Hibernian of the Year Sarah OBrien Dirk

Madigan Muses: Celebration of Irish American Women

During March, we celebrate Irish Heritage Month. Did you know that March is also Women’s Month? How did Women’s Month start?

In 1978, a school district in Californian held a weeklong event to recognize women’s contributions to culture, history and society. This idea spread and more school districts across the United States celebrated the contributions of Women.

National Women’s History Month
President Carter issued the first Presidential Proclamation declaring the week of March 8, 1980, as National Women’s History Week. In 1981, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution establishing a national celebration. The National Women’s History Project petitioned Congress to expand the event. In 1987, it was expanded to the entire month of March.                                   

Let us remember and celebrate the achievements of many Irish and Irish American Women. Most of those claiming Irish heritage in the United States are those whose ancestors came because of an Gorta Mor (the Great Hunger).

The most famous Irish American family is the Kennedys. When you think of the women in the Kennedy family, the first to come to mind is Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, mother of the first Irish Catholic President.

The true matriarch of the Kennedy family is Bridget Murphy Kennedy, who emigrated to the United State during an Gorta Mor. If it was not for how Bridget survived all the challenges that she faced, we never would have heard of the Kennedys. I for one admire the way Bridget met her challenges and raised her son, Patrick Joseph, grandfather of John F. Kennedy.

The great granddaughters of Bridget have made impactful contributions, from Eunice Shriver and the Special Olympics to Jean Kennedy Smith, US Ambassador to Ireland, who was an advocate for the Good Friday Agreement.    
All of our families can think of the strong women that have made us who we are. Our mothers hold a special place; that is why the United Irish Societies honor an Irish Mother of the Year.

Patricia Corcoran Holman has that honor this year. She has instilled her love of her heritage and her faith to her children. It is fitting that Pat is being honored this year as the theme of the Parade is Ireland One Island One Nation, as her father fought for Irish freedom.

Congratulations to Pat Holman on this well-deserved honor. Let us also celebrate all of our mothers.    

Pat Homan Irish Mother
Pat Homan, Irish Mother of the Year
Hibernian of the Year Sarah OBrien Dirk
Hibernian of the Year Sarah O'Brien Dirk

Hibernian of the Year
I am proud to be a member of the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians (LAOH). The members of the LAOH throughout our country make a difference in their communities.

This year the Hibernian of the Year is Sarah O’Brien. Sarah is very active in the Irish community and the founding president of one of our new divisions, who will be celebrating their 2nd Anniversary.

Last month I recognized Bridget Linton as one of the Irish Echo’s 40 under 40. This month during the month where we celebrate St. Patrick, I would like to highlight my sister Hibernian Patricia Coleman Lavelle. She has been the Chair of the AOH/LAOH Celebration of St. Brigid and St. Patrick since the celebration started.

Pat is committed to her Catholic faith and her Irish heritage. She follows the example of the patron saint of the LAOH as a model of feminine strength and leadership. Our Lady of the Rosary Division was privileged to have her as our President for the past four years.

This was the second time that she served as president. Pat was the second president when Division 5 and 10 combined to make one strong LAOH Division. She is a quiet worker in many organizations, including the West Side Irish American Club, the United Irish Societies and the LAOH.

I personally know how hard she works on various events. This past November, the LAOH hosted a national event in my honor. I will never be able to thank Patty enough for all she did to make this event one to be remembered for years to come.

Under her leadership, my LAOH Sisters welcomed and made the many Hibernians attending to feel like Cleveland and the West Side Irish American Club was their home for the weekend. I know that Pat Lavelle is one that does not like the limelight, just like so many Irish women.

You are honored if you are able to have a cup of tea with Patty. Thinking of the many times that I have had a cup of tea with Patty, this quote comes to mind: “Women are like teabags. We don’t know our true strength until we are in hot water.”  – Eleanor Roosevelt. Pat Lavelle is a strong woman that is always there for her family, friends, and our community.

Find this column and others from the March 2024 issue here!

Marilyn Madigan

Marilyn Madigan

*Marilyn Madigan is the National President of the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians and a Deputy Director of the United Irish Societies of Cleveland. She received a Bachelor of Sciences in Nursing from St. John College and retired from nursing at University Hospitals of Cleveland

Madigan Muses
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