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Mary Kenney O'Sullivan

Dates: January 8, 1864 - January 18, 1943

Occupation: labor organizer, reformer

Known for: helping found the Women's Trade Union League

Mary Kenney O'Sullivan was from a working-class Irish background who became a dressmaker and then worked in a printing and binding factory in Missouri, and several binderies in Chicago. She helped organize the Chicago Women's Bindery Workers' Union, finding support for the union at Hull-House.

In 1892 the American Federation of Labor (AFL) appointed her the first woman general organizer. That same year she joined Mary Kehew in forming the Union for Industrial Progress to help study factory working conditions. After her 1894 marriage to the Boston Globe labor editor, she moved to Boston where she organized rubber makers, shoe workers, laundry workers and garment workers.

After her husband's death in 1902, though left with three children, she continued her work with the AFL, managed a model tenement and also stayed connected to the settlement house movement.

In 1903 she joined with William Walling, another settlement house resident, in organizing the Women's Trade Union League.

From 1914-1934 she worked as a factory inspector for the Division of Industrial Safety in Massachusetts.

About Mary Kenney O'Sullivan

  • Categories: labor union organizer, reformer
  • Organizational Affiliations: Union for Industrial Progress, Women's Trade Union League
  • Places: Chicago, Boston, United States
  • Period: 20th century

Also on this site

  • Women's Trade Union League
  • Women and Labor Unions

Print Bibliography

  • Nutter, Kathleen Banks. The Necessity of Organization: Mary Kenney O'Sullivan and Trade Unionism for Women, 1892-1912. 1999.

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Text © 1999-2006 Jone Johnson Lewis.

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