Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Rebutting the Canon

The paper titled “REBUTTING THE CANON,” posted to the right at the top of the essay collection, traces the use of the “Molly Maguire” epithet by nativist editors from the 1850s to the 1870s and the subsequent effort by “Molly Maguire” prosecutors to embed the taunt in both the national consciousness and the historical canon. I am scheduled to deliver highlights from this paper on April 2 at the national meeting of the American Conference for Irish Studies (ACIS) at Houston, hosted by the University of St. Thomas William J. Flynn Center for Irish Studies. The paper also traces the term’s influence on subsequent works, including those of J. Walter Coleman, Wayne Broehl Jr., and most recently, Kevin Kenny. In the late 1960s the term’s influence flowed to film when the Pinkerton Agency obtained script approval for Martin Ritt’s The Molly Maguires, with Sean Connery portraying John Kehoe. The paper also documents rebuttals of “Molly Maguire” propaganda, including Philip Foner's rebuttal from 1947.

The column at the tab “JOHN KEHOE,” located above, has been updated. It gives a description of Kehoe’s execution at Pottsville Jail, including the ministrations of the six Roman Catholic nuns and two priests who comforted the condemned man.

Apologies to all who have tried to connect with me through Facebook. As my book titled The Passion of John Kehoe and the Myth of the "Molly Maguires" nears completion, I hope to become more responsive.

A. Flaherty

Note: The April 2020 ACIS meeting in Houston was cancelled due to concerns over the coronavirus outbreak.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Presentations and Thanks

Thanks to Bob Wolensky and Bode Morin for their recent program “Episodes in Anthracite Labor History,” held at Scranton’s Anthracite Heritage Museum, and for including my discussion of the “Molly Maguires” in that program.

A belated thanks to the American Conference for Irish Studies (ACIS) for including my presentation in programs for their national meetings at University College Cork in 2018 and Boston in 2019.

My upcoming presentations include the annual meeting of the Pennsylvania Historical Association, hosted by Indiana University of Pennsylvania.  On October 19, 2019, I will present the paper “Pennsylvania’s ‘Molly Maguires’: Fact vs. Fiction.”

At Scranton, thanks to Bob for his reference to Adam Smith’s admonition on the perils of monopoly. Thanks to Lucia Dailey, prior to the Scranton program, for recounting to me the details of the commemoration of the anniversary of the Avondale Mine Disaster, where more than one hundred mine workers perished from asphyxiation. Lucia’s recollection included this quote from an attendant at the event: “They knew how to live, and they knew how to die.”

Anne Flaherty

Monday, October 23, 2017

ACIS-West - Spokane

A warm thanks to the conference committee of ACIS-West for their unanimous acceptance of my proposal for inclusion in the 33rd annual meeting of the American Conference for Irish Studies-Western Regional, held in October 2017 in Spokane, Washington.

The theme of the conference was “Ireland, Irish America, and Work.” Vice-consul John Callaghan, of the Consulate General of Ireland in San Francisco, spoke of the need for Irish Studies programs to both explore our culture and to “help other cultures know who we are.”

My paper, “Pennsylvania’s ‘Molly Maguires’: Fact vs. Fiction,” can be viewed in the essay collection posted here. It describes the efforts of Pennsylvania’s Hibernians hanged as “Molly Maguires.” Men of faith condemned to death in illegal trials, they used legal channels to advocate on behalf of the oppressed.

Anne Flaherty

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Honoring History at Bucknell University

By A. Flaherty

A Noontime Presentation

n November 17, 2016, in the Atrium Lobby at Bucknell University’s Weis Center, an event took place as part of the university’s “Coal Collections” series that may help change the way a chapter of U.S. history is interpreted.

Early visitors to the program titled “Molly Maguires in the Pennsylvania Coal Region” found an array of sofas arranged before a mounted display. A large blow-up, a number of feet high, of a black-and-white photo taken of alleged “Molly” leader John Kehoe shortly before his execution gave a hint as to how the event might proceed.

Presenters had evidently expected a small group. As the minutes ticked by, more and more attendees appeared. Helpers rolled forward carts loaded with folding chairs to seat the crowd that eventually numbered more than two hundred. Older community members commingled with students who came to hear the presentation. The scent of onions from the “hand pies” offered as a sample of coal region food lingered in the glass-enclosed room. It seemed almost impossible that this gracious setting would host a civil discussion of events that had so convulsed the commonwealth a century and a half before.

English professor and Joyce scholar John Rickard, a possible relative of alleged “Molly Maguire” Michael Lawler (also spelled Lawlor), opened the program. Rickard distributed a handout with samples of nineteenth-century nativist cartoons. These included Thomas Nast’s “The Usual Way of Doing Things,” with its ape-faced Irishman astride a keg of gunpowder, brandishing a whiskey bottle in one hand and a shillelagh in the other.

The remarks of Rickard and co-presenter Adrian Mulligan, chair of the Geography Department, took up the better part of the program. Both offered cogent assessments of this fantastically complex and controversial slice of U.S. and Irish American history. In his opening remarks, Rickard recommended the work of Kevin Kenny, the most recent academic scholar to address Pennsylvania’s “Molly Maguire” conflict.

Rickard’s description of Irish immigration to the United States included a discussion of both nineteenth-century nativist attitudes and the dangers suffered by Irish American laborers that led to eventual unionization, a logical outcome of historical Irish resistance. Rickard, whose ancestor Lawler had served as delegate to both 1871 Grand Council union arbitration proceedings at Mauch Chunk and 1875 anti-monopoly efforts at Harrisburg, spoke of the infiltration by Pinkerton detectives of the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) in the Pennsylvania coalfields, and the resulting prosecution and execution of many AOH men as alleged “Mollies.” Rickard also addressed the Pinkerton influence on the writing of this history.

Mulligan, a native of Ireland, detailed the challenges shared by ethnic groups from different parts of the globe, including Chinese laborers and Irish American immigrants. The geography professor also spoke of the need for current scholars to learn from past history, in particular from the echoes of nineteenth-century inequities on current growing economic disparity.

From John Kehoe’s Cell

 first learned of the scheduled Bucknell presentation from friends who live in Bloomsburg. I subsequently contacted John Rickard and advised him of my research, in particular the essay collection posted from September through November 2016 to this blog, From John Kehoe’s Cell.

Both Rickard and Adrian Mulligan paused midway through their presentations to acknowledge my contributions. Both referred to my position as a “Molly” descendant and to the scholarship contained in the work posted to the blog, which includes documentation showing that prior to their arrests, a number of Hibernians charged as “Mollies” had been elected as school directors.

In his concluding remarks, Mulligan spoke of the need to share these findings with today’s students. Rickard had mentioned a number of times during his remarks that winners usually write the history. He concluded: “Now the descendants are writing the history.”

The Kehoe Foundation

careful study of Pennsylvania’s “Molly Maguire” conflict yields innumerable echoes of today’s challenges, from the dangers of unbridled nativist rhetoric to the perils associated with fake news to the potentially tragic effects of corporate, political, judicial, and clerical abuse of power.

In 2013, I formed the Kehoe Foundation, with interested individuals, as a 501c3 research foundation. Its goals include education into the intricacies of Pennsylvania’s “Molly Maguire” conflict to help inform and illuminate current scenarios—educational, political, and cultural.

This post was revised on September 1, 2017.