Beloved Margaret Haughery of New Orleans

I’ve taken an interest in Margaret Huaghery. She was a humble woman of extremely humble origins who, through hard work and prayer built a small empire and dedicated her time and wealth to helping the poor and the orphaned.

Margaret’s Birthplace has been preserved.

There’s a Margaret Huaghery site.

And there’s even a Catholic Encyclopedia Article on Margaret Haughery.

In New Orleans there’s a Restore the Monument organization.

There’s even a musical!

Well, there are lots of others it seems.

But the one I find most interesting is on Facebook, from the “Beloved Margaret Haughery of New Orleans” page.

Here it is, for future reference:

(reprinted from the Facebook page, Beloved Margaret Haughery of New Orleans.)(Well, it’s evidently also on the page over at Vieux Carre Productions, for the musical.)

Margaret Haughery (1813 – 1882) was a philanthropist known as the “Mother of Orphans.”

She opened up four orphanages in the New Orleans area in the 19th century. Many years later in the 20th and 21st centuries several of the asylums Margaret originally founded as places of shelter for orphans and widows evolved into homes for the elderly.

Margaret Gaffney Haughery (pronounced as HAW-a-ree) was a beloved historical figure in New Orleans, Louisiana, in the 1880s. Widely known as “Our Margaret,” “The Bread Woman of New Orleans” and “Mother of Orphans,” Margaret devoted her life’s work to the care and feeding of the poor and hungry, and to fund and build orphanages throughout the city. The poor called her “Saint Margaret.”

An Irish immigrant widow of many titles, Margaret was also commonly referred to as the “Angel of the Delta,” “Mother Margaret,” “Margaret of New Orleans,” the “Celebrated Margaret” and “Margaret of Tully.” A Catholic, she worked closely with New Orleans Sisters of Charity, associated with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans (the second-oldest diocese in the present-day United States).

A woman of unsurpassed charity, Margaret became famed for her lifelong championing of the destitute. Countless thousands of all creeds 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.

Illness and death

At the age of 69 Margaret contracted an incurable disease, the exact nature of which is not recorded. She lingered many months under the care of her friends, the Sisters of Charity. People of all classes and denominations visited her in this, her last illness. The aristocracy of New Orleans knelt at her side. Pope Pius IX sent his blessing and a crucifix, which was presented to her by Father Hubert Thirion, Louisiana, a young French priest.

Margaret died on February 9, 1882. Her body was taken to St. Vincent’s Infant Asylum, where it was embalmed and laid in state. The funeral took place on the following Saturday morning. Her death was announced in the newspapers with blocked columns as a public calamity, and the city newspapers were edged in black to mark her passing. Her obituary was printed on the front page of the Times-Picayune newspaper, the main paper in the city.

State funeral

The funeral cortege assembled at the asylum included 13 priests, headed by Archbishop Napolèon-Joseph Perchè (Third Archbishop of New Orleans). The New Orleans Mayor Benjamin Flanders led the funeral procession and two Lieutenant Governors of Louisiana were pallbearers, George L. Walton and W.A. Robertson. Thousands, including prominent politicians, businessmen and other members of the clergy, attended her funeral.

Orphans from all the city’s asylums were present, black and white, along with the historic Mississippi fire brigade (of which she was an honorary member) and nuns of numerous orders, as well as close friends and admirers. The streets, sidewalks, balconies and windows were thronged with mourners. These included three generals, clergymen of all denominations and city representatives. The cortege passed the New Orleans stock exchange at noon. Members suspended proceedings, left the room and came down to the sidewalk. St. Patrick’s Church was so thronged that the pallbearers had great difficulty getting the remains through the center aisle. Requiem Mass was celebrated by Most Reverend Monsignor Allen with Archbishop Perchè reading the prayers after Mass. Her friend Father Hubert gave the sermon. She was buried in the same St. Louis Cemetery No. 2 tomb with her great friend Sister Francis Regis, the Sister of Charity who died in 1862 and with whom Margaret cooperated in all her early work for the poor.

