The Sons of Molly Maguire
The Irish Roots of America’s First Labor War
Sensational tales of true-life crime, the devastation of the Irish potato famine, the upheaval of the Civil War, and the turbulent emergence of the American labor movement come together in a captivating exploration of the roots of the Molly Maguires. A secret society of peasant rebels in famine-era Ireland that re-emerged in Pennsylvania’s hard-coal region, the Mollies organized strikes, murdered mine bosses, and fought the Civil War draft. Their shadowy twelve-year duel with the all-powerful coal companies marked the beginning of class warfare in America.
The only book to focus on the origins of the secret society, The Sons of Molly Maguire delves into the lost world of peasant Ireland to uncover the astonishing links between the folk justice of the Mollies and the folk drama of Irish mummers. The connection solves a host of mysteries about Ireland’s Molly Maguires—where the name came from, why the gunmen wore strange disguises like women’s clothing, and why their attacks came around holidays.
The book follows the Irish to the anthracite region of Pennsylvania, which was transformed into another Ulster by ethnic, religious, political, and economic conflicts. It charts the rise there of an Irish secret society and a particularly political form of mummery, shows why Molly violence was resurrected amid Civil War strikes and conscription, and explores how the cradle of the American Mollies became a bastion of later labor activism. Combining sweeping history with an intensely local focus, The Sons of Molly Maguire is the captivating story of when, where, how, and why the first of America’s labor wars began.
reviews of The Sons of Molly Maguire
“A milestone study of the Irish in the hard coal fields”
—Dublin Review of Books, lead review, March 2015
“Highly readable … fascinating”
—Irish Historical Studies
“Meticulously researched and hugely readable”
—Immigrants & Minorities
“Thoughtful, insightful and unfailingly fair, The Sons of Molly Maguire is history at its best”
—Peter Quinn, author of Banished Children of Eve
“A more focused parallel to E.P. Thompson’s magisterial ‘The Making of the English Working Class’”
—Professor James P. Leary, University of Wisconsin