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Leonora M. Barry

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About Leonora M. Barry:

Known for: only female national officer of the Knights of Labor; organizing women workers, 1886-1890; lectures on labor, temperance

Dates: August 13, 1849 - July 18, 1923

Occupation: seamstress, mill worker; labor organizer, labor official; lecturer

Also known as: Leonora Marie Barry, Leonora Kearney, Leonora Marie Kearney Barry, Mother Lake

Family, Background:

  • Father: John Kearney, farmer
  • Mother: Honor Granger Kearney, died 1864
  • Born in County Cork, Ireland; emigrated to United States in 1852 during potato famine

Marriage, Children:

  • husband: W. E. Barry (married 1871, died 1881; musician, artist)
  • children:
    • Marion Frances Barry, born 1873
    • William Standish Barry, born 1875
    • Charles Joseph Barry, born 1880
  • husband: O. R. Lake (married 1890)

More About Leonora M. Barry:

Leonora Barry, emigrated to the United States with her family in 1852. Her mother died in 1864, and Leonora became a teacher at age 16, in part to enable her to leave home where she didn't get along well with her father's new wife.

Leonora married W. E. Barry in 1871; she had to leave teaching on marriage. They had two children, and moved frequently. After her husband and daughter died, went to work in a hosiery mill to support her sons.

Leonora Barry joined the Knights of Labor, an early kind of union, and was elected to a succession of positions. Two years later, she was directing the union's women's department at the national level. In that job, she was in charge of investigating working conditions of women and planning boycotts and other actions to further women's interests in the workplace. She also worked for legislative changes at the state and federal level to protect women and children.

Leanora Barry married O. R. Lake in 1890 and left her job with the Knights of Labor. The organization did not continue the women's department after her departure. Asserting the importance of women staying home when their economic circumstances permitted, she saw that it was still necessary for women to prepare for working in case their marriages did not work or their economic circumstances required their employment.

She lectured widely on labor issues, women's suffrage and temperance. She spent her later years working mainly for temperance and for prohibition.

Leonora Barry died in 1923.

She lectured widely on labor issues, women's suffrage and temperance. She spent her later years working mainly for temperance and for prohibition.

Leonora Barry died in 1923.

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