Anne O'Brien who runs the Beloved Margaret Haughery of New Orleans was kind enough to share some additional tidbits about Margaret and her life in New Orleans.
Though Margaret is best known for her work with Catholic charities, she gave bountifully to all those in need regardless of race, color or creed. Evidence of her generosity and the respect she engendered among all people is this post I did for the Margaret Page on the Jewish orphans (it is one of my favorites). I've also added more posts which may be of interest to you.
Note the last post which concerns St. Elizabeth's. Margaret paid off the debt to St. Elizabeth's and it was owned for many years by Vampire Author Anne Rice who featured the former orphanage in at least two of her books.
Sending Up The KADDISH For MARGARET--
Each year since her death in 1882, on the 12th day of Shevat, the children of the Jewish Orphans Home prayed the Kaddish in remembrance of Margaret. Bread from her bakery was sent to the asylum free of charge during her lifetime and, on her death, the Jewish Orphans Home was remembered in her Last Will and Testament. In operation since 1855 under the Hebrew Benevolent Society, the original Jewish Orphans Home was located on Chippewa Street. In 1887 the Orphanage moved to a new and larger building at 5342 St. Charles Ave.
In the early 1900's, a newspaper reporter learned of this annual remembrance and wrote that, from the time of Margaret's death "and as long perhaps as the Jewish Orphans Home remains in existence, the inmates will, on the twelfth day of Shevat send up the 'Kaddish' ( mourner's prayer) for Margaret." In 1946, the Jewish Orphans Home reorganized the child care services it provided and ceased operation of the orphanage. Long after Margaret passed from this earth, her immeasurable kindnesses and beneficence were remembered by the legion of lives she touched and most especially by generations of children from the Jewish Orphans Home. (I have a photo of the original asylum)
"There was no distinction in Margaret's favors. She gave to white or black, or any church, or none. 'Are you hungry?'-- that is all that was necessary. 'Here is bread, take it with God's blessing.' At the gate of every orphan asylum in the city, Margaret's bread-cart, with its smoking rolls, was seen daily; at every charitable institution whatsoever, she took the privilege of giving her bread freely; and Margaret's name headed the list for every charity."
-- From a first hand account of Margaret's life published in "The fireside teacher: devoted to home culture, Volume 3," published in 1889.
GOD HAS BEEN SO GOOD TO ME, I MUST BE GOOD TO ALL.
"In the inundations to which New Orleans is subject from the overflow of the Mississippi River, Margaret could be seen daily in a large boat, standing in the midst of great piles of bread, a colored man paddling her through the river-streets, as she dispensed her loaves to the half-starved families. She never asked what their race or creed. All alike shared her bounty. Her life-motto : "'God
has been so good to me, I must be good to all.'"
-- From: SUCCESSFUL WOMEN BY SARAH K BOLTON, 1888
"Her gifts were marked not only by generosity but by the humility with which she gave. Embarrassed by thanks and with a fear of publicity, she habitually cautioned her friends not to tell. Only at her death did the city learn the extent of her munificence. She made her last gifts through her will, stipulating large sums for 10 institutions including the German Protestant Asylum, Seventh Street Protestant Asylum, and the Widows and Orphans Jewish Asylum."-- Notable American Women, 1607-1950: A Biographical Dictionary, Volume 2. Page 154
The Daughters of Charity in New Orleans, led by Sister Regis Barrett, were pioneers and innovators in the burgeoning field of Social Work. Sister Regis met Margaret when the young widow was working as a laundress at the St. Charles Hotel. Guided by her mentor and friend, Margaret was to forge a direction in her life unheard of for a woman of her time. Of all the orphanages in New Orleans Margaret helped to build and support, St. Vincent's was closest to her heart. She often referred to it as her "Baby House." And rightly so. St. Vincent's Infant Orphan Asylum claimed an incredibly unique National distinction being, for a time in the 1850's, an orphanage exclusively for infants no older than two months. To think there was a grim necessity for such an orphanage overflowing with newborn babies is a testament to the recurring epidemics of that era that decimated families and the impoverished fate of women who could not support their infants.
“... AS WORTHY AND HONEST A WOMAN WHO EVER LIVED”
When Margaret sat for her portrait in late December 1850, she must have wondered how someone like her came to be the subject of a painting by French Artist Jacques Amans, the leading portraitist in New Orleans of that era. His elegant style of painting was well suited to the tastes of his wealthy patrons which included the wives and daughters of the New Orleans social elite and notable figures such as Andrew Jackson and Zachary Taylor.
By the time her portrait was painted, Margaret’s services had become invaluable to the orphans and Sisters of Charity. “She does most of the outdoor work,” wrote a newspaper reporter who visited Amans’ studio while he painted Margaret, “milking sixteen or eighteen cows, selling the milk, driving round the city on all kinds of errands, and performing most of the drudgery in the asylum besides.”
Industrious as she was, Margaret went about her duties “always cheerful, active and kind,” according to the reporter, and “beloved and respected by all who know her character and labors; as worthy and honest a woman as ever lived.”
Margaret's portrait was auctioned off by lottery to raise funds for the Camp Street Orphan Asylum run by the Sisters of Charity.
In the early days of Margaret's charitable service to the orphans, she traversed the city streets with a goat cart. Along the cobblestone ways, she collected the stale bread, useless leftovers, and old fruit from corner groceries and restaurants. Her bounty for the day was brought in the goat cart to what was then known as the Poydras Asylum to help stretch the meager food allotment for the toddlers and older children.
By the pennies and nickels she earned selling milk from her cart, Margaret funded St. Vincent's Orphan Asylum. She called it her "Baby House" because it was specially designed for only newborns and toddlers. A Mrs. Anna Green of Franklin Street awoke one morning in January 1863 to find a newborn girl wrapped in a plain white piece of muslin laying in her yard. The Mayor named her "Mary Orleans" and she, like countless other orphans, was sent to the good sisters at St. Vincent's.
The Orphanage cared for about 200 infants and young children at a time. It seemed to be always full.