Margaret’s will was filed for probate on the following Monday. In her will she left everything to charities, without distinction of religion, for widows, orphans and the elderly. She left all her wealth to charities with the exception of the bakery, which she bequeathed to her foster son, Bernard Klotz.

When Margaret died and her will was read, the people found that, with all her giving, she had still saved a great deal of money, and she left every cent of it to the different orphan asylums of the city; each one of them was given something. Whether the orphanages were for white children or black, for Jews, Catholics, or Protestants, made no difference; for Margaret always said, “They are all orphans alike.” Margaret’s will was signed with a cross instead of a name as she never learned to read or write. Her signature was a poignant reminder of her humble beginnings, great business successes and mark on humanity, despite her inability to read or write.

Margaret’s Statue

The people of New Orleans said, “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.” So the idea of erecting a public monument to Margaret in the city arose spontaneously.

Almost immediately a committee was appointed to oversee the erection of a statue in Margaret’s honor. A site was purchased between Camp, Prytania and Clio streets. Alexander Doyle, a young sculptor, was commissioned. The statue was fashioned from old photographs, first molded in clay. This was sent to Italy where it was reproduced in Carrera marble. The statue was returned to New York from Italy after a time, but the commissioners of the monument declined to accept it, owing to imperfections in the marble. The sculptor at once procured another block and assured the commission that a perfect statue, according to model, would be shipped so as to reach New Orleans by May 1884.

Two years after her death the monument was unveiled on July 9 of 1884, by children from every orphanage in the city. Ex-Governor Francis T. Nicholls delivered a speech, and also present were the lady commissioners, the executive committee, New Orleans Mayor J. Valsin Guillotte, members of the city council and many others. The statue cost $6,000 that was donated in nickels and dimes — “No large sums would be accepted.” The statue bears one word only, her name, Margaret. The statue of her was sculpted to resemble how she looked, sitting in her own office door, or driving in her own little cart.

In addition to Margaret’s statue, sculptor Doyle also did a trio of important depictions of Confederate Army generals around New Orleans, the figure of General Robert E. Lee at Lee Circle (1884), the massive bronze equestrian of General P. G. T. Beauregard at the entrance to City Park (1915) and the bronze statue of General Albert Sydney Johnston atop the Army of the Tennessee cenotaph in Metairie Cemetery (1887).

The little park in which Margaret’s statue is erected is officially named Margaret Place. The small park is located where Camp and Prytania Streets meet in New Orleans. It has often been stated that this is the first public monument erected to a woman in the United States. It is the statue of a middle-aged woman, sitting in a low chair of the era, with her arms around a child, who leans against her. Margaret wears thick shoes, a simple gingham dress, with her perennial shawl draped around her shoulders, and a bonnet; she is stout and short, and her face is a square-chinned Irish face; but her eyes look at you like your mother’s.

At the time, Margaret’s statue was thought to be the first monument to be erected in the United States in honor of a woman. As one leading New Orleans newspaper editorial put it, “She was the most deservedly eminent, the most justly famous, of all the women of New Orleans, of our generation or of any other, in the whole history of the city.”

Many still hail Margaret’s statue as the first American statue of a notable woman. Officially, it is the second U.S. monument to honor a woman, as the 1879 monument on Dustin Island in New Hampshire to Hannah Dustin (who in 1697 killed nine of her sleeping Indian captors and escaped) antedates Margaret’s monument by five years. However Margaret’s monument is the first statue of an American female philanthropist.

Early life

Margaret was born into poverty in Ireland in 1813, as the fifth child of William and Margaret O’Rourke Gaffney. Margaret was birthed in a stone cottage, as were her siblings. Margaret’s parents were from Tully South, in the parish of Carrigallen. Her father William was a small farmer and possibly a tailor, who owned a small shop.

