THE Belfast Charitable Society has launched an updated version of ‘The Life and Times of Mary Ann McCracken – A Belfast Panorama’, which was first published by its author Mary McNeill in 1960.

Most of us can only hope to achieve something of note within an entire lifetime. Some manage many accomplishments and triumph over challenges – and a very small number lead a life that is still worthy of note many years after they have passed away.

It is one such life that of Mary Ann McCracken, which the Belfast Charitable Society invites us to celebrate and reimagine in today’s world as an updated version of her life and times, is published on the date of her 249th birthday.

Mary Ann was a central figure in Belfast’s history, tirelessly working for the cause of the poor, children, women, workers and slaves. Paula Reynolds, Chief Executive of the Society explains; “Mary Ann McCracken was an abolitionist, social reformer and activist who fought for the rights of women and championed Belfast’s poor throughout a long life that encompassed the most turbulent years of Irish history.

“She was responsible for setting up and running the Poor House Ladies Committee, where she helped educate and secure apprenticeships for hundreds of children; she was also President of the Ladies Industrial School. Mary Ann was also involved in early women’s suffrage campaigns and prison reform schemes.

“As a life-long abolitionist, she founded the Belfast Women’s Anti-Slavery League and even in her late eighties, she could still be found on the docks, handing out anti-slavery leaflets to emigrants embarking for the slave-owning United States.

“The motto of this tenacious woman, which accurately sums up her character, was it is ‘better to wear out than to rust out’. But her radical, humanitarian zeal and generous strength of character were unrelenting, and her contribution to Belfast life can still be felt today.”

This republication is the first major piece of work undertaken by the Mary Ann McCracken Foundation, set up by Belfast Charitable Society to celebrate the life and works of this remarkable woman, and her legacy and relevance today.

Paula concluded; “We are very thankful to the family of Mary McNeill, who themselves have had a long history with our organisation, and have given us permission to republish. Both Mary Ann McCracken and Mary McNeill, her biographer, were tireless activists for children and the disadvantaged throughout their respective lives. The Belfast Charitable Society is proud to recognise these two important women in its history through this republication.”

The book, republished ahead of the 250th anniversary of Mary Ann McCracken’s birth, will highlight her work and the ability to give those a voice to the voiceless. Published by Irish Academic Press the book is available now to pre-order online at