Please join us to celebrate the 25th anniversary edition of Kevin Kenny’s acclaimed work of history, Making Sense of the Molly Maguires.
Twenty Irishmen were hanged in the anthracite region of Pennsylvania in the late 1870s, convicted of a series of sixteen killings allegedly committed under the cover of a secret society called the Molly Maguires. Hostile contemporaries described the Molly Maguires as inherently savage Irish immigrants who imported a violent conspiratorial organization that had no place in industrial America. Challenges to this nativist myth produced a counter-myth transposing the category of evil from the immigrants to their exploiters, casting the Irish as innocent victims of economic, religious, or ethnic oppression. Neither interpretation makes historical sense. The Molly Maguires were not depraved killers, but neither were they figments of the nativist or anti-labor imagination. They never existed as the conspiracy imagined by their enemies, but they did use violence to combat exploitation. Who were the Molly Maguires, what did they do, and why did they do it? Why did contemporaries describe them in such luridly hostile ways? And what do their actions tell us about the history of American immigration and transatlantic class conflict?
Kevin Kenny, Glucksman Professor of History and Director of Glucksman Ireland House, will address these and other questions in a public lecture followed by discussion and a book signing.
Making Sense of the Molly Maguires (Oxford University Press, 1998 and 2023).