Collar Maid Cuffed Bosses

The following article appeared in the April 24, 2001 edition of the Troy Record and was submitted by Pam Trudeau.

Nineteen-year-old Kate Mullaney was one of the 3,000 women in Troy who worked in the collar industry. Kate, her mother, her sister Mary, two younger sisters, and brother Frank, all Irish immigrants, lived not far from the collar center. In 1864, Kate, along with co-workers Esther Keegan and Sarah McQuillan decided that the laundry workers deserved more money and better working conditions. They formed the Collarworkers' Union, the first female union in the country. At noon on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 1864, 300 or so women went on strike from all the commercial laundries. The owners gave in almost a week later. Kate and her girls led a few more successful strikes before losing to the owners in 1870. However, she opened many doors for working women. William Sylvis, president of the national union, appointed her assistant secretary, the first woman ever appointed to a national union office.

From 1869 to 1875, Kate and her family lived in a three-story brick double row house located on Eighth Street. Kate Mullaney died on Friday, Aug. 17, 1906 and was buried in an unmarked grave at St. Peter's Cemetery. Unmarked, but not forgotten.

Last year a Celtic cross was placed on her unmarked grave during May Day celebrations. Two years ago, Hillary Clinton placed a plaque on her house, honoring her efforts. This year there will be a dedication of two stone benches at the Kate Mullaney gravesite at St. Peter's Cemetery Saturday at 11 a.m. An Irish pipe band will be on hand, along with some local dignitaries. That evening, at the Eighth Step Coffee House at Cohoes Music Hall, you can enjoy an evening of music, dance and an exclusive video appearance of Utah Phillips. On May Day, a forum will be held at the Cohoes Music Hall. Between 6 and 7 p.m., a reception will be held first at the Cohoes RiverSpark Visitor Center followed by the evening program from 7 to 9:30 p.m.

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Debby Masterson
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