The Most Famous


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This page contains a list of the greatest Irish Social Activists. The pantheon dataset contains 840 Social Activists, 6 of which were born in Ireland. This makes Ireland the birth place of the 24th most number of Social Activists behind Philippines, and Belarus.

Top 6

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the most legendary Irish Social Activists of all time. This list of famous Irish Social Activists is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity.

Photo of William Howard Russell

1. William Howard Russell (1820 - 1907)

With an HPI of 50.84, William Howard Russell is the most famous Irish Social Activist.  His biography has been translated into 22 different languages on wikipedia.

Sir William Howard Russell, (28 March 1827 – 10 February 1907) was an Irish reporter with The Times, and is considered to have been one of the first modern war correspondents. He spent 22 months covering the Crimean War, including the Siege of Sevastopol and the Charge of the Light Brigade. He later covered events during the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the American Civil War, the Austro-Prussian War, and the Franco-Prussian War. His dispatches from Crimea to The Times are regarded as the world's first war correspondence.

Photo of Mary Harris Jones

2. Mary Harris Jones (1837 - 1930)

With an HPI of 50.50, Mary Harris Jones is the 2nd most famous Irish Social Activist.  Her biography has been translated into 59 different languages.

Mary G. Harris Jones (1837 (baptized) – November 30, 1930), known as Mother Jones from 1897 onwards, was an Irish-born American labor organizer, former schoolteacher, and dressmaker who became a prominent union organizer, community organizer, and activist. She helped coordinate major strikes, secure bans on child labor, and co-founded the socialist trade union, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). After Jones's husband and four children all died of yellow fever in 1867 and her dress shop was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, she became an organizer for the Knights of Labor and the United Mine Workers union. In 1902, she was called "the most dangerous woman in America" for her success in organizing miners and their families against the mine owners. In 1903, to protest the lax enforcement of the child labor laws in the Pennsylvania mines and silk mills, she organized a children's march from Philadelphia to the home of President Theodore Roosevelt in New York.

Photo of Wolfe Tone

3. Wolfe Tone (1763 - 1798)

With an HPI of 46.56, Wolfe Tone is the 3rd most famous Irish Social Activist.  His biography has been translated into 27 different languages.

Theobald Wolfe Tone, posthumously known as Wolfe Tone (Irish: Bhulbh Teón; 20 June 1763 – 19 November 1798), was a revolutionary exponent of Irish independence and is an iconic figure in Irish republicanism. Convinced that, so long as his fellow Protestants feared to make common cause with the Catholic majority, the British Crown would continue to govern Ireland in the interest of England and of its client aristocracy, in 1791 Tone helped form the Society of United Irishmen. Although received in the company of a Catholic delegation by the King and his ministers in London, Tone, with other United Irish leaders, despaired of constitutional reform. Fuelled by the popular grievances of rents, tithes and taxes, and driven by martial-law repression, the society developed as an insurrectionary movement. When, in the early summer of 1798, it broke into open rebellion, Tone was in exile soliciting assistance from the French Republic. In October 1798, on his second attempt to land in Ireland with French troops and supplies, he was taken prisoner. Sentenced to be hanged, he died from a reportedly self-inflicted wound. Since the mid-nineteenth century, his name has been invoked, and his legacy disputed, by different factions of Irish Republicanism. These have held annual, but separate, commemorations at his graveside in Bodenstown, County Kildare.

Photo of Eoin O'Duffy

4. Eoin O'Duffy (1890 - 1944)

With an HPI of 45.65, Eoin O'Duffy is the 4th most famous Irish Social Activist.  His biography has been translated into 17 different languages.

Eoin O'Duffy (born Owen Duffy; 28 January 1890 – 30 November 1944) was an Irish revolutionary, soldier, police commissioner and politician. O'Duffy was the leader of the Monaghan Brigade of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and a prominent figure in the Ulster IRA during the Irish War of Independence. In this capacity, he became Chief of Staff of the IRA in 1922. He accepted the Anglo-Irish Treaty and as a general became Chief of Staff of the National Army in the Irish Civil War, on the pro-Treaty side. He had been an early member of Sinn Féin and was elected a Teachta Dála (TD) for Monaghan in the Second Dáil find 1921, supporting pro-Treaty Sinn Féin in the split of 1922. In 1923 he became associated with Cumann na nGaedheal. He was appointed as the second Commissioner of the Garda Síochána in 1922, the police force of the new Irish Free State, serving until 1933. In 1924 during the Irish Army Mutiny he was appointed as General Officer Commanding of the Irish Army holding both roles until 1925.In the 1930s O'Duffy became attracted to the various fascist movements on the continent. In 1933 O'Duffy took control of the paramilitary movement called Army Comrades Association, also known as the Blueshirts. When the Blueshirts merged with Cumann na nGaedhael and National Centre Party to form Fine Gael, O'Duffy began the new party's first leader, remaining as such for 13 months. He subsequently raised the Irish Brigade to fight for the Nationalists in the Spanish Civil War as an act of Catholic solidarity and was inspired by Benito Mussolini's Italy to create the National Corporate Party. During the Second World War, he was clandestinely involved in pro-Axis circles but focused mostly on athletic administration in his capacity as president of the National Athletics and Cycling Association. He died in 1944.O'Duffy was active in multiple sporting bodies, including the Gaelic Athletic Association and the Irish Olympic Council.

Photo of Robert Emmet

5. Robert Emmet (1778 - 1803)

With an HPI of 42.72, Robert Emmet is the 5th most famous Irish Social Activist.  His biography has been translated into 22 different languages.

Robert Emmet (4 March 1778 – 20 September 1803) was an Irish Republican, orator and rebel leader. Following the suppression of the United Irish uprising in 1798, he sought to organise a renewed attempt to overthrow the British Crown and Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland, and to establish a nationally representative government. Emmet entertained, but ultimately abandoned, hopes of immediate French assistance and of coordination with radical militants in Great Britain. In Ireland, many of the surviving veterans of '98 hesitated to lend their support, and his rising in Dublin in 1803 proved abortive. Emmet’s Proclamation of the Provisional Government to the People of Ireland, his Speech from the Dock, and his "sacrificial" end on the gallows inspired later generations of Irish republicans. Patrick Pearse, who in 1916 was again to proclaim a provisional government in Dublin, declared Emmet's attempt "not a failure, but a triumph for that deathless thing we call Irish Nationality".

Photo of William Smith O'Brien

6. William Smith O'Brien (1803 - 1864)

With an HPI of 41.16, William Smith O'Brien is the 6th most famous Irish Social Activist.  Her biography has been translated into 18 different languages.

William Smith O'Brien (Irish: Liam Mac Gabhann Ó Briain; 17 October 1803 – 18 June 1864) was an Irish nationalist Member of Parliament (MP) and a leader of the Young Ireland movement. He also encouraged the use of the Irish language. He was convicted of sedition for his part in the Young Irelander "Famine Rebellion" of 1848 but his sentence of death was commuted to deportation to Van Diemen's Land. In 1854, he was released on the condition of exile from Ireland, and he lived in Brussels for two years. In 1856 Smith O'Brien was pardoned and returned to Ireland, but he was never active again in politics.


Pantheon has 6 people classified as Irish social activists born between 1763 and 1890. Of these 6, none of them are still alive today. The most famous deceased Irish social activists include William Howard Russell, Mary Harris Jones, and Wolfe Tone.

Deceased Irish Social Activists

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Overlapping Lives

Which Social Activists were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 6 most globally memorable Social Activists since 1700.