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Venerable Henriette Delille, a Catholic woman of color on the road to sainthood


People who aren’t from the South might not be familiar with the French Creoles. The Creoles are descendants of the settlers of Louisiana who were of French descent. The term also became applied to descendants of enslaved Africans who were born in Louisiana. One of those descendants was a woman by the name of Henriette Delille.

Henriette was born in 1813 in New Orleans. Her father had been born in France and her mom was a “free woman of color.” Theirs was a common-law marriage, which was quite typical at the time in New Orleans. The people practiced the placage, a recognized “legal” system whereby European men, although legally married, entered into relationships with non-European women of African, Native American or mixed-race descent. As a Creole, Henriette was a qualified “candidate” for a placage common-law marriage and her mom was resolved to see that it happened. Her daughter was not so determined.

Henriette’s mother, on a quest to see that her daughter became a common-law wife to a wealthy white man, trained Henriette in the fine arts of dance, literature and music. She made sure that Henriette attended as many “quadroon balls” as possible. (The term quadroon was used for mixed-race people of no more than one-quarter non-white ancestry. In the racially structured society of New Orleans, “quadroon” women were considered socially acceptable as concubines for white men.) There was one problem; Henriette was not interested. Her mind, heart and soul were pointing in a different direction.

Read more at Aleteia. 

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