First Female Funeral Director in PA (McGonigle)

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By Betty Hoover DiRisio (LCHS Board Member & Volunteer)

Elizabeth May Mangan, daughter of Daniel and Elizabeth Mangan of Allegheny was born in August 1876. She worked as a confidential secretary for her uncle who was a senior member of the firm Kelly & Jones, wholesale steamfitters in Pittsburgh.

John A. McGonigle, born June 1871 was reared and educated in Braddock. In 1898 after completing a course in the “Pittsburg Embalming School”, John came to New Castle. He first opened his Funeral Director and Embalming Services at 8-10 N. Mill (East corner of Washington St.), before moving to N. Jefferson St. (between Falls & North).

In August 1905 Elizabeth and John married. About that time, John suffered an attack of typhoid fever. In November 1906 they moved the business a few doors down N. Jefferson to the corner of W. North Street. The founder of the McGonigle Funeral Home, died of heart problems on February 18, 1907 at the age of 36.

photo of Elizabeth May Mangan
Birth name: Elizabeth May Mangan
Mrs. John A. McGonigle

In an effort to carry on their Livery Stable and Funeral Home business, (the largest in New Castle), his pregnant-widow “Bessie” secured an embalming diploma that was granted on June 1, 1907. It is believed to be the first such license granted to a woman in the State of Pennsylvania.

By 1933 the business had relocated to 133 N. Beaver. For 30 years Bessie served as the funeral director. She died April 12, 1936. She was a member of St. Mary’s Church.

Elizabeth “Bessie” McGonigle (aka Mrs. John A. McGonigle)

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