Sisters of secession: The unclaimed legacies of two Southern American Irish women

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Mary Austin Carroll (1835-1909) and Florence Jane O'Connor (dates unknown) were both Irish American women of fervent religious belief who are unfamiliar to contemporary readers. The first objective of this piece is to introduce them and to give an account of their work. As a nun, and later a superior in the Order of the Sisters of Mercy, Mary Austin Carroll's work has sometimes been lost to her own preference for anonymity. Her literary production and importance arguably eclipse more celebrated male pro-Confederate contemporaries like Father Abram J. Ryan. For her part, Florence O'Connor's singular work, The Heroine of the Confederacy, provides critical insights into how Irish American women naturalised Catholicism in the South and reconciled it to Lost Cause remembrance. This essay attempts to place these women within the larger context of Southern Irish Americans with Confederate sympathies and argues for the lasting significance of their literary and rhetorical legacies within American Irish histories.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-211
Number of pages13
JournalIrish Studies Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2010


  • 'Lost Cause' remembrance
  • Civil War reconstruction
  • Florence Jane O'Connor
  • Irish American Catholics
  • Mary Austin Carroll


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