Based on Irish parochial, baptismal and newspaper records, there has been confusion as to whether the Gaffney family lived in Tully, Carrigallen, or Tully, Killeshandra; Margaret is often said to be from County Cavan. Today’s genealogical research shows that Margaret was born in Tully, a small townland of the village of Carrigallen, Co Leitrim in Ireland. She is honored with a memorial and holy well there.


When Margaret was five years old, her parents left Ireland — a land plagued by destitution, political turmoil, and oppression under British rule — and set sail for America. The year 1818 was one of high emigration due to a succession of wet summers followed by extreme winters; a time period Irish history calls “the year without a summer” and “the year of the malty flour.” William, his wife Margaret, and three of their six children — including Margaret (then five), older brother Kevin and baby sister Kathleen — emigrated Ireland for the United States. The three eldest children were to remain temporarily with their uncle, Matthew O’Rourke, in Ireland, until such time as they could be sent for. The final parting was so distressing that friends drew the children staying in Ireland aside, and before the divided family left Ireland they knelt to receive the curate’s blessing.

Passage to America

The high seas journey by steamer took six months to reach America, as severe storms affected the ship’s progress. Ship records reflect that the passengers despaired of ever reaching dry land again. At-sea provisions became so scarce that one passenger recalled that each person was allowed just one cracker a day. Almost all luggage was destroyed including the Gaffney’s trunk, whose lid Margaret’s father, William, then used to rock his three youngest children, the ones making the ocean crossing with their parents. Eventually the ship reached Chesapeake Bay, then finally Baltimore. During the long voyage, a Welsh woman with the surname Richards became acquainted with the Gaffney family.

Baltimore, Maryland

Shortly after the Gaffney family disembarked in Baltimore, Maryland, baby Kathleen died. Like all small tenant farmers of his era, Margaret’s father, William, was ill equipped for city life. His job opportunities were limited. Nevertheless he secured employment as a carter at the Baltimore docks and soon sent money to his brother-in-law, O’Rourke, for the upkeep of his three oldest children remaining in Ireland. In fact he had almost saved enough to send for them to come to America. Then disaster struck. In 1822 a yellow fever epidemic ravaged Baltimore, claiming among its victims Margaret’s parents, William and Margaret, who died within days of each other. They are buried in St. Patrick’s cemetery in Baltimore. All household effects were burned, as was the custom, to prevent spread of the infection, with the exception of a prayer book, which was found 27 years later and returned to the family.


In 1822 Margaret became an orphan when both parents died of disease. Margaret, now nine, was homeless and soon alone as her older brother Kevin disappeared and was never heard from again.

The same woman of Welsh extraction who made the overseas crossing with the Gaffney family heard of Margaret’s plight. The woman with the surname Richards, who lost her own husband to yellow fever, took Margaret in. She sheltered and cared for little orphan Margaret in her home.

There Margaret remained for some years, where she worked for her keep. In fact she may have been little more than a servant. Margaret received no formal education. Margaret never learned to read or write.

When old enough, Margaret went into domestic service, which was the norm for Irishwomen in Baltimore at that time. She worked as a hungstress.

Marriage and move to New Orleans, Louisiana

On October 10 of 1835, at age 21, Margaret married Irish-born Charles Haughery at a ceremony in Baltimore Cathedral. Haughery was not a well man. To escape the cold climate up north, Margaret persuaded him that a change in climate might be therapeutic for his bad health. They left Baltimore on the ship Hyperion and reached New Orleans on November 20 of 1835.

Like other New Orleanians of the time, the young family suffered from rampant epidemics of yellow fever and cholera. For a time Charles’s health showed a slight improvement but it was short-lived and medical advice recommended a sea journey.

Charles decided to go to Ireland, his native land. This trip was delayed by several months pending the birth of the couple’s first child, a girl. They named her Frances. Eventually, Charles made the voyage but after some months Margaret received word that he died shortly after reaching his destination. This was a cruel blow but worse was to follow, for within a few months infant Frances became seriously ill and died. This was the second time that Margaret’s family was wiped out, yet she was just 23 years of age. As she herself said, “My God! Thou hast broken every tie: Thou hast stripped me of all. Again I am all alone.”

