27 March 2011

Mary Maguire, an Irish ‘Fearless Female’

This biography has been written in response to Lisa Azlo’s ‘Fearless Female’ challenge for 27 March 2011: ‘Do you know the immigration story of one or more female ancestors?  Do you have any passenger lists, passports, or other documentation?  Interesting family stories?
Mary Maguire Dolan and Margaret Dolan, 1898
Shattuck Farm, Andover, MA
There has been much written about Irish migration to North America during the nineteenth century, and increasingly, the twentieth century.  However, an under-examined part of this migration is the crossing and recrossing of the North Atlantic by individuals who maintained significant links on both sides of the ocean.

Ordnance Survey of Ireland, Co Cavan Townland Index

Mary Maguire was the fourth child and third daughter of Hugh Maguire and Kate Melanaphy of County Cavan, Ireland.  Mary was born in Aug 1857, in the townland of Stranamart, located on the road between Dowra and Blacklion in the northwest of County Cavan, on rolling land between Benbrack and Cuilcagh mountains.  The River Shannon rises to the south of the townland, flowing in a south-westerly direction towards Lough Allen. 

Maguire Family Tree
Examining the Maguire family tree, it would appear that Mary, like her parents and the majority of her siblings, never left Ireland: she was born in Stranamart, married in Killinagh church, and died in Cavan Hospital.  But her life is far more complex.  The date of Mary’s initial arrival in the United States is not known, however, in 1880, aged 22 years, she was living and working as a servant in the household of Edward Shattuck and his wife Josephine, in Winchester, Middlesex, Massachusetts.  The pioneering Shattuck family arrived in America at the time of the Pilgrims and were known to employ Irish servants and farm workers regularly for long periods of time: Michael Steinitz in his 1981 ‘Report on Documentary Research: Shattuck Farm, Andover, Massachusetts’ notes that ‘Irish names appeared frequently in the Shattuck Account Books between 1850-60, sometimes simply as “Dennis” or “Patrick”.’

Mary returned to Ireland on a family visit five years later.  Cathal (Charles) Dolan, who had married into land in Derrynatuan townland, was looking for his third wife.  Mary’s American work had provided her with a dowry and she married Cathal on 16 February 1885 in Killinagh parish church.  During the next 10 years she bore seven children in Derrynatuan.
Dolan Family Tree
In 1895 Mary returned to America to work for Edward and Josephine Shattuck, now living at the Shattuck Farm in Andover, Massachusetts, on River Road in the West Parish, Andover, on the southern banks of the Merrimack River.  The farm had been established in the early eighteenth century, on land initially owned by the Abbot family, before passing to the Shattuck brothers who transformed it into ‘an efficient, large-scale dairy and market gardening operation’.  Mary had left the children in the care of Cathal’s widowed mother, Margaret Dolan - her youngest, Kate was an infant.  When Margaret Dolan died in 1897, Kate, now 2 years old, was severely burned when she fell into the hearth.  When Mary returned to Ireland to make other arrangements for the children, she arranged for her elder sister, Rose Durkin of Corleckagh Lower, to provide ‘supervision’ of the Dolan household.  Mary returned to Andover with her eldest daughter, Margaret in 1898.  Margaret joined her mother working for the Shattuck family, even though at 12 years old she was underage and was required to be in school.

Mary and Margaret Dolan returned to Ireland in 1906 as Charles was very ill with rheumatic fever.  Having brought him back to health, she decided ‘he needed discipline’ and arranged for him to return to the Shattuck Farm with her.  Mary, son Charles (19 years), daughter Rose (13 years), and their cousins, John (14 years) and Rose Durkin (7 years), left Derrynatuan in April 1907, travelling from Blacklion to Liverpool, where Mary became ill and was hospitalised.  The youngsters boarded the SS Cymric (White Star Line) on 10 May 1907 in Liverpool, England.  Awaiting them in Boston was their sister Mary Ann who was already employed by the Shattucks, having possibly arrived in America in 1905 with her cousin Patrick Durkin, with whom John and Rose Durkin went to live in Lynn, Massachusetts.
Family Migration Patterns
By the time of the 1911 Census of Ireland Mary Maguire Dolan had returned to Derrynatuan, where she remained.  She was present for her youngest daughter Kate’s wedding in the Glangevlin church to Peter Mick Dolan of Derrylahan in 1918.  The family papers speculated that she may have been working in England, and it is possible that she did spend time there but I can find no further record of her working for the Shattuck family, or of being with her three children in America.

