Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Notice to Readers

Kehoe Foundation

Since its inception in June 2011, this blog has received more than 14,000 hits worldwide. Interest has come from the United States and Europe, and from countries throughout the world struggling with religious and ethnic conflict.

Irish Catholics in the United States during Pennsylvania’s “Molly Maguire” conflict navigated a river of ethnic hatred. In 1871, a bemused correspondent for the Irish Times noted that “native” Americans, those born on U.S. soil, wanted Irish immigrants only as “hewers of wood and drawers of water.”

In 1871 the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH), an Irish Catholic benevolent society working under newly revised charters in New York and Pennsylvania, sought to enhance the standing of Irish Catholic men. In the words of John Kehoe, AOH delegate for Pennsylvania’s Schuylkill County hanged as the “King of the Mollies,” the order’s members comprised Irishmen “who are law-abiding and seek the elevation of their members.”

Exhaustive research shows that AOH officers charged with “Molly Maguire” crimes in the Pennsylvania coalfields embraced an agenda of wide-ranging reform that included political, labor, social, and even financial initiatives. The combined efforts of these AOH men generated a powerful hybrid—one that combined American individualism with the AOH creed of friendship, unity, and support to those less fortunate. In Pennsylvania’s coal region, a region gripped by cruel Gilded Age practices, AOH advocacy included labor reform to benefit mineworkers of all ethnicities.

This extraordinary movement, born of American political optimism and colored with Irish Catholic principles of equity and compassion, never came to flower. Twenty-one AOH men charged as “Molly Maguire” terrorists died on gallows in five counties. At least sixteen of them left behind statements of innocence.

I have spent more than a decade researching and documenting this conflict. In October 2013, I formed the Kehoe Foundation to help support this work. The foundation’s website is currently under construction. I’ll post its web address here as soon as it becomes available.

In a world torn with ethnic strife, the nonviolent advocacy embraced by many of Pennsylvania’s nineteenth-century Irishmen condemned as “Molly Maguires” deserves a fair hearing.

Anne Flaherty

Visit the Kehoe Foundation at