MARGARET OF NEW ORLEANS





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 America in honour of a woman. Even in

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 pieces of food left

over 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 poor 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. 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, the 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, beside 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 penny 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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