Fitzgerald was born in Ireland in 1882, and came to South Africa as a typist for the British Army. She worked in the Castle in Cape Town, and then moved to Johannesburg as a typist for the Mine Worker’s Union. She got drawn into the plight of the miners and soon had many followers.

In 1909, at the Labour Party conference, she was the only woman present among 54 delegates. From this point she got involved with fighting for the vote and equality for women.

In 1911 she got the name of ‘Pick handle Mary’ after leading a group of women who broke into a hardware store armed with pick handles. She also led a sit-in on the tramlines during the same year.

In 1921 Fitzgerald became the first woman on the City Council in Johannesburg. In 1922 she was arrested during the Mine Worker’s strike for allegedly leading the group that set fire to the Park Station. She died in 1960.


South African History Project, Department of Education, 9 August 2002, p. 2

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