Mary Kenny O'Sullivan

Mary Kenny O'Sullivan (January 8, 1864 - January 18, 1943), was an organizer in the early U.S. labor movement. She learned early the importance of unions from poor treatment received at her first job in dressmaking. Making a career in bookbinding, she joined the Ladies Federal Local Union Number 2703 and organized her own group from within, Woman’s Bookbinding Union Number 1.

Her women's bookbinding union became a branch of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and she went on to become a full-salaried organizer. Though she would not hold the position for long she is remembered as being the first woman AFL employed on a full salary.

She was a member of the Jane Addams's settlement house movement, moving into Hull House in the 1880s. There she proceeded to organize women's work and clubs. Later in 1884, she married a labor editor and organizer named John O'Sullivan at Boston. They moved into a Denison House, a settlement house where O'Sullivan continued to perform labor organizing. This was a unique opportunity for her as it was uncommon for husbands to support their wives working. Together they had 3 children.

In 1903 in what may be her greatest achievement, O'Sullivan would become a founder of the Women's Trade Union League. She worked with the union in many reform actions. She also aided the Industrial Workers of the World during the Lawrence textile strike. She ultimately ended her career in labor as an inspector for the Massachusetts Board of Labor and Industries, a position she held for 20 years.

Read more about Mary Kenny O'Sullivan:  Early Life, Boston Labor, Lawrence Textile Strike, Later Years