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.

(page 6 of 8)

If Maggie harbored any misconceptions about the formidable political roots of the family she’d married into, she must have been set straight quickly. At the time of her marriage, her husband’s father was in the 17th year of what would be his 21-year run of six consecutive terms. Rich’s mother stayed almost entirely out of the spotlight (one of the few exceptions was when she spoke up to save the old downtown library building—today’s Cultural Center—where Maggie now has a desk). Rich and his three brothers were all politically oriented. The same year that Maggie and Rich were married, Rich was elected to the state senate. And Maggie was a visible part of the clan. A friend says Maggie told her that when they started dating, Jane Byrne—at the time, head of the Department of Consumer Sales, Weights, and Measures under the original Mayor Daley—used to criticize her to Rich’s father because Byrne thought that Maggie’s skirts were too short. The friend says that Maggie did a great imitation of Byrne.

When asked to confirm or deny this report, Byrne says, “Either you don’t know Chicago politics or you are coming from the moon. Family pride in the Daley family was such that no one would say anything critical about a family member to Mayor Daley. It just wouldn’t have happened.”

The newlyweds moved into an apartment in Bridgeport close to the house on South Lowe Avenue where Rich Daley had grown up, the same house where his parents were living (and where Sis Daley still lives today). They attended Nativity of Our Lord, the parish church a few blocks from their apartment, again the same church Rich had grown up in. They began having their family.

Around 1976, Maggie and Rich and their children moved into the Emerald Street house that was their home until last December. “The Emerald house used to be all apartments.” a neighbor says. “It was the typical two- or three-flat.” The Daleys owned it as a one-family house, and it was a bigger and nicer home than most others in Bridgeport. The mayor’s brother Bill recently told a reporter for The New Yorker that Rich had borrowed $200,000 on the house to finance his 1980 campaign for Cook County state’s attorney. When Maggie found out, Bill Daley said, “I thought she was going to kill me.”

Friends say the Daley’s summer home in Grand Beach is Maggie’s haven and she spends as much time as possible there, out of the public eye.

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Bridgeport, one of Chicago’s oldest neighborhoods, was settled in the 1830s by Irish laborers who came to help construct the Illinois-Michigan Canal. The main industry was slaughtering. Over time the Irish were joined by other groups—eastern Europeans and Germans— who came to work in the stockyards and the packing plants. From early on, Bridgeport had a powerful sense of community, later bolstered by the local Democratic Machine and the strong presence of organized labor. Bridgeporters are famous for sticking together and equally known to be suspicious of strangers. Family is the most important connection and the community is very stable.

“Families don’t leave,” says one Bridgeport native. “It’s like its own little town. So instead of buying new homes, everybody’s remodeling. And John Daley, Rich’s brother, has an open lot and is building a house a block away.”

 

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