By Martin Gleeson
Kathleen Hayes was one of five children of Patrick and Ellen Hayes, from Feakle, in Co. Clare. Patrick Hayes was a farmer and publican. Kathleen was born on February 16th, in 1902. After leaving school, Kathleen worked as a business apprentice in Dublin and in Limerick.
While the War of Independence was raging in Ireland in 1921, encouraged by an uncle in Syracuse, New York State, Kathleen decided to emigrate. As she was leaving her family, she advised her younger brothers, “Work hard and be careful about drinking, and grow up to be someone to be proud of.”
On September 22nd, 1921, Kathleen sailed from Cobh (then called Queenstown) on board the Scythia. Eight days later she held up her arms in awe as she saw the Statue of Liberty and disembarked in Ellis Island. With only $25 in her pocket, she made her way to Syracuse to stay with her mother’s brother, Jeremiah Moroney.
She had been described in the ship’s manifest as a “domestic.” But Kathleen said later, “A domestic, I never was. I wasn’t in America to change sheets or wash clothes.”
She soon found work, first as a waitress in the canteen of a state school and later in a department store.
While working in the E.W. Edwards Department Store in Syracuse, Kathleen met a young man named Roxie Rollins.