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Kate Mullany National Historic Site opening June 10


fter 35 years of hard work, the Kate Mullany National Historic Site in Troy will officially open to the public this summer.

“It will be a big day when that happens,” said Paul Cole, executive director of the American Labor Studies Center. Cole, one of NYSUT’s founding activists and secretary-treasurer emeritus of the state AFL-CIO, has shepherded this project from its infancy, first assembling a proposal for the site to become a National Historic Landmark in 1988 and then lobbying to transform the landmark into an official National Historic Site.

“Someone said to me once, ‘You don’t retire from something, you retire to something.’ And I think that’s what I’ve done with this project,” Cole said.

Cole worked to assemble the funding necessary to turn the formerly blighted building in downtown Troy into a fully functioning, restored historic site, with exhibits and a re-creation of Mullany’s living quarters, complete with antique furnishings. The building will also be home to the American Labor Studies Center, where Cole and other labor leaders will help teachers bring the labor movement into their classrooms.

The project has not been without its share of travails, including a car crashing through the rear of the building in November 2020. The crash resulted in $158,000 worth of damage, which was only partially covered by insurance, and delayed the opening while Cole raised additional funds to repair the damages.

The opening June 10 will be complemented by two additional events, a lecture “Rising Worker Power in Troy and Cohoes” on June 15, and a performance of “Don’t Iron While the Strike is Hot,” presented by Cohoes Music Hall on June 17.

The historic site celebrates the life and work of Mullany, a young Irish immigrant laundry worker who organized the first all-female labor union, the Collar Laundry Union in 1864.

At the time, Troy was home to the first commercial laundry for collars, and Mullany and her fellow laundry workers washed, starched and ironed the collars 12 to 14 hours a day; for their troubles, the women earned a scant 3 to 4 dollars a week. When their request for higher wages was turned down, Mullany organized the workers into a union and went on strike. After five days, employers capitulated to their demands and granted them a significant increase.

“I think it is critically important to teach children, and citizens in general, about the contributions women have made to our society,” said Jolene DiBrango, NYSUT executive vice president who serves on the ALSC board. “Kate Mullany is a giant in the labor movement, a pioneer, and she should be a household name for anyone living in this state, and even the nation, for the work she did to provide workers with the rights they deserve.”

Visit KateMullanyNHS.org or call 518-331-4474 for more info.