Art in New Orleans

Alexander Doyle - Margaret Haughery

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--- The 1970's ---
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Alexander Doyle - Margaret Haughery
Alexander Doyle -- Robert E. Lee
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Sculptor: Alexander Doyle (see also Margaret Haughery)
In Margaret Place (a small park) on Camp Street at Prytania Street near the Crescent City Connection bridge.
First statue of dedicated to a woman (in the United States).
Margaret Haughery made a fortune in the baking business.  She was sometimes called "The Bread Woman of New Orleans.
She became a philanthropist (donor of much wealth) often working with the Sisters of Charity (a religious order of nuns).  She helped establish St. Theresa's Asylum, St. Elizabeth's Asylum, and St. Vincent's Infants Asylum..

This statue of Margaret Gaffney Haughery is the first statue of a woman erected in the United States. But Margaret wasn't born in New Orleans. She came to America in 1813 at age 5, the daughter of an Irish tenant farmer, but was orphaned when her parents died in a yellow fever epidemic.

At age 22, Margaret and her husband came to New Orleans. Soon afterward, both Charles and their baby daughter died, and Margaret was left alone and penniless. But Margaret was resourceful and found work as a laundress and a helper in the Poydras Orphan Asylum. It was here she began her life of devotion to the poor and unfortunate.

Although illiterate, Margaret had great business sense and was able, over time, to develop a thriving dairy and bakery and used the profits to build and support most of the orphanages in the city. She was particularly helpful to the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul.

During the Civil War, Margaret became a heroine when she defied Union Gen. Benjamin Butler by crossing Federal picket lines to deliver bread to hungry children.

When she died in 1882, she left an estate of more than $30,000, all to charity. The mayor of New Orleans led the funeral procession and two Louisiana governors were pallbearers. In 1884, the marble statue by Alexander Doyle was erected by the city in her honor. "


For years, New Orleanians have believed the statue of Margaret Haughery on the edge of the Lower Garden District was the first statue of a woman ever erected in the United States.

But that’s not true. Lydia Schmalz, former president of the district’s Coliseum Square Association, is among those who have researched the claim.

“We found out that she’s the second,” she says. “The first one was in honor of a woman in Massachusetts [Hannah Dustin, whose monument is in the town of Haverhill], who saved a bunch of people from some Indians.”

But our Margaret is still a local favorite. Her full name was Margaret Gaffney Haughery. As a child, she emigrated from Ireland to Baltimore, where she lost both parents to a fever epidemic. After she married, she moved to New Orleans, but both her young husband and infant daughter, Frances, died.

Haughery was illiterate but had uncanny business skills. She opened a bakery and a dairy and became wealthy. She spent her money on the orphans of the city – of which there were many during that period of yellow fever – supporting seven orphanages. She was known locally as “the bread lady,” and when she died in 1882 at age 69, people donated money to build a park in her honor. It was designed in the Victorian style, with urns and ferns and a fountain and a little bridge leading to a marble statue of Haughery, depicted as a sturdy woman who wore a shawl and screwed her hair in a bun, with her arm around a cherubic youngster. Alexander Doyle, who created the statue of Robert E. Lee in Lee Circle, was the sculptor.

In 1956, the Mississippi River Bridge Authority built an entrance ramp that effectively hid Haughery’s statue from sight. The Coliseum Square Association lobbied for years to have the ramp removed. It finally came down in 1994, and the neighbors promptly set to work renovating and relandscaping Haughery’s park. The fountain is gone, but urns rest on stone pedestals on either side of a slate-and-brick entrance pathway.

The statue itself is still charming, though in need of repair. It has been damaged by pollution and acid rain, Schmalz explains. It is partially blackened by carbon deposits, and the marble is “sugaring,” or crumbling into powder. Haughery is already missing a finger, and the tot cuddled next to her is without a nose.

The Coliseum Square Association hopes to raise money for a canopy to protect Haughery from further damage and eventually to repair the existing damage. That might cost $40,000. But the members believe Haughery is worth it. Even if she is No. 2.


Margaret of New Orleans (from Stories to Tell to Children by Sara Cone Bryant) at


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Much information on this site courtesy of the New Orleans Museum of Art.