Daily Reading for December 30 • Frances Joseph-Gaudet, Educator and Prison Reformer, 1934
At a depot in New Orleans, Mississippian Frances Joseph-Gaudet approached an unknown woman who was in tears, intending to give her a simple word of sympathy and a shoulder to lean on. She quickly learned that the stranger wept over the fate of her son, who was on his way by train to a state penitentiary for a crime that he supposedly did not commit. This railroad encounter lasted only a few minutes and was hardly eventful at the time, but the memory of it lingered and soon became the basis for an epiphany for Joseph-Gaudet that changed her life. “That night, as I knelt by my bed to ask God to comfort that aged mother whose only support was locked behind prison walls, it seemed some one was whispering to me, ‘You must go to the prison and ask the prisoners to pray that God will help them to resist temptation. . . .’” Joseph-Gaudet interpreted the whisper as God’s voice and the chance meeting with the sobbing woman at the train station as a divine sign that she must evangelize among the imprisoned. The next day, she boarded a train for a prison and began a life-long ministry to convert inmates.
From After Redemption: Jim Crow and the Transformation of African American Religion in the Delta, 1875-1915 by John. M. Giggie (Oxford University Press, 2008).