Les Dames des Sept Douleurs

In 1938, the Jazz great Jelly Roll Morton sat down at the Library of Congress with folklorist Alan Lomax to record his memories and experiences in Jazz and old New Orleans. He matter-of-factly noted that “everybody in the city of New Orleans was always organization-minded,” referring to the scores of social and benevolent societies which existed in the city. These organizations, often formed around a common religious, occupational, neighborhood, or social bond, and offered both tangible and intangible benefits, such as medical and prescription assistance and the opportunity to exercise leadership and exert collective effort.

On 23 December 1912, seven ladies went before notary and civil rights leader Louis André Martinet, to charter the Notre Dame des Sept Douleurs Société de Bienfaisance et d’Assistance Mutuelle (Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows Benevolent and Mutual Aid Association). These ladies were:

  • Marie Eva Patin Lebeau
  • Cecelia Major Hebert
  • Marie Bousquet Bernard
  • Marcelite Braud Bousquet
  • Marie Adolores Boutte Deruize
  • Marceline LeBlanc Bibolet
  • Elmire Boutte

Invoking the patronage of the Blessed Mother under her title of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows, they soon acquired a large society tomb in Saint Louis Cemetery No. 3 on Esplanade Avenue.

Among those buried in the Sept Douleurs tomb is Arthur Gustave Chapital, son of Marie Bousquet Bernard, who was a member of the New Orleans Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People from 1939 until his death in 1969. He was first elected to its executive board in 1941 and from then on served diligently as Branch President and later Executive Secretary.

Shown above are the signatures from the society’s charter, which is recorded in the notarial acts of Louis André Martinet at the New Orleans Notarial Archives.

Source: N. O. Notarial Archives, L. A. Martinet, Volume 7, Act 21.

J.C.L.H.

3 thoughts on “Les Dames des Sept Douleurs

  1. Fantastique !
    Women in the exact same decade, all Creoles, founded, in St. Martinville, St. Martin Parish, Louisiana, Les Dames du Progès, a Female Benevolent Society, still in existence, promoting mutual aide, education and community strength.

    Louis-André MARTINET’s brother and nephew were active in the male benevolent society of MARTINET’s hometown, La Société des Francs Amis, founded in 1876. The MARTINETs are my cousins. http://christophelandry.com/2011/03/10/the-true-friends-association-of-st-martinville/

    • How interesting! There was a Societe des Francs Amis in New Orleans. Their hall was on North Robertson Street along with that of the Societe des Jeunes Amis. The hall of the Amis Inseparables is still standing on Saint Philip Street at North Claiborne.

      In Klotzville, Louisiana, on Bayou Lafourche, the salle americaine was the Temple Star Hall and the salle catholique (Creole) was the Sainte Marie Hall.

  2. Marie Bousquet Bernard was my grandmother who lived with
    our family, my mother, Mildred Bernard Martinez, who founded
    in 1934,the Martinez Nursery School, the first Kindergarten
    Private School for Creoles and Colored People in Louisiana.
    The school, later renamed the Martinez Kindergarten, operated
    for 71 years until Hurricane Katrina flooded it and destroyed the school. My father, Maurice Manuel Martinez, Sr., taught Brickmasonry in the New Orleans Public Schools (Wicker and
    Booker T. Washington High School) as well as in the AFL/CIO
    Local No. 1 Bricklayers Union Apprentice Program, and to
    returning Black Military men from WWII under the G.I. Bill
    Program at B.T.Washington High. He lived until age 94.
    Marie Bousquet Bernard, who died at age 63, had a 3rd Grade education, and worked as a “wet Nurse” for a White Family earning one dollar a week. The white family travelled to Statin Island, New York every summer taking Marie and her two daughters, my mother Mildred and her sister May Bernard to New York. May Bernard married Leon Bryan, Chief Statistician
    for the State of New York who compiled prison statistics. They had two sons: Herbert Bryan, who worked in the Federal Patent Office in Washington, DC. and Attorney Bernard Bryan who is President of the NAACP in Albany, NY in 2014.

    Mildred attended Hunter College in the summer in NYC and later finisned her teacher liscensure in the Normal School in New Orleans. She taught in the New Orleans Public Schools as a young woman, but quit in 1933 because of a policy that
    employed only “single” women. She married my father and
    opened her own private Kindergarten with 15 children of
    friends in 1934. Graduates include Wynton Marsalis, many
    African American leaders, educators, business persons, etc.
    Marie Bousquet Bernard had her first son, Arthur Chapital,
    out of wedlock. Arthur became a leader in the NAACP and
    was a Civil Rights Activist for decades in New Orleans. Arthur had 7 children, 5 boys and 2 girls, all of whom had first names
    that began with the letter “A”. (Arthur, Alvin, Alden, Aldrich,
    ______, and the girls, Althea and Aldonna). An American Story
    because my father, Maurice’s mother’s surname was COLOMB
    (French for Columbus)…the white Colomb families claim that
    they are decendents of Christopher Columbus…deep DNA
    claims with connections to the “First” European Immigrant,
    Christopher Columbus (not that we are at all proud of his
    colonizing antics and treatment of the AmerIndian people
    he “discovered”).

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