December 30: Frances Joseph Gaudet, Educator and Prison Reformer, 1934
December 30, 2010 9 Comments
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Frances was born in a log cabin in Holmesville, Mississippi, in 1861, of African American and Native American descent. Raised by her grandparents, she later went to live with a brother in New Orleans where she attended school and Straight College.
While still a young woman, Gaudet dedicated her life to prison reform. In 1894, she began holding prayer meetings for Black prisoners. She wrote letters for them, delivered messages, and found them clothing. Later, she extended this ministry to white prisoners as well. Her dedication to the imprisoned and to penal reform won her the respect of prison officials, city authorities, the governor of Louisiana, and the Prison Reform Association.
In 1900 she was a delegate to the international convention of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union in Edinburgh, Scotland. Gaudet worked to rehabilitate young Blacks arrested for misdemeanors or vagrancy, becoming the first woman to support young offenders in Louisiana. Her efforts helped to found the Juvenile Court.
Deeply committed to the provision of good education, she eventually purchased a farm and founded the Gaudet Normal and Industrial School. Eventually, it expanded to over 105 acres with numerous buildings, and also served as a boarding school for children with working mothers. Gaudet served as its principal until 1921, when she donated the institution to the Episcopal Church in Louisiana. Though it closed in 1950, the Gaudet Episcopal Home opened in the same location four years later to serve African American children aged four to 16.
Frances Joseph Gaudet died on December 30, 1934.
I Merciful God, who didst raise up thy servant Frances Joseph Gaudet to work for prison reform and the education of her people: Grant that we, encouraged by the example of her life, may work for those who are denied the fullness of life by reasons of incarceration and lack of access to education; through Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
II Merciful God, who raised up your servant Frances Joseph Gaudet to work for prison reform and the education of
her people: Grant that we, encouraged by the example of her life, may work for those who are denied the fullness
of life by reasons of incarceration and lack of access to education; through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Preface of a Saint (2)
Text from Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.
We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?
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