The Life and Times of Mary Ann McCracken, 1770–1866, A Belfast Panorama


Mary McNeill

August 2018

Substantially revised new edition of the classic biography of Belfast abolitionist and social reformer, Mary Ann McCracken.


Categories: , , .


Despite outliving him by 68 years, Mary Ann McCracken’s legacy is overshadowed by that of her more famous brother, executed United Irishman Henry Joy McCracken. She was, however, an abolitionist, a social reformer and an activist who fought for the rights of women and Belfast’s poor throughout a long life that encompassed the most turbulent years of Irish history.

As treasurer, secretary and chair of the Ladies Committee, she helped girls from the Poor House learn crafts that would provide them with livelihoods. Dedicated to championing Belfast’s poor, she was President of the Ladies Industrial School and she campaigned to abolish the use of climbing boys in chimney sweeping. Mary Ann was involved in early women’s suffrage campaigns and prison reform schemes and was a passionate member of the Women’s Abolitionary Committee. In her late eighties, she could be found on the docks, handing out anti-slavery leaflets to emigrants embarking for the slave-owning United States.

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

Table of Contents

McCracken Family Tree
Foreword by Lady Quigley, President of the Belfast Charitable Society

  1. Francis Joy, 1697–1790
  2. Henry and Robert Joy, 1720–1785
  3. Captain and Mrs McCracken, 1745–1770
  4. Childhood and Adolescence, 1770–1790
  5. The United Irishmen, 1783–1791
  6. The Revival of Irish Music, 1792
  7. Reform or Revolution, 1791–1795
  8. Kilmainham. Part I, 1795–
  9. Kilmainham. Part II, –1797
  10. Antrim, 1798
  11. Thomas Russell, 1798–1803
  12. Interlude, 1803–1810
  13. The Turning Point, 1810–1827
  14. The Ladies Committee, 1827–1851
  15. The Last Years, 1851–1866

Additional information



Publication Date


Hardback ISBN



340 pp