Dictionary of Irish Latin American Biography

Kathleen Boyle (1869-1941)
(Maud Cox collection)

Boyle [née Jones], Kathleen [Catalina] (1869-1941), headmistress and educationist, was born on 18 October 1869 at 54 Rathgar Road, Dublin, the daughter of Francis P. Jones, a civil engineer who worked in the General Valuation office, and Elizabeth Dowling, both with Church of Ireland background.

Kathleen was sent to England to study literature in the university of Cambridge. Her father died in 1886 and the family emigrated to Rio de Janeiro, where she taught English, music and arts in the Colegio Americano Brasileiro. A yellow fever outbreak forced them to travel to Argentina. Their cousins John and Robert Hallahan, sons of the Rev. John Hallahan of Castletown, Berehaven (Co. Cork), were physicians in the British Hospital of Buenos Aires, and in 1891 received Kathleen’s mother and her four children.

In Buenos Aires Kathleen resumed her teaching profession. In 1894 she founded the Colegio Inglés of San Martín, which was renamed later "San Patricio." Different to other Irish schools, from the beginning Colegio San Patricio was open to students of any origin or religion. Kathleen married to Andrew T.S. Boyle in 1899. Boyle was a former major in the British army and an engineer, and founder of the boy scouts group of San Martín. Andrew Boyle was born in 1844, went to school in England, and entered the military school at Sand Hutton. In 1888, serving in the Connaught Rangers 88th Regiment (the Devil's Own), he was promoted to Major. During his appointment in India, Boyle received eight wounds that he would carry during the rest of his life. He converted to Catholicism after a cholera break in India. He was shocked when all the ministers left with their families and the Catholic priests remained. Andrew Boyle retired from the army and was hired by a British company with businesses in Argentina. He worked in several Argentine cities and his last executive position was in the Ferrocarril Buenos Aires al Pacífico. Kathleen and Andrew married in St. John's Pro-Cathedral, the Anglican church of Buenos Aires. She later converted to Catholicism and they both remarried and re-baptized their children in the new faith.

From the beginning, Colegio San Patricio was a laboratory to test the latest educational techniques. Kathleen implemented new methods to teach English as a foreign language and, according to the examination results, there was a significant improvement of the students’ knowledge and enthusiasm. Her motivation schemes, including awards to the best students, prompted the children to work harder. When the number of students grew and she was not able to teach personally to all of them, she hired qualified teachers graduated from prestigious Argentine schools.

Kathleen's work was not limited to education. On Sundays the major of San Martín frequently received her request to visit the local prison in order to take cigarettes and magazines to the convicts. Her three daughters, Catalina, Agatha and Ruth, wandered with Kathleen through the poorest areas distributing supplies to destitute families. One day, when Kathleen was told that a Chinese immigrant had died from an infectious disease and in appalling circumstances, she was the only one with the courage to get into the room, wash the corpse, and prepare it for burial. These examples chosen among several cited by newspapers in Kathleen's obituary are an expression of her qualities.

At Kathleen Boyle's time, Argentina was a country whose population was growing dramatically. Its post-colonial bourgeois structure was challenged by massive inflows of new immigrants from disparate cultures in Europe and the Middle East. On 4 August 1932 the Standard paper edited by Michael G. Mulhall, published a letter sent by Katheen Boyle (signing as Miss Justice). She argued against the perspective of some readers who thought that women should give up their jobs in favor of men in order to relieve unemployment. In her letter Kathleen re-focused a gender issue on its actual social context. A proposed ten per cent cut on salaries, she said, should be applied only to those with higher income, not to low-paid workers with large families. She ended with an appeal to wealthy men to sacrifice half of their salaries and see that those working under them earn a living salary.

Kathleen Boyle died on 27 October 1941. A street in San Martín's district Villa Piaggio was named after her, and a bronze bust was placed in Nueve de Julio and Mitre streets, and later moved to the cemetery (though people thought it was Evita and would either shower flowers or throw rocks at it!). Her life challenges the traditional historical narrative of the Irish in Argentina, which frequently depicts Roman Catholic male emigrants from rural townlands in the Irish midlands or Wexford who settled in the countryside of Buenos Aires or other provinces to work in sheep-farming.

Edmundo Murray


- Coghlan, Eduardo A. Los Irlandeses en la Argentina: Su Actuación y Descendencia. Buenos Aires, 1987.

- Murray, Edmundo. Catalina Street in Ciudad de San Martín, Buenos Aires. Web site "Irish Migration Studies in Latin America", cited December 26, 2004.

- Roger, María José. The Children of the Diaspora: Irish Schools and Educators in Argentina, 1850-1950. Web site "Irish Migration Studies in Latin America", cited March 12, 2004.

Copyright © Society for Irish Latin American Studies

Online published: 1 December 2003
Edited: 07 May 2009

Murray, Edmundo, '
Boyle, Kathleen (1869-1941)' in "Irish Migration Studies in Latin America" November-December 2005 (


The Society for Irish Latin American Studies, 2005

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