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Ireland and the Irish in America: A Living Musical Tradition: Molly Maguires

Companion to a display in the Rohrbach Library featuring library resources related to Ireland, Irish immigration to the United States, and Irish traditional music

Local Connection -- The Molly Maguires

     The Molly Maguires, as they were known in the anthracite coal mining areas of Pennsylvania, were a small group Irish immigrants, mostly coal miners, who formed a secret society to combat discrimination against Irish Catholics and unfair and dangerous working conditions in the mines. While their causes were just, they often resorted to violence, including murder, to gain redress for their grievances. Ultimately, nineteen men were convicted of the murders of sixteen mine employees and executed in 1877 and 1888 in the towns of Mauch Chunk (now Jim Thorpe) and Pottsville.

     The subject of the guilt or innocence of the executed men is still a hotly debated topic among some of the people in the anthracite region. The Molly Maguires left virtually no record of themselves. No one knows whether they referred to themselves as the Molly Maguires or by some other name. What little information is known about them was recorded by observers and historians. Many question the objectivity and accuracy of these accounts. Scholars today agree that the trials were travesties of justice, motivated by prejudice against Irish Catholics and the desire for revenge on the part of the mine owners. While some of the men were almost certainly guilty of at least some of the crimes for which they were convicted, others may have been entirely innocent.

Molly Maguires Links

For additional information on the Molly Maguires check these links: