Find of the Week: Margaret Haughery’s Brooch

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NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA-- WGNO's News With a Twist has teamed up with the Historic New Orleans Collection to bring you Find of the Week; where we present an artifact out New Orleans' past.  As we settle into the start of a new year, perhaps you have the resolution of being a better person who gives back to their community.

Today's Find of the Week, is the perfect opportunity to tell you about one woman known as the "mother of the orphans."

Amanda McFillen, the Associate Director of Museum Programs for the Historic New Orleans Collection says there are many great human beings to be admired from history.  One of them was named Margaret Haughery.  The HNOC recently acquired a brooch of hers.

"Today I have a broach of a well known figure in New Orleans. You have a photograph on one side and if you flip it over, you actually have a lock of her hair that's been woven into a hair art called a memento moire. This object was meant to commemorate her after her death," says McFillen.

The story of Margaret Haughery goes as follows:

Once upon a time, a little girl immigrates with her family from Ireland to Baltimore.

She grows up without much money or formal education, but was rich in love.  As time passes she matures and over the years, she marries and has a child of her own and moves down south to New Orleans.

Tragedy strikes within a few short years and she looses her husband and child to the epidemics that plagued many families back then, yellow fever and cholera.

Margaret decides then to devote her life to service by supporting the Sister's of Charity, an organization that runs orphanages throughout the city.

McFillen says Margaret was both a strong and courageous woman, saying, "She lived a pretty incredible life. She was able to work her way up from being a laundress to buying a couple of dairy cows. Within two years, she went from two cows to forty. Then she acquired a bakery. The bakery was on the verge of bankruptcy and she turned that business around and it grow to becoming one of the largest bakeries in the country."

All while Margaret is working her various jobs and climbing to the top, she remembers her devotion to charity.  She gives her extra wages to the Sisters of Charity that helps to fund the building of orphanages around the city.  Additionally, she opens up her bakery to service as well, giving free bread to the hungry.

The simple broach at the HNOC was fashioned around the time of Margaret's death in 1882.  When Margaret died, much of her estate was dissolved into charity as well, being that she had no heirs.  Besides her great wealth, she left a legacy to do good.

"When she dies, governors, city mayors attend her funeral; they serve as pallbearers. The archbishop is at her funeral. People raise money to build a monument to her and it has the distinction of being the first statue in the united states on public land that is dedicate to a woman," says McFillen.

Make sure you tune in every Friday to see what we find out of the Historic New Orleans Collection.



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