Iona Berteaux – Educator, Laywoman, Civic Leader

Iona E. Berteaux

Iona E. Berteaux was born on July 1, 1901 at Marchandville, a small community near Darrow, Louisiana in Ascension Parish. She was the eldest of eight children to Edward and Susanna Landry Berteaux. Her father worked as a farmer in Ascension Parish, before moving to New Orleans, where he worked as an engineer among the cotton presses.

Miss Berteaux graduated from the Normal Department of Straight University in New Orleans. She later received Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees from Xavier University of Louisiana. She began her long career in education as a teacher at the McCarty School. She was very quickly appointed a principal and served at the Seabrook, Lee Station, Julius Rosenwald, James Lewis, and McDonogh No. 6 schools, from which she retired in 1968 after forty-four years of service.

Miss Berteaux engaged in a number of organizations and causes which benefitted the Church and the community. She was among the leading members of Saint Monica’s Church in Uptown New Orleans. For nearly sixty years, every endeavor pursued within Saint Monica’s Parish bore the name of Iona Berteaux among its supporters. She was a member of the Big Brothers and Sisters of the Saint John Berchmans Home and an active fundraiser for the Colored Community Chest. She distinguished herself in her work with the National Association for Negro Women and the Colored Young Women’s Christian Association.

Miss Berteaux was among the charter members of Mother Katharine Drexel Court No. 59 when it was established on July 21, 1929. She served as Vice Grand Lady from its founding until 1932, when she was elected Grand Lady. Lady Berteaux would continue to serve in that esteemed office for thirty-seven years. Lady Berteaux served as Secretary to the Planning Committee for the Order’s Silver Anniversary Convention in 1934. In October 1944, she was elected first President of the Louisiana State Conference, Ladies Division. In 1949, during the reign of Pope Pius XII, Miss Berteaux received the Papal Medallion Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice in recognition of her meritorious service.

Among Miss Berteaux’s other affiliations were the National Educational Association, Orleans Parish Principals Association, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Urban League, and Xavier University Alumni Association. She was honored as Xavier University’s Alumnus of the Year in 1960.

Miss Berteaux died on June 1, 1972 at the age of seventy years. She was buried from Our Lady of Lourdes Church and is interred in Saint Vincent de Paul Cemetery. As a testament of her lifelong dedication to service and in particular to the cause of Claverism, Iona Berteaux Court No. 240 was named in her honor and established on March 13, 1983.

J.C.L.H.

4 thoughts on “Iona Berteaux – Educator, Laywoman, Civic Leader

  1. Iona wss my great aunt. She has long been my inspiration. I am a third generation educator following in her footsteps. I remember coming to stay with my grandmother, Iona’s sister, Edith Berteaux Walker and Aunt Iona putting me in summer school at McDonough No. 6. I remember how elegant I thought she was with her flowing white hair that she always wore up on her head. I was a teacher as she was and for the last 13 years, I have been a principal. I am proud to walk in her shadow. I hope she is looking down on me right now and is proud of the work I am doing.

  2. Miss Iona Berteaux was my principal at McDonogh #6 Elementary School. She had high and demanding expectations for her students, as evidenced by her own biography. She made sure you were ready for whatever came in life after the early years spent with her molding you. Love these articles that give history of people of color that impacted our lives and culture. Thanks, Miss Berteaux!

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