Making Sense of the Molly Maguires / Edition 1 available in Paperback
Twenty Irish immigrants, suspected of belonging to a secret terrorist organization called the Molly Maguires, were executed in Pennsylvania in the 1870s for the murder of sixteen men. Ever since, there has been enormous disagreement over who the Molly Maguires were, what they did, and why they did it, as virtually everything we now know about the Molly Maguires is based on the hostile descriptions of their contemporaries.
Arguing that such sources are inadequate to serve as the basis for a factual narrative, author Kevin Kenny examines the ideology behind contemporary evidence to explain how and why a particular meaning came to be associated with the Molly Maguires in Ireland and Pennsylvania. At the same time, this work examines new archival evidence from Ireland that establishes that the American Molly Maguires were a rare transatlantic strand of the violent protest endemic in the Irish countryside.
Combining social and cultural history, Making Sense of the Molly Maguires offers a new explanation of who the Molly Maguires were, as well as why people wrote and believed such curious things about them. In the process, it vividly retells one of the classic stories of American labor and immigration.
About the Author
Kevin Kenny is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
author kevin kenny gives the most thoroughly researched account of this turbulent period in american labor history that i have ever read... it's a must for any serious student of social, irish and labor history although tedious at times (i.e. chapter on irish agrarian societies went on a bit too long and the demographics of schyulkill county etc could have been an appendix) once the author gets going there is no stopping the wealth of information he has uncovered for us and brought to the table.. newspaper accounts and personal correspondence are put in their proper perspective. and kenny has a subtle way of writing and saying 'history is written by the victorious'. the sub-human portrayal by a capitalist, republican press, shows these poor miners hardly had a chance with the deck stacked against them. the truth would not get in the way of one man (gowen) or a corporation's (reading rail & coal) greed... were there irish killers who held grudges and murdered mine bosses and ethnic rivals in revenge? undoubtedly! but were several innocent men hung by false evidence, paid informers, biased judges and juries to destroy the opposition to the reading's lust for a monopoly of both capital and labor?? absolutely! kenny gets us closer to the truth than any other book on this subject. a read worth every penny - thank you kevin
One would naturally expect a native-born Irishman to write a sympathetic account of the Molly Maguires, the Irish immigrants of the nineteenth century who were executed in the anthracite coal region of eastern Pennsylvania for murders and other violent crimes in the 1870's. Author Kevin Kenny gives them as much sympathy as any professional historian can. Yet, the insights of Kenny's work do not by any means absolve the Molly Maguires of responsibility for heinous crimes. There are hundreds of Irish-American descendants of Molly Maguires living today who claim their Irish forefathers were merely innocent labor leaders framed by capitalist persecutors. Kenny, to his credit, does not accept that view, nor does he ignore the overwhelming evidence showing the existence of a secret criminal organization called the Molly Maguires, as an offshoot of similar terrorist organizations in Ireland. As in Ireland, the Mollies in Pennsylvania were led not by coal miners, but by tavern owners and small-town politicians who exerted their power by ordering the deaths of employers and anyone else they held grudges against. Kenny points out the oppressive conditions in the coal mines and the efforts of the coal barons to destroy the fledgling labor unions. But he also shows that that the Molly Maguires were a separate and distinct organzation from the labor union, drawn exclusively forom the ranks of the secret society called the Ancient Order of Hibernians, which even the Catholic Church condemned. As shown by Pennsylvania Governor Milton Shapp's posthumous pardon of Jack Kehoe, one of the Molly ringleaders, on Labor Day in 1979, the Molly Maguires have become a political symbol and rallying cry for pro-labor factions, and readers will probably likely draw whatever conclusions they want to from this book. It is unlikely that Kenny's efforts to 'make sense' of the Molly Maguires will lead to a consensus among those of differing ideological views.