Thursday, March 15, 2012

Women’s History Month: The Irish-American Women

Mother Jones - Mary Harris “Mother” Jones was born in Cork, Ireland, in 1837. Her father fled to Canada, then ultimately to the U.S., after her grandfather was hanged for being a freedom fighter against the English. After the double tragedy of losing her husband and four children to a yellow fever epidemic, then losing her home to the Great Chicago Fire, she traveled between work camps working as a labor organizer. Until her death at age 93, she worked tirelessly for the rights of workers, including immigrant farm workers, and against child labor.

Nellie Bly - Born Elizabeth Cochran in 1864, Nellie was known within her family as Pink. At 18, she wrote an editorial against a sexist newspaper column that so impressed the editor, he hired her. She took wild risks in her journalistic career, including having herself committed to a women’s asylum to go undercover and traveling around the world in 77 days. Constantly working to make the public aware of women’s issues and social injustice, Nellie even worked as a World War One correspondent.

Georgia O’Keefe - The revolutionary artist, born in Wisconsin in 1887, studied at the Art Institute of Chicago. She studied the Japanese style of balancing light and dark and used her bold paintings to express her emotions rather than to merely copy what she saw in nature. She became one of America’s most celebrated painters. She created art until her death at age 98, working with clay after she lost her eyesight in the 1970s.

Sandra Day O’Connor - Sandra Day O’Connor, born in 1930, was the first woman nominated to the Supreme Court of the United States of America. An outstanding college student, she was made editor of the Stanford Law Review. After the birth of her three sons, she was elected to the state senate of Arizona, going on to become its first female majority leader. She was elected as a trial judge in 1974 and broke the Supreme Court’s gender barrier in 1981. Justice O’Connor retired in 2006.

Maureen Dowd - The journalist was born in Washington D.C. in 1952. She started out as an editorial assistant at the Washington Star, working her way up to the Washington correspondent for the New York Times. Her commentary on the impeachment of President Bill Clinton won Dowd a Pulitzer Prize. Her most recent book was called Are Men Necessary? When Sexes Collide.

Eileen Collins - Born in 1956, the New Yorker was the first woman to pilot a space shuttle. In 1995 and 1997, she piloted the shuttle Atlantis to the Russian space station Mir. In 1999, she became the first woman to command a space shuttle mission.

Danica Patrick - This race car driver was born in 1982, a Wisconsinite like Georgia O’Keefe. Her racing career began with go-karts at age 10. She dropped out of high school to pursue her racing career in England. She was named Rookie of the Year in 2005 and is the only woman ever to have led the Indy 500, though she finished fourth (still the highest finish ever for a woman).

Who are your favorite Irish-American women?

This was previously published in 2011, but the blog on which it originally appeared now seems to be defunct.

Mother Jones image: Bertha Howell, 1902. Public domain.
Georgia O'Keefe: Rufus W. Holsinger, 1915. Public domain within the U.S.
Danica Patrick: Manningmbd, 2009. Creative Commons license.

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