Festival for Cork native known as the ‘most dangerous woman in America’

Cork historian Dr Sean Pettit will guest at the 2016 Spirit of Mother Jones festival and summer school.

Festival for Cork native known as the ‘most dangerous woman in America’

He will speak about Cork in the 18th century and give an insight into life in Shandon around the time of the local birth of Mary Harris who, afterwards, became the renowned US trade union leader Mother Jones — once dubbed ‘the most dangerous woman in America’.

“This is a tremendous honour for us at the summer school and festival,” said Jim Nolan, spokesperson for the festival, now in its fifth year.

“Dr Pettit is a true Cork legend and his lecture will be eagerly awaited by many in Shandon,” he said, adding organisers are now finalising a programme for the summer school which will take place over the August weekend.

The five-day 2016 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival/ Summer School will be held in Shandon in Cork City from Thursday, July 28 until Monday, August 1.

Designated by Cork City Council as Mother Jones Day, Dr Petit will speak on the Friday afternoon at the Maldron Hotel.

The festival celebrates the life and unstinting work of the Cork-born activist, “dedicated to inspirational people everywhere who fight for social justice.”

The committee has erected a plaque in Shandon to honour her.

Born in Cork in late July 1837, Mary Harris was baptized in the local North Cathedral on August 1. She lived through the famine in Cork and later left with her family for Canada. She later emerged as one of the most celebrated and feared union leaders in the US and was a passionate defender of miners and the rights of workers and those discriminated against everywhere.

Another speaker at this year’s event will be Laurence Fenton, who has written an account of the visit of Frederick Douglass to Cork in 1845, when a young Mary Harris lived in the city.

Frederick Douglass, a former slave and later anti-slavery campaigner spent three weeks in Cork City in October 1845 and, say organisers, it is certain Mother Jones would have been influenced by Douglass in the US many years later.

Mr Fenton will present a lecture on the visit of Douglass to Cork also at the Maldron Hotel on Friday, July 29 at 11.30am.

“We are extremely proud that this is the fifth festival and we have managed to retain the unique, convivial and informal character of the summer school located as it is in Shandon, the very heart of Cork city.

“Our full five-day programme of talks, films, music and exhibitions will be announced shortly.”


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