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Mrs. McGarry, played by Dana Ivey, is a recurring character in the first season of Boardwalk Empire. She is the president of the Atlantic City Women's Temperance League.



Mrs. McGarry is a political supporter of Nucky Thompson and remains unaware of his involvement in bootlegging. She is a friend of Margaret Schroeder.

McGarry is a widow. Her husband made money in oil and died shortly after they moved to Atlantic City. ("Family Limitation")

Season 1[]

Boardwalk Empire[]

Main article: Boardwalk Empire

Mrs. McGarry speaks before the Women's Temperance League.

Mrs. McGarry reads a poem she has written about the evils of liquor to the members of the Atlantic City Women’s Temperance League, called Owed to Liquor, in the night of January 16 1920. She reminds the audience that Prohibition begins the next day and introduces their guest speaker – Atlantic County Treasurer Enoch “Nucky” Thompson. Thompson thanks McGarry for the poem and asks if she would send him a copy. He then tells the audience the tale of a family driven to desperation in the winter of 1888 by the father's drinking. He describes the family's young son searching for food and resorting to killing wharf rats. He ends the story with the reveal that he was the young boy drawing cries of sympathy from his audience. Nucky's driver, Jimmy Darmody, watches from outside the room and, as Nucky heralds the arrival of the woman’s right to vote, whispers to Nucky. Nucky ends by saying that good women like those in the league are responsible for the success of men like him before excusing himself and leaving.

Three days later, Mrs. McGarry surprises Nucky as he exits the Ritz Carlton Hotel and gives him a framed copy of the poem. She tells him that she is on her way to visit their mutual acquaintance Margaret Schroeder at the hospital and that she has lost her baby. When Nucky asks for the reason, McGarry declines to respond out of courtesy and nods to the poem before leaving. Nucky figures it immediately and throws the copy in a trash bin. He then has Margaret's husband Hans killed and uses him as a scapegoat for the Hammonton hijacking.

Nights in Ballygran[]

Main article: Nights in Ballygran

Mrs. McGarry hosts a reduced meeting of the Women’s Temperance League the day before Saint Patrick's. As Margaret enters she notes her late arrival and recent absences. Margaret explains to Bridget Walsh that she has been working while a neighbour cares for her children. McGarry introduces Bettyanne Mulhaney who describes receiving a letter from a cousin in Nebraska whose neighbour, a poor widow, attempted to mix gin in her bathtub for sale. While she was not looking her child climbed in and was poisoned to death by the mixture. Irene Davis comments the prevalence of stills in town and notes that Ettinger’s is a speakeasy posing as a cafe. Walsh agrees that there are other places too and Mulhaney mentions Abe Klein’s bar. Mrs. McGarry elucidates a lack of interest or ability from local government and suggests that with their membership dwindling they need to increase their efforts. Davis notes the easy availability of prescriptions for medicinal whiskey and Walsh agrees that you need not even be ill. McGarry calls for action and Davis suggests a rally. Mrs. McGarry believes this is worthwhile but it would be better target the alcohol at its source. Margaret reveals observing men unloading barrels at the garage behind her house that morning. Margaret suggests asking Mr. Thompson for help. Davis is disparaging of the idea, thinking she means Eli. Margaret clarifies that she means Nucky and calls him a friend, eliciting a murmur of appreciation from the others. Margaret clarifies that Nucky has been of great assistance since the death of her husband. McGarry tasks Margaret with arranging a meeting.


Margaret and Mrs McGarry visit Nucky at his office.

Margaret is successful and they attend together. McGarry begins by saying that Margaret has seen something that Nucky should know about. Margaret relays her story about the garage saying that she found the supervisor of the unloading familiar. Nucky feigns concern that she must have been uncomfortable at his birthday party. Embarrassed, she explains to McGarry that she was making a delivery for the dress shop. Nucky clarifies that there was some drinking and McGarry comments that she is sure that people of his class drink in moderation. Nucky asks Eddie to put Margaret on the phone with the sheriff and says they will take care of the garage. No action is forthcoming so Margaret goes to the Atlantic City Post Office to speak to Prohibition Agent Nelson Van Alden. He seizes the alcohol from the garage and then raids the St. Patrick's Day dinner of the Order of Ancient Celts arresting Jim Neary and ending the dinner early. Outside the press and the women of the Temperance League, lead by Mrs McGarry, are waiting for the diners. The women sing a song in support of Prohibition and attempt to shame the Celts as they exit. Nucky is one of those seen leaving the dinner.

Family Limitation[]

Main article: Family Limitation

Mrs. McGarry in her office.

Margaret goes to see Mrs. McGarry at her office. She asks if they can discuss a private matter and mentions that she has received an offer from a man. McGarry wonders of what nature and Margaret replies yes to all three of the options given: domestic, financial and sexual. McGarry wonders who the man is and Margaret says only that he runs things. Margaret believes she and her children will be provided for. Mrs. McGarry wonders if they will marry and Margaret confesses her doubts. McGarry delicately says that there are many unpleasant words for that sort of woman. Margaret reasserts that he will provide. Mrs. McGarry tells Margaret the story of how she came to live in Atlantic City. Her husband made a fortune selling a share in an oil field which he used to build a mansion. He died shortly after it was completed and she sold the house and bought a smaller residence, using the remaining funds to live. This allows her to devote time to her interests – temperance, suffrage and women’s welfare. Margaret points out that she does not have a mansion to sell and McGarry says that this is why Margaret must follow her conscience. She says that Margaret owes no-one an explanation. Margaret nods and gets up to leave. Mrs. McGarry gives her a pamphlet, Family Limitation by Margaret H. Sanger (Sixth Edition published 1917) and tells her that it contains useful knowledge.

The Emerald City[]

Main article: The Emerald City

Mrs. McGarry attends the August League of Women Voters meeting where Margaret speaks in favor of Edward Bader's campaign for Mayor.



Season one appearances
Boardwalk Empire The Ivory Tower Broadway Limited Anastasia
Nights in Ballygran Family Limitation Home Hold Me in Paradise
Belle Femme The Emerald City Paris Green A Return to Normalcy