O'Connell, Mary (1778–1836), wife of Daniel O'Connell (qv), was born 25 September 1778 in Tralee, Co. Kerry. Her father Thomas O'Connell, prominent physician and member of the Church of Ireland, was a widower with three children when he married Mary's mother, Ellen Tuohy, a catholic. The couple had eight children together, including Mary, before Thomas O'Connell died (1785), leaving the family in poverty. In 1800 Mary began a clandestine correspondence with Daniel O'Connell, a barrister from Derrynane, Co. Kerry. The two were distant cousins through Mary's father, and probably met in Tralee at one of the many social functions surrounding the circuit court session. As an heir of his uncle, Maurice ‘Hunting-cap’ O'Connell (qv), Daniel feared disinheritance if he pursued a dowerless bride, and insisted on secrecy. When the couple married in Dublin on 24 July 1802, aided by Mary's sister and mother, their relationship was still unknown to Daniel's family. They lived separately until Mary's first pregnancy forced O'Connell's hand. The revelation of his marriage brought instant disinheritance. Despite these circumstances, Mary took up residence with Daniel's parents, Morgan and Catherine O'Connell, at the family home at Carhen, while O'Connell moved between the circuit and his meagre lodgings in Dublin. She remained there until 1805, when the couple purchased a home in Dublin on Westland Row. The birth of Mary's first son Maurice (qv) (1803–53) was followed by the births of Morgan (qv) (1804–85), Ellen (1805–85), and Kate (1807–91). She gave birth to Edward in July 1808; he died the following year. In 1810 Mary delivered babies in February (Elizabeth, 1810–93) and again in December (John (qv), (1810–58)). Following this feat, Mary had her first pregnancy-free year since her marriage in 1802. Between 1812 and 1816, she delivered five more children, only one of whom, Daniel (qv) (1816–97), survived to adulthood.
In 1809, against Mary's wishes, her husband bought a home on Merrion Square, Dublin, an elaborate purchase the couple could barely afford. Over the course of her marriage, she oversaw her household, managed the servants, diligently maintained family connections, practised her faith, raised her children, and often acted as an agent to her husband, whose circuit practice took him away from home for nearly four months every year. O'Connell's increased role in the emancipation movement necessitated further absences from his family. In addition, O'Connell's financial imprudence and the resulting economic hardships took its toll on Mary's wellbeing, forcing her and her children, in the spring of 1817, to move to the spa town of Clifton, England, to regain her health. She returned to Dublin that summer. In 1822 Mary again left Ireland, this time to live in France. Although they told their friends the trip was health-related, the journey was a financial necessity. She remained there with six of her children, living economically until 1824. In 1825 she settled herself at Derrynane, Co. Kerry, the newly inherited estate of Daniel's uncle ‘Hunting-cap,‘ who, before his death, had made amends with his nephew. Mary oversaw the renovations of the house, married off her eldest daughter, and applauded her husband's election to parliament in 1829. She joined O'Connell in London when the session began.
Between 1830 and 1836 the couple rarely were apart. Their financial situation improved dramatically, their children were well matched, and grandchildren were born into the family. In 1832 scandal erupted when Ellen Courtenay (qv) published a pamphlet accusing O'Connell of fathering her illegitimate son. The scandal resurfaced again in 1836 and was widely publicised. To offset the negative press, Mary joined O'Connell on a political tour of the English midlands in April 1836, despite her declining health. In May 1836 she began taking the waters at Tunbridge Wells in Kent. By August she was back at Derrynane. She died there on 31 October 1836 and was buried in Hunting-cap's tomb on the Abbey Island. Mary O'Connell's portrait, by John Gubbins, hangs today at Derrynane House. Her correspondence is part of the O'Connell collection in the NLI; a smaller collection is held in the UCD Archives.