Widowhood and life’s devotion

It was then she began her great career of charity. Margaret was all alone in the world, and poor, but 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. However, she herself was destitute, uneducated and illiterate, a penniless immigrant woman on her own in New Orleans. In the year of 1836 New Orleans was the fourth largest city in the United States, the largest city away from the Atlantic seaboard, as well as the largest in the South. The city had become the wealthiest and third-most populous city in the nation. It had the largest slave market. At the same time, it had the most prosperous community of free persons of color in the South. Travelers in this decade have left pictures of the animation of the river trade more congested in those days of river boats and steamers and ocean-sailing craft than today; of the institution of slavery, the quadroon balls, the medley of Latin tongues, the disorder and carousals of the river-men and adventurers that filled the city. Altogether there was much of the wildness of a frontier town and a seemingly boundless promise of prosperity.

At that time, the city was divided into three municipalities: the first being the French Quarter and Faubourg Tremè, the second being Uptown (then meaning all settled areas upriver from Canal Street) and the third being Downtown (the rest of the city from Esplanade Avenue on down river). Margaret’s years in New Orleans intersected and paralleled that of vodou queen Marie Laveau (who died in 1881, preceding Margaret in death by one year); and the last five years of Margaret’s life overlapped with the arrival to the city of Lafcadio Hearn, the writer who spread impressionistic tales of an exotic and mysterious New Orleans, and its environs, into an international sensation. He spoke of the city’s political corruption, street crime, violence, intolerance and the failures of public health and hygiene officials, hauntings and strange events.

Laundress and orphan asylum work

As an immigrant young widow woman in New Orleans, Margaret first found work in the laundry of the St. Charles Hotel.

From those humble beginnings she went on to establish herself as a remarkable businesswoman and “angel of mercy” who merged her hard work, business talents and philanthropic goals.

In the beginning, all day, from morning until evening, she ironed clothes in a laundry. Every day, as she worked by the window she saw motherless children from the orphan asylum nearby, working and playing about. After a while, great plagues of sickness fell upon the city, and so many mothers and fathers died that there were more orphans than the asylum could care for. Margaret stepped in.

While still working as a laundress, she went to Sisters of Charity who ran the asylum and told them she was giving them part of her wages, and she intended to work for them, besides. Early on she became acquainted with and worked closely with a nun named Sister Regis.

At that time in New Orleans, the Sisters of Charity under the guidance of Sister Regis managed the Poydras Orphan Asylum (established by Julien de Lallande Poydras). Margaret was deeply moved by the plight of the orphan children and offered her assistance. Margaret eventually left her position at the hotel in order to help with the orphans. She became employed in the orphan asylum and when the orphans were without food she bought it for them from her earnings. Her first job was the collection of food from any available source.

Margaret was an effective and resourceful money-raiser in soliciting funds for the orphans. She was so successful that several other facilities were opened. She was rewarded for her efforts with a position in the administration of the orphanages.

Margaret and the nuns worked together for many years helping neglected orphans and widows in the city. Although a Catholic, Margaret made certain that all her charity work was opened to people of all religions and backgrounds.

Dairy and milk cart

Besides her administrative duties at the asylum, with money Margaret saved from her wages, to provide milk for the orphans she purchased two cows. With this, she bought a little delivery cart. Margaret first established a dairy and drove around the city delivering the milk herself. She also sold fresh milk in the Vieux Carrè (French Quarter). She carried her milk to her customers in the little cart every morning, she drove her milk cart from door to door; and as she went, she begged the leftover food from the hotels and rich houses, and brought it back in the cart to the hungry children in the asylum. In the very hardest times that was often all the food the children had.

The surplus milk was sold and, finding this quite profitable, Margaret increased her stock and began selling cream and butter. Within two years Margaret had a dairy herd of forty cows and a profitable business. Margaret’s popularity became widespread. She became known among all classes as a businesswoman who sold her produce through the community from her handcart.

