American Catholic History
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became known as "the most interesting woman in New Orleans history," but if you're not from Louisiana, you might not have heard of her. Margaret was born in Ireland in 1813 and came to the US when she was five years. She married at 21 to her husband, Charles, and they had a daughter, but within two years, both had died in a yellow fever epidemic. But while she had thoughts of despair, she didn't lose her faith.
Margaret embarked on a life of service and hard work. While working as a hotel laundress, she also began helping at the
Sisters of Charity
orphanage and began to donate from her own meager earnings to support them, eventually giving nearly 2/3 of her income. Margaret was a shrewd businesswoman, too. When the orphanage's two milk cows—that she had purchased for the children—produced more than the children needed, she began selling the surplus. Eventually, she grew her herd from two to 40.
From there, she purchased a bakery on the verge of bankruptcy and that too became such a success that she became known throughout the city as the Bread Woman of New Orleans. And she attained this success without ever learning to read or write.
Over the course of her life she paid to build four orphanages, making sure all of them included programs to teach the kids to read and write and do simple skills like sewing—things that they would be able to use later in life. She also generously gave free bread to anyone in need or starving.
During the Civil War, when the city was occupied by the Union Army, Margaret ignored curfews and martial law, risking arrest to continue her efforts to feed the beggars, orphans, and others hit hard by the food shortages. When arrested and brought before the Union general, she asked him if it were President Lincoln's orders that the poor be starved to death, he relented and let her continue.
After the war, Margaret continued to flourish and her counsel and compassion was sought by all levels of society. She became known as the
Mother of Orphans and the Angel of the Delta
. She died at the age of 69 in 1882 and her funeral included 13 priests and the archbishop of New Orleans and was attended by every major figure in New Orleans society. Pope Pius IX even sent a blessing. She made such an impact that after her death, a statue of Margaret was erected, and she became the first woman to have a public monument built in her honor in the United States. It depicts Margaret seated in her chair, with an orphan leaning in for a hug, and one word engraved in the base: "Margaret." No further identification was necessary.
American Catholic History, hosted by
Crowe, finds the hidden gems and compelling stories of Catholic Americans who have contributed to their nation by virtue of their faith. SQPN, the Star Quest Production Network, is a Catholic non-profit organization that serves the Church through evangelization and authentic community. This is done through the creation of audio and video programs that explore the intersection of faith and modern culture.
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American Catholic History
For in him all the fullness
was pleased to dwell,
and through him to reconcile all things for him,
making peace by the blood of his cross.
Colossians 1: 19-20
on Wednesday, August 5 at 9:00AM