The Frances Joseph Gaudet Fund
Episcopal Community Services (ECS) is a social service agency of the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana that honors the legacy of Mrs. Frances Joseph Gaudet, a turn-of-the century educator and activist. The agency’s activities are coordinated by a Gaudet committee comprised of the Bishop and nine members elected across the diocese.
Mrs. Frances Gaudet earned a national reputation in her life as a prison reformer and missionary. She was a driving force behind the establishment of the first juvenile court in New Orleans. Upon her death left a trust to the Diocese of Louisiana to be used for programs benefiting underserved children and families. ECSLA, as stewards of this fund, each year award scholarships and grants for the purpose of enhancing the education of African American students.
The Gaudet Legacy
Frances Joseph Gaudet was born in a log cabin in Holmesville, Pike County, Mississippi, in 1861. Her father was a former slave. She was a seamstress by profession yet she became a major philanthropist in New Orleans at the turn of the century.
Mrs. Gaudet earned a national reputation as a prison reformer and missionary. She was a true leader who united forces from diverse segments of society to affect social change. This determined woman was not only a primary force in the establishment of better conditions for the city’s indigent mentally ill, she was also a driving force behind the establishment of the first juvenile court in New Orleans.
She believed that the formation of a school was essential to fulfilling her mission to provide protection and education for the homeless children who were often incarcerated for vagrancy. Somehow against all odds she found the $5,000 necessary to purchase 105 acres of land on Old Gentilly Road. This inspired woman founded the Gaudet Normal and Industrial School of Black Youth in 1902. It was both an orphanage and a school known for its academic excellence.
Mrs. Gaudet had the wisdom to leave her trust to the Episcopal Church in such a way that her mission would continue to find new ways of expression in changing times.
Today, Mrs. Frances Joseph Gaudet’s legacy lives on through that trust to the Episcopal Church. The Board of Directors of Episcopal Community Services, a ministry of the Church, administers funds for the Gaudet Scholarship Program as well as for other programs benefiting underserved children and families in the New Orleans and Baton Rouge areas.
Mrs. Gaudet dedicated her life to building alliances with people of every race and class. The Episcopal Community Services Board of Directors, as stewards of the Gaudet Fund, is committee to keeping her purpose alive.