Researchers have been misled by what is believed to be Laveau's
obituary in The Picayune, which contains "a lot of fiction,"
Fandrich said, including that she was 98 when she died in
June 15,1881, and 25 when she married Paris.
A mother of only six
Fandrich's research also has led her to dispute reports that
Laveau had 15 children. The professor believes the voodoo
priestess had one child with Paris and five with Louis Christophe
Duminy de Glapion, whom she could not legally marry because
she was a free woman of color and he was white, although Glapion
"passed for free man of color in the community"
to be accepted as Laveau's husband, Fandrich said
Only two of the children reached
adulthood, she said. The other nine children attributed to
Laveau were born to her half-sister, also named Marie Laveau,
Fandrich said. "Now I can debunk all the
stories," she said. "Like Laveau, I don't take 'no'
for an answer."
Fandrich, born in Wuersburg,
"Germany, has lived in New Orleans on and off since 1992.
She first learned of Laveau in 1984, when she came to the
United States to attend Temple University.
It took five years to convince
Temple professors that Laveau was a proper subject for her
dissertation: "The Mysterious Voodoo Queen Marie Laveaux:
A Study of Power and Female Leadership in Nineteenth-Century
New Orleans," which Fandrich said she is revising for
publication Fandrich adds an "x" to Laveau because
"the family did."
A spiritual figure
"I was hooked on her because she looked like a very human
and empowering woman," Fandrich said. "She fit my
image of the saints and of Jesus. She heals the sick, gives
money to the poor, asks for justice and prays for people who
had wrong done to them. But she has her trickster side where
she fools people.
Fandrich, who hopes to become
a priestess in her own right, said she "was looking for
a religious mother I could identify with. I wanted to have
a religious leader who had a life, a family - not a nun or
a witch burned at the stake. Laveau "died happy,
surrounded by here children and grandchildren," Fandrich
said. She believes the voodoo
priestess is buried in St. Louis Cemetary No.1, where scores
of people come each year to ask for favors.
Fandrich often brings
flowers to Laveau's grave.
"She loved fresh
flowers and candles," Fandrich said. "She had them
all over her home."
Fandrich said she disagrees
with authors who describe Laveau as a "voodoo gangster
or a mafia boss who meet in secret to commit their crimes."
Laveau was a "superb
herbal healer," Fandrich said. Her hous had a "revolving
door" through which people from all walks of life came
for advice and potions. "She had the slaves and she had
the masters."The voodoo queen is her
heroine, Fandrich said. "To think a woman of color in
the antebellum time controlled the whole city." Laveau is "very important
for black history," Fandrich said. "She's a heroine