New Canal Lighthouse, Flickr, Creative Commons, photo by hatchski


What kind of a Mother’s Day gift do you give to a woman who took care of hundreds of people while tending a lighthouse at the same time?

Margaret Norvell, who served as a lighthouse keeper at three different lighthouses in Louisiana, was a “mother” to many for 41 years. With two small children, Margaret took over her husband’s duties as keeper at the Head of Passes Light Station after his death in 1891. In 1896, she was appointed keeper for the Port Ponchartrain Light Station and also tended the New Canal Light.

Port Ponchartrain Light Station

Port Ponchartrain Light Station, photo courtesy USCG


In addition to keeping the light functioning and the fog bell ringing during all kinds of weather, Margaret personally rescued many. Crews of overturned schooners and yachts, passengers of a ferry that caught on fire, and even a pilot whose plane crashed into the lake during a squall were saved by her heroic efforts.


Her caregiving extended beyond the duties of a lighthouse keeper. In 1903, a devastating hurricane hit the area, its wind and rain destroying every building in the community except the lighthouse. Margaret provided shelter for over 200 people left homeless by the storm, and even started a relief fund to help them get back on their feet.

So how do you honor such a devoted woman who gave to so many others?

In June, 2013, the U.S. Coast Guard, who now oversees lighthouses, recognized Margaret by naming a Fast Response Cutter after her, the first of its class to be named for a woman. The Margaret Norvell was commissioned in New Orleans where Margaret served, and I had the honor of being invited to the ceremony. Although Margaret passed away in 1934, many of her descendants were on hand to celebrate Margaret’s distinction and pay tribute to her memory.

Margaret would nave been amazed. And so pleased.


“Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” Proverbs 31:29


USCG Cutter Margaret Norvell, photo courtesy USCG

USCG Cutter Margaret Norvell, photo courtesy USCG