Chicago’s First Lady: Maggie Daley on the Move

FROM OUR APRIL 1994 ISSUE: With good works and a deft political touch, Maggie has quietly carved a special role for herself. Now, the departure from Bridgeport has put her in the spotlight, and she doesn’t like being there.

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“The project is a testament to a notion that Maggie Daley had in her mind that she pursued from a wouldn’t-it-be-wonderful stage to reality,” says Avis LaVelle. “It’s now in its fourth year and it’s bigger and better and more wonderful than anybody except Maggie Daley had imagined.”

Maggie is also a director of the Pathways Awareness Foundation, a national advocacy group for children with physical disabilities, and sits on a medical round table for the organization. It is an offshoot of the Pathways Center for Children in Glenview, where some 200 children go twice weekly for physical and occupational therapy. The foundation has created a widely distributed brochure and video called Is My Baby Okay?, which helps parents determine if their child is developing correctly. “We are very much pro-inclusion, which is the model nationally advocating that children be integrated into regular classrooms,” says Shirley Ryan, the founder of the organization.

Both Daleys have taken an intense interest in the medical problems of children. Mayor Daley has donated the proceeds from his two inaugural balls to the three children’s hospitals in town—Children’s Memorial, Wyler, and La Rabida—says Susan Phillips, a spokeswoman for Wyler. “They do it kind of fair and square. Three kids’ hospitals and every one uses the money in the way they see fit.” Wyler used the money to create a pediatric heart center, Children’s Memorial endowed a horticultural program, and La Rabida made part of their playground an area called Kevin’s Walk, named for the Daleys’ third child. “One of the things about having a child that died is that you are sort of inexorably connected to kids’ hospitals,” says Phillips. “They’re very loyal to us, one of the first people to sign up to come at Christmas. They bring toys, they read stories. They don’t just stop by for a photo opportunity. It‘s from the heart.”

For Maggie Daley, the roster of charities is a long one. She also serves as chairwoman of Blue Skies for Kids, an effort to create innovative programs for children and parents at branch libraries around the city. She is on the advisory board of Old St. Patrick’s School, which she was instrumental in setting up. And she i on the auxiliary hoard of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Surprisingly, given her concern for privacy, Maggie Daley did campaign a bit for her husband during the past two elections, though Daley’s insists her efforts were kept to a minimum. “Daley has never run a Kennedyesque campaign, like, ‘Vote for me; I have an adoring wife.’ Or ‘Vote for me; I have cute children,’” says a reporter who has followed Daley’s career but who asked not to be identified. “In fact, because of his own problems with getting out from under his father’s shadow, he’s taken the opposite stance, like, ‘Vote for me, not because of my family connections, not because of whose son I am, but because I can be a good mayor.’”

In the early days, however, Daley did trot his family out on occasion, and Maggie even did television commercials for her husband. (During the 1989 mayoral campaign, she also agreed to talk to a Wall Street Journal reporter who was profiling her husband, and she actually answered few questions about her private life.) “She helped put Rich in orbit and now he has to stay in orbit on his own,” says Phil Krone, a veteran political consultant.

LaVelle and others say that Maggie largely stays out of policy matters, but she doesn’t hesitate to speak to him on issues that concern her, usually involving children or the arts. “If she does any advising to Richie, I think it’s quietly at night,” says one woman who knows them well. “But whenever she does do events, people in the know talk to her as if she were making a decision. And she keeps a very nice smile on her face, but her ears are open.”

 

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