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Contents > Author > Sara Cone Bryant > Margaret of New Orleans 1873- Unknown
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Sara Cone Bryant
Margaret of New Orleans
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If you ever go to the beautiful city
of New Orleans, somebody will be sure
to take you down into the old business
part of the city, where there are banks
and shops and hotels, and show you a
statue which stands in a little square there.
It is the statue of a woman, sitting in a low
chair, with her arms around a child, who
leans against her. The woman is not at
all pretty: she wears thick, common shoes,
a plain dress, with a little shawl, and a
sun-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.

Now there is something very surprising
about this statue: it was the first one that
was ever made in this country in honor of a
woman. Even in old Europe there are not
many monuments to women, and most of
the few are to great queens or princesses,
very beautiful and very richly dressed.
You see, this statue in New Orleans is not
quite like anything else.

It is the statue of a woman named
Margaret. Her whole name was Margaret
Haughery, but no one in New Orleans
remembers her by it, any more than you
think of your dearest sister by her full
name; she is just Margaret. This is her
story, and it tells why people made a
monument for her.

When Margaret was a tiny baby, her
father and mother died, and she was
adopted by two young people as poor and
as kind as her own parents. She lived with
them until she grew up. Then she married,
and had a little baby of her own. But very
soon her husband died, and then the baby
died, too, and Margaret was all alone in
the world. She was poor, but she was
strong, and knew how to work.

All day, from morning until evening,
she ironed clothes in a laundry. And every
day, as she worked by the window, she
saw the little motherless children from the
orphan asylum, near by, working and playing
about. After a while, there came a
great sickness upon the city, and so many
mothers and fathers died that there were
more orphans than the asylum could
possibly take care of. They needed a good
friend, now. You would hardly think,
would you, that a poor woman who worked
in a laundry could be much of a friend
to them? But Margaret was. She went
straight to the kind Sisters who had the
asylum and told them she was going to
give them part of her wages and was
going to work for them, besides. Pretty soon
she had worked so hard that she had some
money saved from her wages. With this,
she bought two cows and a little delivery
cart. Then she carried her milk to her
customers in the little cart every morning;
and as she went, she begged the left-over
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.

A part of the money Margaret earned
went every week to the asylum, and after a
few years that was made very much larger
and better. And Margaret was so careful
and so good at business that, in spite
of her giving, she bought more cows and
earned more money. With this, she built
a home for orphan babies; she called it
her baby house.

After a time, Margaret had a chance
to get a bakery, and then she became a
bread-woman instead of a milk-woman.
She carried the bread just as she had
carried the milk, in her cart. And still she
kept giving money to the asylum. Then
the great war came, our Civil War. In all
the trouble and sickness and fear of that
time, Margaret drove her cart of bread;
and somehow she had always enough to
give the starving soldiers, and for her
babies, besides what she sold. And
despite all this, she earned enough so that
when the war was over she built a big
steam factory for her bread. By this time
everybody in the city knew her. The children
all over the city loved her; the business
men 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 a little shawl, and give a good
word to everybody, rich or poor.

Then, by and by, one day, Margaret
died. And when it was time to read her
will, the people found that, with all her
giving, she had still saved a great deal of
money, and that she had left every cent
of it to the different orphan asylums of
the city,--each one of them was given
something. Whether they were for white
children or black, for Jews, Catholics, or
Protestants, made no difference; for
Margaret always said, "They are all orphans
alike." And just think, dears, that splendid,
wise will was signed with a cross
instead of a name, for Margaret had never
learned to read or write!

When the people of New Orleans knew
that Margaret was dead, they 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 they made a statue of her, just as
she used to look, sitting in her own office
door, or driving in her own little cart. And
there it stands to-day, in memory of the
great love and the great power of plain
Margaret Haughery, of New Orleans.

 

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