When mine owners cut wages in 1870s Pennsylvania, the Molly Maguires fought back. But with a private military on their side, the mine owners ultimately won what would become the first labor war in U.S. history.
In the 1870s, the Molly Maguires assassinated 24 mine foremen and supervisors and sent “coffin notices” to scabs during mining strikes. The secret society carried out assaults, arsons, and murders for years before a Pinkerton detective infiltrated the organization to bring them down from the inside.
The Molly Maguires fought for better working conditions in the deadly mines of Pennsylvania. But their violent methods caught up with them in a trial that sent twenty men to the gallows. Were the Molly Maguires vicious murderers or desperate workers fighting for their rights?
Who Were The Molly Maguires?
The Molly Maguires were a secret society of Irish mine workers. They borrowed their name from a secret society back in Ireland, where members dressed in women’s clothes to disguise themselves. According to one legend, a widow named Molly Maguire led the Irish protestors in a group called the “Anti-landlord Agitators.” The gang adopted her name as their calling card when fighting against English landowners.
Like the Irish Molly Maguires, the American society fought against injustice – including their treatment in the mines. The Great Famine drove over a million Irish immigrants to America. In the 19th century, many businesses discriminated against the Irish, even hanging signs saying “Irish need not apply.”
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