Mary Fitzgerald (trade unionist)

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Mary Fitzgerald
Born 1860
Died 1960
Occupation Trade unionist
"The Hand That Will Rule The World—One Big Union"

Mary Fitzgerald (also known as Pickhandle Mary) (1890 - 1960) was an Irish-born South African political activist and is considered to have been the first female trade unionist in the country.

As a typist for the Mine Workers Union in Johannesburg she was appalled by the conditions under which miners worked and became involved in related industrial action. In Johannesburg, Mary became editor of a radical publication known as The Voice of Labour which she used as a vehicle for contesting capitalist relations and worker rights in the industrialising and colonial city of gold.

Accounts on how Fitzgerald acquired her nickname differ. According to some sources she spoke at a protest meeting during a strike by Johannesburg tram workers in 1911, brandishing a pick handle that had been used by police to break up the strike. Other sources attribute the name to an incident in the same year, when a group of protesting women broke into a hardware store armed with pick handles.

Fitzgerald is commemorated in the name of the Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown, Johannesburg.