Skip to Main Content

Black History Month

History-makers of Southeast Louisiana

Henriette Delille

Photo from

Henriette Delille (1812-1862)

Henriette Delille was born a free woman of color in New Orleans in 1813. She was a feminist, social worker, and an educator. She and a friend, Cuban born Juliette Gaudin, worked to teach religion to the slaves, encouraged free quadroon women to select men of their own class and encouraged slave couples to have their unions blessed by the church. In 1835, Delille sold all of her property hoping to start a community of Black nuns to teach in a school for free girls of color. After a few failed attempts, the two nuns, along with Josephine Charles, founded the Sisters of the Holy Family religious order at St. Augustine's Church in 1842. 

Although their primary work was in the area of education, Delille made it possible for the order to build a home for the sick, aged, and poor Black residents of the city. They took into their home elderly women who needed care and visitation, and it became America's first Catholic home for the elderly of its kind and is recorded in the National Register. The Sisters heroically cared for the sick and the dying during the yellow fever epidemics that struck New Orleans in 1853 and 1897.

In 1988, the canonization process for sainthood began when Pope John Paul II declared Sister Henriette Delille a Servant of God. The steps to sainthood are a servant of God, venerable, blessed, and saint. Two of the phases, servant of God and venerable, are complete. Venerable was decreed by Pope Benedict XVI March 27, 2010.  Venerable Henriette Delille is the first United States native-born African American whose cause for canonization has been officially opened by the Catholic Church. 

The books listed below are available for you at Sims Memorial Library.