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McCracken myth busted by new book

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Social reformer Mary Ann McCracken

Social reformer Mary Ann McCracken

Social reformer Mary Ann McCracken

A new publication explodes a myth that Belfast's most formidable female radical became a revolutionary because she fell in love.

John Gray's Mary Ann McCracken 1770-1866 marks the 250th anniversary of the social reformer's birth.

Gray, a former librarian of Belfast's Linen Hall Library, said the book, said: "Crucially I entirely discount the proposition that Mary Ann's involvement in revolutionary activity arose from her unrequited love for Thomas Russell."

Russell was a leading United Irishman, and became the second librarian at the Belfast Society for Promoting Knowledge - later the Linen Hall Library.

"Yes she admired him as a 'comrade' but she hardly fancied marriage to him," said Gray.

He added that when the adoration of male heroes - including her brother Henry Joy a founding member of the United Irishmen - is removed, "Mary Ann emerges as a determined revolutionary in her own right".

Following the defeat of the United Irishmen, she engaged in charitable activities and most notably at the poor house run by the Belfast Charitable Society.

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