The Female Orphan Asylum of the Sisters of Charity built in 1840 was financed from Margaret’s work, for she cleared it of debt. During the yellow fever epidemic in New Orleans in the 1850s Margaret went about from house to house, without regard to race or creed, nursing the victims and consoling the dying mothers with the promise to look after their little ones. Eventually, She helped open the St. Teresa’s Orphan Asylum on Camp Street. St. Teresa’s Church was also practically built by Margaret, in conjunction with Sister Regis.

Bakery and bread cart

Although Margaret provided for the orphans, fed the poor, and gave generously to charity, her resources continued to grow. Over time, Margaret became the owner of many businesses. An industrious and resourceful woman determined to feed the orphans, at one point in time Margaret found employment at a bakery. Later on she loaned money to a baker but soon discovered that the business of Monsieur d’ Aquin was on the verge of bankruptcy. She had become the main shareholder in the business. Margaret realized the only way she could recover her money was to take control of the bakery and operate it.

Known simply as Margaret’s Bakery, her bakery business became an overnight success, and it is from this that she made the greater part of her fortune. Margaret became a bread-woman instead of a milk-woman. For years she continued her rounds with the bread cart, which replaced the milk cart. She carried the bread just as she had carried the milk, in her cart. And still she kept giving money to the asylum.

Margaret provided for the home market and her produce was exported. All the asylums in New Orleans were supplied with bread from her bakery at such a low price as to be virtually free. Improvements to the bakery were always a priority. It became the first steam bakery in the south, “a marvel” providing employment for many. The bakery situated in New Levèe Street was so successful that even the destruction so widespread in the South as a result of the Civil War had no effect on it. Although she provided for orphans, fed the poor, and gave enormously in charity, her resources grew dramatically and Margaret’s thriving bakery became famous. One of her businesses called “Margaret’s Steam and Mechanical Bakery” became very popular, and she advertised her products by her first name. (Hence as in the plaque on her statue years later, everybody knew her by her first name). The bakery sold “Margaret’s Bread” and she became the “Bread Woman of New Orleans.” Eventually, she owned a popular store in the city called the Klotz Cracker Factory, associated with the Klotz Bakery.

The winos and beggars of the city used to converge on Levèe Street. Margaret would not turn them away. She always gave them a loaf of bread but cut it in half so that they could not sell it to buy alcohol.

Civil War

During the American Civil War, in all the trouble and sickness and fear of that time, Margaret drove her cart of bread; she somehow always had enough to give the starving soldiers, and for her babies, besides what she sold.

The war had a profound effect on New Orleans and greatly increased the number of orphans and people in need. The commander, Union General Benjamin Franklin Butler, subjected New Orleans to a rigorous martial law so tactlessly administered as greatly to intensify the hostility of South and North.

During the Civil War Margaret made efforts to lessen the hardships brought on by the war by helping to feed those who suffered from the wartime food shortage. To the hungry citizens of occupied New Orleans, Haughery gave wagonloads of bread and flour, fresh from her bakery.

When General Butler occupied New Orleans and set up martial law in 1862, he set up barriers and curfews. No one was to pass these barriers or be outside past the curfew. Margaret distributed food and milk to the needy outside those lines, and continued to do so. The Confederate prisoners were the special objects of her solicitude. General P.G.T. Beauregard nicknamed General Butler as “Beast Butler,” due to his threats against the Southern ladies of New Orleans.

General Butler ordered her to appear before him. Margaret negotiated with the general for permission to cross the lines with aid and to get flour to her bakery. He admonished her to stay behind the lines and that she would be shot or hung if she crossed them again. She asked the general if it was President Abraham Lincoln’s will to starve the poor? General Butler replied, “You are not to go through the picket lines without my permission, is that clear?” “Quite clear,” answered Margaret. To which Butler responded, “You have my permission.”

During and after the Civil War her bakery flourished, as did her charitable work.

