Mitchel, Jane (‘Jenny’) (c.1820–1899), nationalist, was born near Newry, Co. Down, where she, her brother, and her mother Mary Ward lived with Capt. James Verner (1777–1847), an attorney, formerly of the 19th Light Dragoons. The Verners were a well established Armagh family, closely involved with the Orange order; James Verner became Orange deputy grandmaster of Ireland in 1824. Though Jenny was brought up by Verner, she does not appear to have been his child. Educated at Miss Bryden's School for Young Ladies in Newry, Jenny first met her husband John Mitchel (qv) at the age of 15. She eloped with him (November 1836), but they were prevented from marrying when Verner pursued them to Chester and brought her back to Ireland. Undeterred, they eloped again and were married in the parish church of Drumcree, Co. Armagh (3 February 1837). Disowned by Verner, she lived with her in-laws at Dromalane, Co. Down, and from 1839 in Banbridge, where Mitchel practised as an attorney.
She moved to Dublin in October 1845 when Mitchel was appointed assistant editor of the Nation. Their home at 8 Ontario Terrace, Rathmines, became a gathering place for Young Irelanders, among whom the lively and intelligent Jenny was a great favourite. Fully supportive of her husband's nationalism, she helped with his work for the Nation, reading newspapers and keeping files of clippings for reference, and from February 1848 worked as an editor and anonymous contributor for his revolutionary paper, the United Irishman. In May 1848, when Mitchel was convicted of treason felony and sentenced to fourteen years' transportation for inciting insurrection, she urged the Young Irelanders not to allow him to be taken away without a fight, and bitterly denounced them when they failed to respond. Her devotion to Mitchel won the admiration of nationalists, who raised a tribute of £1,450 to support her family. After a three-year separation, which she spent in Newry and Dublin, she joined Mitchel in exile in Van Diemen's Land (June 1851), and settled in the village of Bothwell, where in 1853 Isabel, the last of their six children (three sons and three daughters), was born.
Jenny accompanied Mitchel on many of his visits to fellow Irish exiles on the island, and had a particular fondness for William Smith O'Brien (qv). After Mitchel escaped in July 1853, she and her children joined him in Sydney and sailed to America. After a period living in Brooklyn, New York (1853–5), where they resumed many of their old friendships with Young Ireland exiles, they moved in May 1855 to an isolated farm at Tucaleechee Cove in the Allegheny Mountains, Tennessee. Jenny, however, disliked life in a primitive log cabin, believing that the isolation would hinder her children's education, and persuaded her husband to move in September 1856 to Knoxville, Tennessee, from where he conducted his pro-slavery newspaper, the Southern Citizen. In December 1858 they moved again, basing themselves in Washington, DC. Like her husband, Jenny strongly supported the southern cause and the maintenance of slavery.
In September 1860 Jenny followed her husband to Paris, where, despite some family opposition, she accepted the decision of her daughter Henrietta to convert to catholicism and enter a convent, though she herself remained a practising presbyterian. During the early years of the American civil war, she lived in Paris and Ireland with her daughters while her husband and sons assisted the confederacy. However, on hearing of the death of William, her youngest son, at Gettysburg in July 1863, she resolved to return to America with her two girls, Mary and Isabel (Henrietta had died earlier that year), without notifying her husband. Running the northern blockade, her ship was shelled, ran aground, and caught fire on an island near the coast of North Carolina. Many of her possessions were lost, but Jenny and her daughters were unhurt and in December 1863 managed to join Mitchel in Richmond, Virginia, where they spent the remainder of the war. In July 1864 her eldest son, John, was killed in action.
After the war the family returned to New York, where Mitchel started another paper, the Irish Citizen (1867–72). However, after Tammany Hall's funding of the Irish-American press dried up and Mitchel became ill, the family fell into poverty until relieved by a testimonial raised by William and John Dillon (qv) in 1873. Widowed in March 1875, Jenny subsequently received $30,000 from nationalist sympathisers, which was invested in a photo-lithographic firm that she ran with her son James. She died 31 December 1899 at home in Bedford Park, New York, and was buried in Woodlawn cemetery, New York, where her grave is marked by a large Celtic cross. She was survived by her son James (1840–1908) and daughter Mary (1846–1910). Her reputation was largely founded on her devotion to Mitchel and unstinting support for his beliefs. A woman of indomitable courage, she bore many misfortunes with great stoicism, and was an inspirational figure for nationalists.