Teaching Students About Madame Lalaurie

Madame Lalaurie, a notorious figure in New Orleans history, is known for her cruel and inhumane treatment of enslaved people during the 19th century. Teaching students about such historical characters can be challenging yet crucial, as their stories provide valuable insights into the societal norms and values at that time. This article will discuss the significance of teaching the story of Madame Lalaurie, outline suggested approaches for presenting her story effectively, and address potential challenges educators might face during this process.

The Significance of Teaching About Madame Lalaurie:

1. Uncovering dark history: Like other lessons on disturbing historical events, teaching about Madame Lalaurie exposes students to the darker side of human nature. This may foster a deeper understanding of historical events and create an awareness that different societies possess both positive and negative aspects.

2. Connecting to broader themes: By examining Madame Lalaurie’s actions, students can explore broader themes such as power dynamics, social class divisions, and racism in 19th-century New Orleans society.

3. Encouraging critical thinking: The complex figure of Madame Lalaurie offers a valuable opportunity to develop students’ critical thinking skills through evaluating primary sources, questioning historical accounts, and discussing her impact on local culture.

Suggested Approaches for Presenting Madame Lalaurie’s Story:

1. Establish context: Begin by introducing the societal norms and values of 19th-century New Orleans to help students understand the backdrop against which Madame Lalaurie acted.

2. Use primary sources: Incorporate primary sources, such as newspaper articles and testimonials, to present different viewpoints on Madame Lalaurie’s actions. This can help students engage with the material more effectively.

3. Address myths and sensationalism: The story of Madame Lalaurie has been sensationalized over the years; therefore, it is crucial to debunk common myths and clarify misconceptions while emphasizing historical accuracy.

4. Provide opportunities for discussion: Hold open-ended discussions to allow students to voice their opinions, ask questions, and explore the topic of Madame Lalaurie further.

Addressing Potential Challenges:

1. Dealing with sensitive content: Teachers should approach teaching the story of Madame Lalaurie sensitively by acknowledging the potential emotional impact on students and providing a safe learning environment for all.

2. Balancing different perspectives: Aim to present a balanced account of Madame Lalaurie’s actions by considering primary sources that both condemn and defend her actions.

3. Avoiding anachronistic judgments: Encourage students to evaluate Madame Lalaurie’s actions within the context of her time rather than applying their modern-day understanding of morality.


Teaching students about Madame Lalaurie allows them to grapple with complex themes surrounding the darker aspects of history and encourages critical thinking skills. By approaching her story sensitively, presenting varied perspectives, and addressing potential challenges, educators can create an enriching learning experience for their students while examining this disturbing figure in New Orleans history.

Choose your Reaction!