During Reconstruction, she supported the Union efforts to keep peace in Louisiana as evidenced from the ceremonial sword she donated to U.S. General C. Colon Augur, and which is part of the Louisiana State Museum’s collection.

Life in New Orleans

After the Civil War, during the Reconstruction Period she earned enough to build the big steam factory for her bread. By this time everybody in the city knew her. The children all over the city loved her; the businessmen were proud of her; the poor people all came to her for advice. She used to sit at the open door of her office, in a calico gown and little shawl, and give a good word to everybody, rich or poor. Fashion-gowned women, bankers, tradesmen and merchants sought Margaret’s counsel.

Seated in the doorway of the bakery in the heart of the city, she became an integral part of its life, for besides the poor who came to her continually, she was consulted by the people of all ranks about their business affairs, her wisdom having become proverbial. “Our Margaret” the people of New Orleans called her. The locals said she was masculine in energy and courage but gifted with the gentlest and kindest manners.

When Irish-born Margaret first disembarked into Antebellum New Orleans during the cotton-boom era of commerce, she along with other waves of new Irish immigrants sought work and opportunity in Louisiana. The city of contrasts was dubbed the city of fever and fortune, a port of pestilence and prosperity. Moving away from wharf work, Irish immigrant male laborers took jobs that slaves were judged too valuable to do, such as canal ditch-diggers, levee-builders and rail-hands laying tracks through swampland. During construction of the city’s New Basin Canal (shipping canal), the Irish accepted the hazardous and backbreaking work for a $1 a day wages. Although no official death-toll records were kept, an estimated 20,000 (+/-) workers perished during the project, most buried on the spot. Many widows and orphans were left. Poor and living in slums, the Irish were particularly susceptible to a series of epidemics that periodically swept the city. The Great Famine of Ireland peaked and those fleeing Ireland found cheap passage to port-city New Orleans. Irish immigrants were drawn to Louisiana’s Catholic traditions, first established when France and Spain ruled the territory, prior to the Louisiana Purchase. By 1860, 14 percent of New Orleans’ population was Irish. The city was home to the third largest Irish population in the country. Irish women were a unique female immigrant group, vulnerable to ethnic and cultural stereotyping, as single women often traveled and lived together in groups, atypical to the pre-existing framework for Southern ladies.

During Margaret’s perilous and yet fruitful lifetime spent in New Orleans, mosquito-borne yellow fever epidemics remained a constant threat; during one three-year period alone, in 1853-55 the viral illness claimed 13,000. Margaret also braved and survived the 1856 Last Island Hurricane and the 1849 Mississippi River levee breach upriver from the city, the worst flooding the city had ever seen. The Sauvè’s Crevasse flood left 12,000 homeless.

Orphanages built

Some of the New Orleans orphanages Margaret the “Mother of Orphans” built were St. Elizabeth Orphan Asylum on Napoleon Ave., the Louise Home on Clio Street for girls, St. Vincent Infant Asylum (at Race and Magazine Streets), and an asylum and church on Erato Street that became St. Teresa of Avila Church. She donated to the Protestant Episcopal Home as well and gave to Jewish charities in New Orleans. In her will she gave to the Seventh Street Protestant Orphan Asylum, the German Protestant Orphan Asylum, the German Orphan Catholic Asylum, the Widows and Orphans of Jews Asylum, and to the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, and many others.

The Sisters of Charity withdrew from Poydras Street at the end of 1836 and moved to a new location in New Levèe Street, to what was considered a haunted house. It was vacant for many years and in a very poor state of repair. According to records, this was the first Catholic orphan asylum in New Orleans. It was Margaret’s intention just to help the sisters get established. However it was here that she found her true calling. She showed great energy and business acumen and was made manager of the institution. She confounded everybody by proving this location habitable, none more so than the landlord who promptly put the building up for sale. So, within two years, they were again seeking a home.

