THE ICON: Baroness Pontalba
THE LEGACY: Michaela de Almonaster y Roxas, better known as Baroness Pontalba, was born a wealthy woman but by no means a weak one. Headstrong and forceful, she once survived being shot point-blank in the chest by her father-in-law. She also, through force of will, pushed through a plan to rejuvenate the Place D’Armes — later renamed Jackson Square, at her urging — by replacing the old apartments and elms flanking the square with the stately edifices that today bear her name. Many were opposed to the plan; the elms were beloved local landmarks. “But,” wrote The Daily Picayune, “it was great folly to oppose M’me Pontalba in any of her projects. She carried her object.” She also enhanced the square that would become one of the city’s most identifiable landmarks — and cemented her legacy as one of the most extraordinary women in New Orleans history.
THE ARTIST: D. Lammie Hanson
THE INSPIRATION: “She was a terror to the lawyers, whose bills she always disputed. She had no fears of lawsuits, and always exacted what she considered her legal rights, and resisted most sturdily any demand she regarded unreasonable.” — The Daily Picayune, on Baroness Pontalba on May 17, 1874