Dorchester Atheneum
Tuesday, November 20, 2018
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 Margaret Lilian Foley, 1875-1957

Margaret Foley was a labor organizer and women's rights advocate who was born in Dorchester. With only a high school education from Girls' High School in Boston, she had a daring personality and a voice like a trumpet.

She worked in a hat factory organizing women workers and was a board member of the Boston Women's Trade Union League, founded in Boston in 1903 as part of the American Federation of Labor. As a member of the Massachusetts Women's Suffrage Association, she confronted male politicians in public settings, such as the Boston Stock Exchange and the Chamber of Commerce demanding the right to vote. She was called The Grand Heckler.

The largely-middle-class leadership of Boston's suffragist movement objected to the in-your-face tactics of this working class Irish Catholic. Foley moved to the national stage, helping to gain the women's vote in Nevada in 1914, crisscrossing the state for two months, talking to over 20,000 men. She spent time in Pennsylvania and New York among other states with an extensive trip to southern states in 1916.

She returned to Boston to continue working with the suffragists. When women gained the vote in 1920, she joined the lecture circuit, speaking mainly at Catholic Women's clubs. She was Trustee for Children in the Children's Institutions Department of the City of Boston from 1913 to 1920. In 1920-192 she was deputy commissioner of the Child Welfare Division in the Institutions Department.

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Created: May 23, 2004   Modified: May 23, 2004