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Book is launched to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Mary Ann McCracken

LAUNCH: Mary McNeill’s biography of Mary Ann McCracken book has been revised and reprinted LAUNCH: Mary McNeill’s biography of Mary Ann McCracken book has been revised and reprinted
By Conor McParland

A NEW publication has been released to celebrate the forthcoming 250th anniversary of the birth of Mary Ann McCracken.

An updated version of The Life and Times of Mary Ann McCracken 1770–1866 by Mary McNeill has been published by Irish Academic Press, in association with the Belfast Charitable Society.

Mary Ann McCracken was an abolitionist, a social reformer and an activist who fought for the rights of women and championed Belfast’s poor throughout a long life that encompassed some of the most turbulent years of Irish history. Her legacy, however, is overshadowed by that of her brother, the executed United Irishman Henry Joy McCracken, despite outliving him by sixty-eight years.

Through the Poor House Ladies’ Committee, she helped to educate children, allowing them to secure apprenticeships that would provide them with livelihoods. She was President of the Ladies’ Industrial School, and she campaigned to abolish the use of climbing boys in chimney sweeping. Mary Ann was deeply involved in early women’s suffrage campaigns and prison reform schemes, and she was a life-long abolitionist. In her late eighties, McCracken could still be found on the docks, handing out anti-slavery leaflets to emigrants embarking for the United States.

The motto of this remarkable woman, which accurately sums up her character, was ‘better to wear out than to rust out’. But Mary Ann McCracken’s radical, humanitarian zeal and generous strength of character were indefatigable, and her contribution to Belfast life is still felt and celebrated today.

Both Mary Ann McCracken and her biographer, Mary McNeill, were tireless activists for children and the disadvantaged throughout their respective lives.

The book is available to buy for £19.99 at

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