Sep 4, 2017
Margaret McCarty has died – Peggy to many people, Mary for many others, and Ms. Peggy or MamaDear to still others. She was first of all a mother, who bore and raised nine children while living in poverty, with all of the problems, heartaches, difficulties and struggles that means. To raise her children meant, as she once put it: “I have a job to do.”
But she had many other jobs in her lifetime: working in the fields, loading at the docks, clerking at a Baltimore drug store, janitorial work at a hospital, then working at and finally running a Child Care center. At the same time, she was one of the organizers of Baltimore’s first welfare rights organization, “Mother Rescuers from Poverty,” intent on giving women like her and their children their rights and self-respect. She explained, “Welfare robs a person of his dignity and his rights. When you apply, automatically everything you say is assumed to be a lie. By the time you get on welfare, you just don’t think much of yourself. And once you get on the rolls there are policies to keep you feeling that way.” Peggy was someone who always refused to “feel that way” about herself.
In 1967, Peggy was one of the organizers of a “Mothers March” in Annapolis, whose aim was to oppose amendments to the welfare legislation that were little more than veiled attempts to prevent people from having what should have been theirs by right. Speaking at the rally, Peggy indicted the “lousy, dirty, conniving brutes who want to take us back to slavery,” and added, “I’m black and I’m beautiful and they ain’t going to take me back.”
She was also an activist who was important for the development of Spark in Baltimore. As the result of her work in Rescuers, she was close to people at the origin of Spark, and with them, in the 1970s, she began to carry out a work toward different workplaces. Most important of these were the coke ovens at Bethlehem Steel, where she won respect and affections of the workers she talked to every week, as she distributed the Spark newsletter or sold the paper. She brought many people from among her family and friends to Spark events.
As everyone who knew her can attest, Peggy was musical, with a deep throaty voice. She loved the songs of the Civil Rights movement: “We Are Soldiers in the Army,” and “This Little Light of Mine,” and “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around,” among so many others.
In her later years, Peggy became active in a Baltimore ministry that worked with addicts attempting to break free of that enslavement, and she went into the jails and prisons to address those whom she called, “the lost and hurting.”
For all of the many people who respected her and looked to her, Margaret McCarty was their rock. And we, like so many others, miss her.