November 30, 2011
The city of Chicago is mourning the passing of former first lady Maggie Daley, a true Why Not Girl! Daley died last Thursday after a nine-year battle with breast cancer. She may be remembered by some as being the wife to former Mayor Richard Daley, who served as the city’s top executive for 22 years. However for anyone who knows anything about the Daleys, they know that she was more than just the woman behind the man.
Maggie Daley played a key role in the beautification and environmental preservation efforts of Chicago. She was a key player in the development of the city’s Riverwalk along the Chicago River as well as the installation of the flower beds that line Michigan Avenue. In fact, each spring the city plants tulips named in honor of Daley, Tulipa Maggie Daley. According to her husband, Daley was crucial in transforming the city so that it can live up to its motto, “urbs in horto,” or city in a garden. In addition she transformed the city’s old library into the Chicago Cultural Center, a must-see for any architecture aficionado visiting the Windy City. With its grand staircase and two stained glass domes, the Center can truly take one’s breath away.
Restoring the brilliance of Chicago’s arts and culture was a key mission for Daley’s life and founding the After School Matters program will be what she is remembered for most. In 1991, Daley started a simple after school arts program that served 260 students. The program began as an arts-related jobs-training program for city teenagers. Now it serves 20,000 kids, exposing them in everything from theater, art, technology and architecture.
Maggie Daley showed us that although her husband held the title, the work that she accomplished was very much her own. She has transformed the city into a place that is beautiful, clean and, in my opinion, probably envied by other major cities. One may not have agreed with her husband’s politics, but for anyone who has lived in or visited Chicago, you can agree that the city of Chicago that you experience today would not be what it is if it wasn’t for Maggie Daley.