Maggie Daley, former Mayor's wife, is dead
She married into one of the most powerfiul political families in America. But Maggie Daley never let the pressures of politics deter her from pushing the issues she was interested in, nor shielding her children from the glare of the spotlight.
Nearly universally admired and beloved in Chicago, Maggie Daley died on Thanksgiving evening in her home surrounded by her family:
Once her children were in school, Mrs. Daley began to play an increasingly active role in the civic and cultural life of the city, serving on the auxiliary board of the Art Institute and the women's board of the Chicago Rehabilitation Institute.
She was occasionally on the campaign trail with her husband. Interviewed by reporters at a local deli during Richard's successful run for mayor in 1989, Mrs. Daley playfully asked reporters, "Do I have corned beef in my teeth?"
With her husband in City Hall, many organizations and individuals began seeking Mrs. Daley's help with civic projects. One of the first she eagerly became involved was the city's Cultural Center, the former main branch of the Chicago Public Library on Michigan Avenue.
Richard J. Daley had planned to tear down the 1897 architectural gem, but his wife saved it from the wrecker's ball with an unusual, for her, public statement about how she favored "restoring and keeping all the beautiful buildings in Chicago."
As First Lady, Maggie Daley volunteered to raise funds for the continuing renovation of the old library building. It was the beginning of what would become a close friendship between Mrs. Daley and Lois Weisberg, the commissioner of cultural affairs for almost all of Richard M. Daley's tenure as mayor.
In 1991, Mrs. Daley and Weisberg teamed up to launch Gallery 37, a program to promote arts training and jobs for Chicago youth. That evolved into After School Matters, a private program to provide teens with educational and career-oriented activities in such areas as sports and technology.
You cannot understand Maggie Daley - or Richard for that matter - without understanding the South Side Irish in Chicago and the world that they created; separate, clannish, a fierce set of loyalties that defined the Chicago machine for more than half a century.
Maggie married into this insular society and, as John Kass writes, thrived in it:
I'm certain there are those who'd say with good cause that I have no place here, because I've been a hard critic of the Daley men, of the way they've played with public lives and public money. But that was business. This is about family.
And family is one reason Chicago forgives the Daley men of their sins. Their politics and their reach inspired fear, yes. But folks couldn't help but admire and envy a tribe as tight as a fist, and their love of their children, and of their mom and dad. They were close decades ago, and they remain so today.
But though histories are written of powerful men, it is always the women who keep things close. In a family of sons, it is the daughters-in-law who bind things together.
Daughters-in-law understand this even if the rest of us don't. They're the ones who direct the children. They're the ones who make the arrangements. If the daughters-in-law aren't committed to common purpose, then it doesn't work.
Without them, there is no gathering and, eventually, no clan. And in Chicago among the Daleys it couldn't have been so for the past 40 years without the first daughter-in-law.
Maggie Daley was 68 and suffering from cancer for years before she finally succumbed.