Dr. Gertrude Kelly

Dr. Gertrude Kelly

By Elizabeth Marsh


Dr. Gertrude Kelly was revolutionary for her time. She was a female immigrant that became a doctor. She was a champion of feminism and human rights. Lastly, she was an anarchistgkelly interested in reforming America. Kelly left Waterford, Ireland for New Jersey with her parents in 1868, and graduated from medical school in 1884. However, little is known about her early life and the beginnings of her career.

Dr. Gertrude Kelly is famous for her series of papers and essays calling for social and political reform throughout the United States; she argued for women’s rights and against capitalism. Kelly began writing these papers in the 1880’s and was involved in several societies and reform organizations. Dr. Kelly wanted to change “traditional notions of women’s influences around to argue that women served as important factors against change, and mothers’ influence kept children from social reform because women had been conditioned not to think independently or risk defying public opinion.”[1]

She was also interested in turning away from a capitalist society, in favor of anarchism. After moving to New York and becoming a successful surgeon, Kelly was introduced to the vast poverty of the tenements that she served. She realized that capitalism was keeping the immigrants and tenement dwellers impoverished. Only by rising up, could the working class promote revolution.

Kelly was a proponent of education reform. Being an anarchist, she did not believe that the government should have any involvement, and instead reform for education should come through private funding.

Dr. Gertrude Kelly is famously known for founding the American chapter of Cumann na mBan in 1914, and co-founding the Irish Progressive League in 1917. Kelly was invested in the Irish cause, and “issued a call for ‘women of Irish blood’ {…}to collect funds for Irish Volunteers fighting in the Great War.”[2] Overall, her interests spanned many fields and she worked diligently to promote change.

Dr. Gertrude Kelly passed away in 1934. Despite being an opponent to the government, Dr. Gertrude Kelly was honored by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia two years after her death. The “Gertrude B. Kelly Playground” is dedicated in her name on 21st Street in New York City.


Works Cited

Ebest, Sally Barr. “Irish American Women: Forgotten First-Wave Feminists.” Journal of Feminist Scholarship 3 (2012): 56-69.

McElroy, Wendy. “Gertrude B. Kelly: A Forgotten Feminist.” The Independent Institute. 1 October, 1998.

NYC Parks. “Dr. Gertrude B. Kelly Playground.” Accessed on 17 April 2015. http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/dr-gertrude-b-kelly-playground/history.

“Schooled in Radical Social Thought—Portraits of Three Irish-American Women in the Late-nineteenth Century.” Accessed on 17 April 2015. file:///C:/Users/Liz/Downloads/McCarthySBApaper.pdf.

[1]“Schooled in Radical Social Thought—Portraits of Three Irish-American Women in the Late-nineteenth Century,” accessed on 17 April 2015. file:///C:/Users/Liz/Downloads/McCarthySBApaper.pdf, 8.

[2] Sally Barr Ebest, “Irish American Women: Forgotten First-Wave Feminists,” Journal of Feminist Scholarship 3 (2012): 60.

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