I was twelve when I was enrolled at Ursuline in the eighth grade in 1946. I had been to Catholic schools in New Orleans but this as my first time in an “all-girls” Catholic school. Mother Isabelle Adams, O.S.U. ’31 enrolled me. Her kindness and friendly manner made me feel welcome. That was the beginning of my love for Ursuline.
The old Gothic building and acreage were impressive, not in a scary or overwhelming way, but in a dramatic, exciting, and adventurous way. There were so many hallways, a belltower, nooks and crannies, the off-limits Green Hall (the entrance to the Sisters’ private area), an elevator, great stairways inside and outside the building, and the boarders’ dorm. The lower floor was half below and half above ground with beige, arched windows bringing in natural light and air. (Every afternoon it was the location for an after-school collation of graham crackers and milk for the boarders. It may have been our homeroom as well.)
The heart of our school was the chapel, which was large enough to hold us all. We entered surrounded by sun-filled, stained-glass windows. The focus behind the gold and white altar, with its starched altar cloth, was the magnificent window of Jesus and the Five Wise Virgins. It was a holy and respected space for us. (This same window in hundreds of shattered shards that Jeanne M. Aber ’33 pieced together, was restored, and placed in The French Family Center Atrium on present day campus.)
Every large classroom had floor to ceiling windows, wooden fold-up desks, and outside, a broad porch bordering our room. The grounds were magical. They made you run and explore - especially the Grotto surrounded by vines and flowering bushes with the Blessed Mother’s statue and kneeler serenely in the center. There even was a cemetery (off limits) and, yes, a wonderfully large playground.
Mother Adelaide Thomason, O.S.U. ’39 was our teacher – brilliant and young (maybe 19-21 years old at the time) and we were probably the first class she had taught. While knowledgeable in books, she overwhelmed us with work. Then, her big piercing eyes would challenge us to complain! Of course, we didn’t. Weekly, we would have a discussion on World Affairs. One particular week, our “Ah ha!” moment came, and we drew conclusions to what was happening in the country with labor and management. So, we did it! We had our own strike – a “sit down do nothing” strike.
Courageously, we 12–13-year-olds stayed united and did no work no matter what Mother Adelaide said. And, she said plenty!
True to the national model, the negotiators (principal, et al.) came in. A compromise was reached. We won a minor victory of no homework for the next two days. Mother Adelaide softened a bit and we gloated a lot (but never in class).
Even then, in 1946, Ursuline trained women for leadership!
PS – Mother Adelaide eventually became one of our beloved high school teachers.