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Molly Maguires

MOLLY MAGUIRES

MOLLY MAGUIRES. The Molly Maguires were a group of Irish mine workers who terrorized the anthracite region of Pennsylvania from about 1865 until a series of sensational murder trials between 1875 and 1877. The Molly Maguires was neither an ordered secret society nor a vast conspiracy. Rather, the workers engaged in sporadic collective violent protest characteristic of particular rural areas of Ireland from 1760 to 1850. In Ireland the protests were directed at landlords and their agents who disrupted traditional land use practices; in Pennsylvania the protests were directed at agents and conditions of industrial exploitation—the Welsh miners for whom the Irish worked, mine officials, the bob-tailed check (payment by means of goods from the overpriced company store instead of cash), and figures of local authority. The Molly Maguire protests included industrial sabotage, beatings, and assassinations. Violence directed against them included gang warfare, deployment of local militias and the National Guard during labor disputes, vigilante committees, and execution by hanging. The name Molly Maguires has become a bogeyman deployed in some efforts to demonize and suppress trade-union activism in the area.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Aurand, Harold W., and William Gudelunas. "The Mythical Qualities of Molly Maguire." Pennsylvania History 49 (1982): 91–105.

Kenny, Kevin. Making Sense of the Molly Maguires. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

JohnBakeless

Cynthia R.Poe

See alsoCoal Mining and Organized Labor ; Irish Americans ; Labor ; Secret Societies .

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Molly Maguires

Molly Maguires (məgwī´ərz), secret organization of Irish-Americans in the coal-mining districts of Pennsylvania. Its name came from a woman who led an extralegal, antilandlord organization in Ireland during the 1840s, and its membership was drawn from the Ancient Order of Hibernians, an Irish-American fraternal society. For several years, especially from c.1865 to 1875, the Molly Maguires dominated the mining industry of E Pennsylvania. The movement arose to combat the oppressive industrial and living conditions. Since the police and the forces for law and order were entirely controlled by the mine owners, the Molly Maguires often resorted to intimidating or murdering the police. Agents and superintendents were continually molested. The Mollies reached the height of their power c.1875, when they managed to organize a union in a region otherwise virtually unorganized and to call a strike. Franklin Gowen, president of the Reading RR, which had extensive mining interests, hired the Pinkerton agency to infiltrate the union, and the power of the Molly Maguires was finally broken by the spying activities of James McParlan, a Pinkerton detective. Ten of the Molly Maguires were hanged. McParlan's secret reports were released for study in 1947.

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Molly Maguires

MOLLY MAGUIRES


In 1854 Irish American coal miners in eastern Pennsylvania organized a secret society called the Molly Maguires to wage a campaign of violence against mine owners and operators. The name of the group came from a society in Ireland that used physical force to fight ruthless landlords. The miners were determined to defeat their oppressors at all costs. Their numbers grew and in the decade following the American Civil War (18611865) the Molly Maguires were active both as agitators and assassins. In 1875 the group incited a coal miners strike. The strike was broken by the detective work of Irish American James McParlan (18441919). McParlan was a Pinkerton guard hired by Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company to infiltrate the Molly Maguires. He revealed the identities of gunmen responsible for the deaths of nine mine company foremen. Several members of the secret society were arrested, tried, and convicted in 1876. They were hanged for their crimes in 1877.

U.S. sympathies for the plight of the miners were diminished by the headlines proclaiming the terrorist activities of the Molly Maguires. The society dissolved by 1877. Their presence however was long felt in the anthracite coal fields of Pennsylvania, where company police monitored activities in the mines and effectively intimidated many miners from organizing.

See also: Coal Industry, Pinkerton, United Mine Workers (UMW)

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