Irish American women's memoirs and autobiographies represent a rich, untapped lode in Irish studies. To date, more than seventy-five have been discovered. Among these, the most exceptional are the memoirs by Irish American activists—the eponymous Autobiography of Mother Jones (1925) and Autobiography of Margaret Sanger (1938), as well as Elizabeth Gurley Flynn's The Rebel Girl: An Autobiography: My First Life (1906-1926) (1973) and Margaret Haley's Battleground: The Autobiography of Margaret A. Haley (1982). Compared to subsequent Irish American life writing, this initial cohort stands apart.

From 1880 to 1920, Irish American women activists represented a unified, loud, sometimes strident voice in the fights for unionization, nationalism, suffrage, and reproductive rights. Although historians may have overlooked their efforts and ignored their alliances, these women played a central role in the development and defense of Irish American identity. Through their memoirs and activism, they added not only a female voice to America's history of the Progressive Era but also an Irish American voice, for they were pioneers in the labor movement. Thanks to their efforts, US child labor laws were enacted, female teachers' pensions were protected, women's suffrage passed, contraception was legalized, and the Irish American literary canon doubled—just by including the women.


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