"A San Francisco Portrait" is now being rewritten with stories to highlight and contrast the traditional roles of women and the actual lives of the women in four generations of this family. MORE TO COME . . .

At the age of 14, Mary Rafferty, my great grandmother, an Irish Catholic from County Galway, Ireland, sailed aboard a three-masted wooden cargo ship from Liverpool, England, around Cape Horn to San Francisco in 1864. Mary had been contracted into seven years of indentured servitude. After serving her years with a family in the exclusive South Park district of San Francisco, Mary Rafferty married Michael Costello, an Irishman 15 years her senior. Mary and Michael Costello had four children: Mary Bessie "Mame", Margaret Ann "Marga", Catherine Frances "Kitty", my grandmother, and William Patrick.

When Michael died in 1881, his younger brother, John Frederick Costello, came from Boston to manage the family affairs and assist Mary and her children. A year later, Mary Rafferty Costello married John Costello and began a "second" family. In 1900, Mary's youngest daughter, Kitty, met a dapper Jewish Prussian on the Powell Street cable car on her commute to work. When Kitty married Barney Hirschberg in 1902, Mary would have nothing to do with them. In the aftermath of the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, the Costello and Hirschberg families came together.

This story highlights the life of an Irish Catholic immigrant woman, who raised seven children, struggled through economic crises and natural disasters, bought property in the 1890s, and did not read or write.

Mary Rafferty Costello
Mary Rafferty Costello
A San
Three Generations
of the City's History
1864 - 1948

Katherine Maxwell
Mame Costello, Marga Costello Hetherington, Mary Costello, Estelle Hetherington
Mame, Marga, and Mary

The oldest of Mary's daughters, Mame Costello (my great aunt) worked as a saleslady and then manager of Maskey's Fine Candies for over 30 years and never married. Mary's youngest daughter, Kitty Costello (my grandmother) married Barney Hirschberg, a Prussian Jew, had two daughters, my aunts, and my father, Bert W. Hirschberg, Jr., who all came of age in the Roaring Twenties. These are the stories of family members who came through the late 1890s, World War I, the Roaring Twenties, Prohibition, the 1929 Stock Market Crash, the Great Depression, World War II, the Rock 'N Rolling 1950s, and the 1960s social movements.

Catherine Frances Costello
Catherine Francis Costello
Barney Hirschberg
          Barney Hirschberg

Mary Louise, 1933      
Mary Louise Winters            

Bert Hirschberg, my father, attended SCU and St. Ignatius College (USF), went through Hastings Law School, and served as a San Francisco Deputy District Attorney from 1945 through 1949 under DA "Pat" Brown.

On my mother's side, my grandmother, Adah Maxwell, was a child elocutionist on the mid-west Vaudeville circuit in the 1890s. Her daughter, Mary Louise (my mother), was trained in one of the Christensen dancing schools in Utah from age eight and became a professional tap, ballet, and ballroom dancer and dance teacher in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Mary Louise met my father in 1935 in a San Francisco nightclub where she was performing as a dancer.

Available as eBook on Amazon

Email: Katherine Maxwell

Video: San Francisco Portrait