Dolan, Charles Joseph (1881–1963), politician and lawyer, was born 18 August 1881 in Manorhamilton, Co. Leitrim, eldest of four sons of John Dolan, general merchant, and Bridget Dolan (née Fitzpatrick); he had at least one half-brother and one half-sister by his widowed father's second marriage. After receiving primary education privately, he attended St Patrick's college, Cavan, where he won a gold medal in the Irish intermediate examinations. He studied at St Patrick's seminary, Maynooth (1898–1901), but decided against entering the catholic priesthood, and left the institution in June 1901 with a licentiate in philosophy. He undertook further studies at the Royal University Wren's, London (Ó Duibhir, 17–18, citing St Louis Globe Democrat, 30 October 1927, and St Louis Post Dispatch, 10 August 1930). Returning to Manorhamilton, he assumed management of the family merchandising business. In February 1906 he was elected to parliament unopposed for Leitrim North (1906–8) as United Irish League (UIL) candidate in a by-election. Expressing ‘Irish Ireland’ tendencies at variance with the Irish parliamentary party (IPP) mainstream, Dolan was rapidly disillusioned by the general indifference of British MPs to Irish issues. One of several nationalist MPs persuaded by the disappointing terms of the liberal government's 1907 Irish council bill of the inefficacy of pursuing home rule by parliamentary activity in alliance with the liberal party, he announced his conversion to the radical policy outlined by Arthur Griffith (qv) in The resurrection of Hungary (1904–5): withdrawal of Irish MPs from Westminster, formation of an Irish abstentionist assembly, and vigorous promotion of domestic industrial development. When the UIL national convention (20 June 1907), which rejected the council bill, overwhelmingly defeated a motion calling for withdrawal from parliament, Dolan resigned the IPP whip, and declared his intent to resign the seat and contest the ensuing by-election on an abstentionist, ‘Hungarian policy’ platform. Ceasing to attend at Westminster, he delayed his resignation until January 1908 to allow time to familiarise the electorate with the abstentionist agenda. Dolan's tactics hastened the merger of Griffith's National Council and the Sinn Féin League of Bulmer Hobson (qv), and induced both Griffith and Hobson to modify their suspicions of electioneering, and actively support an electoral campaign advocating Sinn Féin principles. Assisted by Sinn Féin organiser Seán Mac Diarmada (qv), a Co. Leitrim native who acted as his election agent, Dolan launched a propagandist newspaper, the Leitrim Guardian, which ran for thirty-one issues (July 1907–February 1908), and organised eleven National Council/Sinn Féin branches in the constituency. By emphasising the movement's policies on industrial development he attracted considerable interest and support. Opposed by the UIL's Francis Meehan – county councillor, local branch president of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and his next-door neighbour in Manorhamilton – Dolan drew such figures as Griffith, Hobson, George Gavan Duffy (qv), and Anna Parnell (qv) to Leitrim to speak in his support. Generating intense interest in the UK press, the campaign was marked by bitter invective; violence and intimidation were frequent, more from UIL activists than Sinn Féin. Anna Parnell was pelted with rubbish, and Dolan himself was involved in a polling-station brawl on election day (21 February 1908). Defeated with 1,157 votes to Meehan's 3,103, Dolan and Sinn Féin claimed a moral victory for a fledgling movement and novel policy in a constituency long a UIL stronghold. The first Sinn Féin parliamentary candidate, Dolan personally originated the tactic adopted by subsequent Irish abstentionist parties of testing popular support by contesting elections for seats that they disdain to occupy. The Leitrim North election contributed to a significant rise of Sinn Féin's profile, resulting in a sixfold increase in affiliated branches by 1909, and launch of a Sinn Féin League of America (August 1908). When Sinn Féin triumphed at the 1918 general election, Dolan's younger brother, James N. Dolan (qv), took the Leitrim North seat for Sinn Féin with an overwhelming majority.
Charles Dolan served on the Sinn Féin national executive (1908–9) before going to America to learn boot manufacture with a view to establishing a factory on his return, both as a demonstration of Sinn Féin self-help strategy and to invigorate the flagging family business. After two years studying the shoe industry in St Louis, Missouri (1909–11), he returned to Ireland for fifteen months but failed to launch the projected factory. Returning permanently to America, he taught history and languages at St Louis University while studying law, commencing practice in 1917. His legal career was marked by two tenures as St Louis associate city counsellor (1921–8, 1942–60). In 1921 he was secretary of the Missouri branch of the American Association for the Recognition of the Irish Republic. He aligned with the USA's Republican party, claiming an affinity of its policies with Sinn Féin protectionism. He married first (June 1912, shortly after his return to St Louis) Katherine Kenney; they had one daughter. He married secondly (1950) Gladys Stark, by whom he had at least one stepdaughter. He died in St Louis in 1963.