She was a woman who bore out of wedlock the child of eventual President Grover Cleveland.
The child, Oscar, was was the product, depending on who's giving the account, of either a one-time fling between a bachelor and a widow -- or a rape.
But what happened to Halpin after that night in 1873 was an outrage all of its own.
After threatening to destroy Halpin, Cleveland then had the infant kidnapped and put into an orphanage -- and then attempted to commit Halpin to an insane asylum.
She regained her freedom soon after when doctors said there was nothing wrong with her.
The story eventually surfaced when Cleveland ran for president in 1884.
The Cleveland campaign then tried to smear Halpin as a loose woman.
(Remind you of anyone?)
Cleveland's campaign then claimed it was not even clear that he was the father, that he was claiming the child just because he was the only bachelor among Halpin's other alleged partners.
Cleveland won, in part because he was running against an opponent who was rather corrupt in his own right, Maine's James Blaine.
In a male-controlled society, Halpin was just thrown aside as human refuse.
Here's what Charles Lachman wrote about the sordid treatment of Halpin:
"Maria Halpin was no harlot. She was a widow with two young children, a church-going woman held in high esteem by all who knew her. From everything I could discover about her life, she was what in the 19th century would be termed a chaste woman. Maria Halpin died in 1902 at age 66, with $200 to her name, forever linked to scandal and shame. On her deathbed she reportedly said, 'Do not let the funeral be too public. I do not want strangers to come and gaze upon my face. Let everything be very quiet. Let me rest.' "
Lachman later wrote a book about this tragedy, "A Secret Life: The Lies and Scandals of President Grover Cleveland."
This story is just waiting to be a movie, given its theme of the brutal treatment of women -- both physically and socially.
I wonder if Hollywood has ignored it because it's a little too close to a couple -- as in married couple -- of their icons.