Margaret Gaffney Haughery
"She was a mother to the motherless; she was a friend to those who had no friends; she had wisdom greater than schools can teach; we will not let her memory go from us."
Margaret Gaffney Haughery (pronounced as HAW-a-ree) (1813 - 1882) was one of New Orleans best-known philanthropists, and was widely known as "Our Margaret," "The Bread Woman of New Orleans", and "Mother of Orphans." After early personal tragedy, Margaret devoted herself to helping the city's orphans, working in partnership with the Sisters of Charity and the New Orleans Archdiocese. Margaret used the profits from her bakery businesses to feed the hungry and to support her various causes.
Orphaned at age 9, Margaret Gaffery married Charles Haughery in 1835 and the couple soon moved to New Orleans. One year later Margaret gave birth to a daughter Frances. However, like other New Orleanians of the time the family suffered from epidemics of yellow fever and cholera. When Margaret was just 23 years of age, both her husband and her daughter became seriously ill and died. This was the second time that Margaret lost her entire family. As she herself said, “My God! Thou hast broken every tie: Thou hast stripped me of all. Again I am all alone.”
It was then she began her great career of charity. Margaret was alone in the world, and despite being destitute and illiterate she was strong and knew how to work. Despite her tragedies, or because of them, Margaret was determined to do something in her life to help the plight of widows and orphans — something she understood very well. Working her way up from the laundry room at the St. Charles Hotel, Margaret ultimately started her own bakery businesses that made her a wealthy woman.
In addition to providing baked goods to the City’s orphans and destitute poor, Margaret was able to devote the proceeds from her businesses to provide permanent housing to local orphans. Among the beneficiaries of her generosity were the St. Theresa Asylum (Erato Street), St. Elizabeth's Asylum (Napoleon Avenue), St. Vincent's Infant Asylum (Race and Magazine Streets) and the Louise Home for Girls (Clio Street). At her death, her entire estate--some $30,000--went to the poor of New Orleans. Many years later in the 20th century several of the asylums Margaret originally founded as places of shelter for orphans and widows evolved into homes for the elderly.
A woman of unsurpassed charity, Margaret became famed for her lifelong championing of the destitute. Countless thousands New Orleanians considered her a living saint worthy of canonization. Born into poverty and orphaned at a young age, she began her adult life as a washwoman and a peddler — yet she died an epic businesswoman and philanthropist who received a state funeral. The statue honoring her stands at the intersection of Prytania and Camp Streets.
MTC/Friends of Margaret Coalition
In 2008, the Monumental Task Committee, Inc. collaborated with Mary Jablonski, a renowned architectural conservator from Columbia University, to do a preliminary assessment of many of the monuments in the City of New Orleans. From this assessment, MTC identified a critical need to conduct a professional conservation assessment report for the Margaret Haughery monument with treatment recommendations and an accurate restoration budget.
Today, the MTC and the Friends of Margaret have teamed up to raise the funds necessary to conduct these studies and ultimately restore the monument. But we can’t do it without you! Join MTC and the Friends of Margaret in restoring the Margaret Haughery monument back to its former glory.
To make a secure online donation, visit the upper right hand side of this page.
To make a donation via mail, send your check to: Monumental Task Committee, Inc. Attn: Margaret Haughery Restoration Fund 1215 Prytania Suite 333 St. New Orleans, LA 70130
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