The press conference will be held in front of an 1884 monument dedicated to philanthropist Margaret Haughery. This monument is the second oldest monument dedicated to a woman in the United States. Upon arriving in this country from Ireland, Margaret survived the deaths of both her husband and son. In several years, she built up a strong dairy and bakery business and began taking care of orphans. In death, she bequeathed her entire estate for the care of all orphans in the city of New Orleans.
The monument was designed by renowned sculptor Alexander Doyle, one of the most prominent artists of the late 19th century. New Orleans has several monuments designed by Doyle, including the Robert E. Lee Monument, P.G.T. Beauregard Monument, the Fireman's Association Monument in Greenwood cemetery, and others. Donations for the Margaret Haughery monument were raised within a year from the penny contributions of the orphans of New Orleans.
After many years of neglect, the monument was filthy with several broken pieces. MTC volunteers spent two years raising funds for the restoration, which was accomplished under the guidance of professional monument conservator Ivan Myjer of Boston, MA.
Based on their history of caring for monuments that have been neglected by the City of New Orleans, the MTC has the standing to speak on this issue, whereas Mayor Landrieu does not. Sadly, over the past few months, the Mayor has pushed vigorously for the removal of four confederate monuments. He did this in the aftermath of a terrible church shooting of nine African Americans by a deranged racist in Charleston, South Carolina. Unfortunately, the Mayor used the death of nine people to advocate a controversial agenda in New Orleans.
The monuments are of tremendous historical value. It is not clear what Mayor Landrieu wants to do with the monuments once he removes them, but polls show that the vast majority of Louisiana residents (68%) are opposed to his plan. In fact, only a minority of African Americans (46%) support the removal of the monuments.
The people of New Orleans, of all races, obviously recognize this battle as a diversion from the real problems of the city, such as the high violent crime rate, the rapidly declining NOPD, and the high black male unemployment rate (54%), to name only a few.
In contrast to the Mayor’s politicization of the issue, the MTC has a multi-part plan to deal with the monument controversy. Instead of destroying priceless parts of the history of New Orleans, the group calls for new monuments to be constructed and for interpretative plaques to be placed at the monuments in question. These plaques will reflect the city’s diversity, rich history and the important contributions of all New Orleans residents.
Let’s hope the City Council says no to Mayor Landrieu and saves these priceless treasures from the wrecking ball. For a city on the verge of celebrating a 300th anniversary, it is essential that all of our history be preserved.