ball, she was introduced to a French nun named Sister St. Marthe Fontier, the first member of a religious community that Delille had met. She was impressed by the Sisters dedication to God and her vows and acts of charity.

In 1836, along with several other women, Delille established the Sisters of the Presentation, which later became the "Sisters of the Holy Family" the second oldest Catholic religious order for women of color. She had purchased land on Barracks Street with the assistance of the free people of color in New Orleans. The Sisters worked among the poor, the sick, the elderly and also among slaves. The order founded a school for girls in 1850 and in 1860 opened a hospital for needy Black Orleanians.

Today, the parish continues to contribute to the education of African American youths and to the care of the sick and elderly through their work in New Orleans and elsewhere. Henriette Delille died in 1862.

Reference:
The National Black Catholic Congress
320 Cathedral Street
Baltimore Maryland, 21201

The Anti-Slavery Society

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