Mary Boyle O’Reilly (1873-1939) was a social activist and reformer whose passion was protecting children and young women. The daughter of Irish leader John Boyle O’Reilly, she was born and raised in
, and also lived in Jamaica Plain. Charlestown
In 1901 O’Reilly and others established the Guild of St. Elizabeth, a Catholic settlement home for Children in
’s South End. From 1907-1911 she
was Massachusetts Prison Commissioner, and also a trustee of Boston ’s Children’s Institutions. Boston
O’Reilly also used her writing to create change. In 1910, disguised as a mill worker, she exposed the notorious ‘baby farms’ in
. New Hampshire
In 1913 she became a foreign correspondent for the Newspaper Enterprise Association, reporting from
and heading up the London Office. When World War I erupted, she entered Russia
disguised as a peasant to cover the action. The Germans briefly
imprisoned her and three other journalists, and upon her release she returned
in disguise. Belgium
O’Reilly was active in a variety of health and women’s organizations such as the Women's Educational and Industrial Union and the Tuberculosis Society, and she lectured extensively on
her father’s work. Ireland
Her large collection of books, pamphlets and clippings on war propaganda are housed at the Boston Public Library.
Find out more about Boston's Irish history by visiting Irishheritagetrail.com.