Mary’s daughter Rose returned to Ireland in 1920 after working for the Shattuck family in Andover and New York and in the Lawrence textile mills.  When she married Charles Cornyn from the Dolan home on 7 February 1921 her mother Mary was present.  Mary died of pneumonia on 4 July 1922 in the Cavan Hospital.

Mary Maguire is one of the 10 percent of return migrants from the period prior to 1920, but her frequent journeys across the Atlantic may be considered as exceptional in this period.  It would appear that she probably made the ‘conscious decision to emigrate’ that Donald Harman Akenson described in his 1996 book The Irish Diaspora: A Primer.  She was part of a chain migration of interconnected families from the townlands of north-west Cavan to the area surrounding Lawrence, Massachusetts from the 1860s into the twentieth century: Maguires, Dolans, McGoverns, and Rourkes.  These networks remained paramount: Mary and her children took her niece and nephew to America in 1907; her daughter Mary probably travelled to America with her cousin.  The networks in Derrynatuan and the surrounding townlands are also important: Mary’s mother-in-law cared for the children from 1895-97 and her elder sister Rose Durkin from 1898, including having John Dolan living with her and her own large family at the time of the Irish Census in 1901.

Mary’s subsequent visits back to Derrynatuan in 1898 and 1906 were precipitated by illness and the need to care for her children: the death of Margaret Dolan; Kate being burnt in the hearth; the illness of her eldest son; and the potential marriage in Ireland of her daughter Margaret.  This knowledge of the family situation suggests that Mary was in regular correspondence with her family in Derrynatuan and with the Shattuck family in Andover.  Unfortunately no letters survive.

Mary and her daughters were among the 70.4 percent of Irish women who were employed as servants in 1900.  How Mary became an employee of the Shattuck family is not known.  However, the presence of Mary Doland [Dolan] in the household in 1870 suggests that she may have been introduced to the household through family connections from Ireland.  This working relationship continued for at least 26 years and extended to Mary’s children until 1920.

Any recording of her reasons for the decisions she made have not survived to this generation.  Among her own generation she was remembered as ‘a smart lady’.  While other members of the Maguire family were reputed to be a ‘wild bunch’, she was remembered with affection and admiration.

Mary Maguire Dolan’s experience of crossing and recrossing the North Atlantic challenge our understanding of the migration patterns of Irish women who travelled to America in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  As always, when the record of individuals is more closely examined the global patterns and sub-patterns are shown to be more complex than the history that uses ‘official’ records would initially seem to be.

In conclusion, I would like therefore to pose some questions: is Mary’s migration experience exceptional in her time; or is it a reflection of a wider pattern of migration that will become more evident as historians examine the individual stories of increasing numbers of women who moved to, and between, continents during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries?  Or is it more a precursor of the migration experiences of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and many others, as they moved between Ireland and Great Britain in the period between 1940 and the 1980s?

  1. Mary Maguire is one of my maternal great-grandmothers.  This biography was previously part of a paper I presented to the 13th Irish–Australian Conference, Irish Spaces: Homeland, Asylum, Empire, Diaspora, on 28 Sep 2004 at the University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia: ‘The North Atlantic Motorway: Crossing and Recrossing from Ireland to America’.
  2. This story is based on family papers and stories collected by Mary J Levesque (nee Dolan), the eldest daughter of Charles Dolan and Ellen Menihane (1914-1999).  Between 1964-1982 she visited the valleys of Glangevlin and Killinagh parishes in County Cavan several times with her mother and daughter, to collect the stories and genealogies and undertake research in the Dublin archives.  After I visited her in September 1987 she collated all her material into the family trees that are in my collection and wrote the narrative of my great-grandmother and grandmother Mary Maguire and Rose Dolan that forms the basis of this blog.  I am greatly indebted to her as much of this information is now unknown in the parishes of Glangevlin and Killinagh.
  3. I am indebted to the Andover Historical Society, of Andover (MA, USA) who provided me with important documents to collaborate the family stories: Michael Steinitz, ‘Report on Documentary Research: Shattuck Farm, Andover, Massachusetts’, Massachusetts Historical Commission, 1981; and The Townsman Directory of Andover, Mass for 1899 and 1904.
© 2011, Maureen R West
All Rights Reserved

1 comment:

  1. Going across the Atlantic like that definitely qualifies as fearless...besides her picture says it all. :-)
    Theresa (Tangled Trees)