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The Lowdown on Laveau





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 who's misunderstood."

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