COPYRIGHT 2020 © PRESERVATION ALLIANCE OF LAFAYETTE
Saint Paul Convent was built in 1919 for the religious order, the Sisters of the Holy Family. The historic significance of this building includes contributions made by Marie Henriette DeLille (1813-1862), a fourthgeneration free woman of color in New Orleans. Around 1829, inspired by French Sister St. Marthe Fontier of the Dames Hospitalières, Henriette DeLille joined her best friend, Josephine Charles, and Haitian-born Juliette Gaudin, in efforts to evangelize slaves and free people of color in New Orleans. In 1836, before it was legal for a non-white religious order to exist, Henriette and her friends joined the Congregation of the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, opening the first convent for non-white women in New Orleans. In 1855, they formed the Sisters of the Holy Family. The sisters expanded to Lafayette in 1903, and began teaching classical Catholic education to African-American and Creole children. Classical academic subjects included college preparatory education and music. Before the sisters’ intervention, schools for African-American students taught only basic domestic and manual labor education. The religious order also bravely spoke out against the then popular system of plaçage, a contractual extra-marital arrangement between young women of color and wealthy, married, white men. Plaçage was a violation of the women’s Catholic faith and the Holy Sacrament of Matrimony.