There is a new children’s book that inspires young readers with the trailblazing life of Mary O’Toole (MOT). From Irish immigrant working as a babysitter and seamstress to becoming the first woman judge of a municipal court in the United States, Mary O’Toole’s life is one of perseverance and determination.

Paula Mulhall of Boalsburg, PA, the grandniece of Mary O’Toole, has been instrumental in getting the story of her great-aunt into the hands of young children. She said, “

Mary O’Toole came from Scotland, Hacketstown, County Carlow in 1874, and she was appointed to the bench in the District of Columbia by President Warren G. Harding on July 21, 1921. She saved pennies from her many small jobs to emigrate to the United States, which she did at age sixteen.

Illustrator Leigh O’Connell of Ireland brought the story of Mary O’Toole to life in colourful, life-like drawings that will resonate with young readers. She commented on her belief in the project: “Women in history, particularly strong Irish women and their achievements and books of all genres are passions of mine. Getting the opportunity to illustrate a children’s book about an amazing Irish woman whose story is largely unknown was quite literally a dream come true. I am incredibly proud to be a small part of getting Mary’s story out there.”

What started as a modest life became a groundbreaking one, and Mary grew to prominence as a judge in Washington. known for her deep intellect and hard work ethic.

Mary O’Toole:

  • Was the first woman in the District of Columbia to perform a marriage ceremony
  • Was the first woman director of the Washington, D.C. Chamber of Commerce
  • Did not believe in capital punishment or the death penalty
  • Supported a woman’s choice to divorce
  • Fought for women to have the right to vote

The book is 32-pages and has been co-authored with Penn State professor Dr. Nichola D. Gutgold, who researches and writes about trailblazing woman and believes that Mary O’Toole’s story needed to be told. “She is an inspiration, and it is my goal by writing this children’s book that young readers will be inspired to work hard for their goals and dreams.”

The book is available from Eifrig Publishing or from The authors and illustrator plan to share the book through community and school readings and events around MOT’s birthday in early April.