Photo of Ethel Donaghue

Ethel Donaghue’s Legacy

Ethel Frances Donaghue was born in 1896 and died in 1989, leaving $53 million dollars to the medical research foundation named for her parents.

The family’s wealth was created by her father, Patrick, an Irish immigrant who earned enough in a wholesale and retail liquor business to purchase commercial real estate in downtown Hartford.  Ethel was the second child and only daughter of Patrick and his wife, Catherine.

Ethel graduated from Vassar College and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, worked at the US Justice Department as a special assistant in charge of admiralty law, and then earned a SJD from New York University School of Law.  She practiced law in Hartford until 1933, when her mother was ill with cancer.

Ethel lived the life of a wealthy woman, taking global ocean cruises and lavishly entertaining at luxury resorts.  But she undoubtedly also felt the debilitating effect of disease and disability — her father’s death from heart disease when she was in high school, her mother’s death from cancer, her brother’s alcoholism, and her own struggle with a broken hip and other effects of her older age – to leave her wealth to “promote medical knowledge which will be of practical benefit to the preservation, maintenance and improvement of human life.”

Two Boxes, Three Trusts: The Legacy of Ethel Donaghue presents a short history of the Donaghue family.