Margaret Gaffney Haughery
Margaret Gaffney Haughery (1813-1882) was born in Ireland and came with her parents to Baltimore in 1818. When she was nine, Margaret's parents died of yellow fever; she was taken in by neighbors. After work as a domestic, Margaret married Charles Haughery and moved to New Orleans. A year later, Charles and their infant died.
Margaret, who had received no formal education, took a job as a laundress at an orphanage. She used her own earnings to provide food for the children and was soon involved in all aspects of the orphanage. Under her leadership the financial condition of the orphanage improved. She established a prosperous dairy and later, a bakery, continuing her hands-on approach. Margaret delivered milk and bakery goods herself to paying customers and street children. As Margaret's earnings grew she invested the money back into the orphanage and in 1840 another orphanage was built. During the Civil War she continued to take food to the needy even when it called for standing up to Union soldiers.
When she died on February 9, 1882 Margaret left a half-million dollars to charity. A statue of "the mother of orphans" can be found today in New Orleans' Margaret Place.
Image is portrait of Margaret with Two Orphans. Painting by Jacques Amans, New Orleans, c. 1842.