Margaret Haughery 1813

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Margaret Haughery, who would later come to be  known as “The Angel of the Delta” and “The Mother of the Orphans” was born into poverty on Christmas Day 1813 in Tully, Co. Leitrim. 

At the age of five,  Margaret, along with two of her siblings and parents, William and Margaret Gaffney, boarded a steamer for Boston.  The three eldest siblings were left in the care of their uncle Matthew O’Rourke until such time as they could be sent for.  The family became acquainted with a Welsh woman with a surname of Richards on-board. Severe storms affected the ships progress and the journey ended up taking 6 months as the ship had been blown 400 miles off course.  Provisions became scarce and people were reduced to starvation.  They eventually disembarked in Baltimore where shortly after Margaret’s baby sister Kathleen died.

They settled in Baltimore where Margaret’s father found employment as a carter on the Baltimore docks and was able to send money to his brother-in-law for the upkeep of his three elder children who were in his care.  William was saving to send for them when, in 1822, a yellow fever epidemic struck claiming the lives of himself and his wife within days of  each other.  Soon after, Margaret’s older brother Kevin went missing and was never heard from again.  At the age of nine Margaret was now an orphan and homeless.  The Richards woman she had met on the boat heard of Margaret’s dilemma and took her in.  Margaret stayed there for some years and worked for her keep.  She did not receive any formal education and could not read or write. 

In 1835, Margaret married Irish-born Charles Haughery.  Charles was in poor health and to escape the cold climate they moved to New Orleans soon after marrying.  They had a daughter, Frances.  Charles’ health did not improve and he died.  A few months later Frances became gravely ill and also died.  Once again Margaret was alone in the world.

Margaret volunteered at the Poydras Orphan Asylum and also gave them some of her wages that she earned working ironing clothes.  She eventually left her job at the hotel to work full time with the orphans.  She was resourceful and effective at raising funds.  Several other facilities were opened and she was given a position in administration of the orphanages.  With her savings she bought two cows so she could provide milk for the orphans and bought a cart so she could sell the surplus.  Within two years she had a dairy herd of forty cows and a profitable business and indeed would be the owner of many businesses.  One of these was a bakery.  All the asylums were supplied bread by Margaret at such a low price that is was basically free and Margaret was now known as “The Bread Woman of New Orleans”.

Margaret contracted an incurable disease at the age of 69 and died on February 9, 1882.  Her death was printed on the front page of The Times-Picayune newspaper and she was granted a state funeral.  A large monument was dedicated to her memory two years later.

Additional Information
Date of Birth 25th Dec 1813  
Date of Death 9th Feb 1882  
Associated Building (s) Statue of Margaret Haughery (The Angel of the Delta)  

Comments

  • Wow - that is an amazing story.  She must have been an incredibly strong woman.

    Novagirl

    Thursday 22nd March 2018, 03:15PM
  • A wonderful humanitarian who selflessly helped many.  

    fivekhigh@gmail.com

    Monday 23rd March 2020, 12:13AM

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