Margaret knew of a house on a deserted plantation not far away and managed to persuade the owner to give it rent-free. She succeeded in fulfilling her ambition to get the children out of the city and into the Louisiana countryside. They were taught to read and write, but also to sew; they were given general preparation for entering the outside world. It was Margaret’s great ambition to provide a permanent home for the orphans and in 1840 work on the St. Theresa’s Asylum on Camp Street commenced. The site was donated by F. Saulet. Largely Margaret herself funded the project, but with help from a few others who gave donations as a result of her persuasion. Nevertheless it took ten years to clear the debt and Margaret still supported the orphan asylum at the plantation at this time.

Around the mid-1800s, yellow fever was again rampant. The yellow scourge swept New Orleans. The epidemic of 1853 rendered thousands of children homeless. Margaret visited the homes of the sick Protestants, Catholics and Jews, negroes and whites alike, the Louisiana Creole people, New Orleanian “Americans” and immigrants. Such were the numbers of orphans she encountered that she embarked on a new project in the form of (as she called it) a baby house. All her profits were channeled into this new endeavor, which soon took form in the shape of the imposing St. Vincent Infant Asylum at Race and Magazine streets, which opened in 1862. It took 16 years to clear the debt, a burden shouldered mainly by Margaret.

Other homes opened in the 1850s and 1860s included the Louise Home for working girls at 1404 Clio Street and the St. Elizabeth House of Industry at 1314 Napoleon Street. During the yellow fever epidemics in New Orleans, she visited the homes of the sick and dying, without regard to race or creed or religion, aiding the victims and consoling the dying mothers with the pledge to care for their children.

It is estimated that the amount Margaret gave to charity in one form or another was in the region of $600,000.


Despite the vast sums at her disposal, philanthropist, businesswoman and social worker Margaret spent little on herself, and was reputed never to own more than two dresses — a plain one for everyday use, while on special occasions she wore a plain silk dress and mantle. At all times she wore a Quaker bonnet, which became something of a trademark.

Renewed interest in Margaret

An Ireland-based Group called the “Margaret of New Orleans Tully Committee” is reconstructing Margaret’s Irish birthplace cottage, using original stone. The group is dedicated to raising awareness about Margaret and her life’s work. A full-length documentary film about Irish-born American heroine Margaret has been made by Meredythe Dee Winter, “Who is Margaret Haughery? And why don’t you know who she is?”

In 2009 the Leitrim Youth Theatre Company, Carrigallen, Ireland, mounted the first known live-theatre production of Margaret’s life story. The stage performance “Our Story of Margaret of New Orleans,” written by Maura Williamson, featured original music and songs.

The Ogden Museum of Southern Art obtained a Jacques Amans original portrait of Margaret.


Of the three older Gaffney family children left behind in Ireland (Thomas, Mary and Annie) when young Margaret and her parents, along with an infant and one brother, in 1819 set sail for America; for the rest of Margaret’s life of tragedy and triumph — of service and charity to others, orphans and widows in particular — she only reunited with her remaining foreign-soil siblings once, when elder brother Thomas visited her in New Orleans in 1857.

Although first entombed at St. Louis Cemetery No. 2 with Sister Regis, the Sisters of Charity communal tomb was later moved to a circa 1971 mausoleum vault at St. Louis Cemetery No. 3, located on Esplanade Avenue in New Orleans. Margaret along with her dear friend Sister Regis, and each Sister of Charity who died prior to 1914, are listed on two plaques; Margaret’s St. Louis Mausoleum final resting place is an unmarked Vault numbered 18A, located on Mary Magdalene Corridor. New Orleans, Louisiana Archbishop Perchè in his 1882 eulogy to Margaret said, “I have already been asked whether Margaret Haughery, who lived and labored so long and well amongst us, was a saint. It is not for me to make a pronouncement. But, if you put this same question to yourselves, dear brethren, you may find an answer similar to that which a little boy once made when a sister in our Sunday school enquired that somebody define a saint. ‘I think,’ said the child, remembering the human figures in stained glass windows, ‘that a saint is one who lets the light shine through.'”


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Fr. Kenneth Allen