Dorothy Macardle, historian and propagandrix

On this day in 1958, Ireland lost a powerful (albeit slanted) voice. Dorothy Macardle was best known for her book “The Irish Republic” which was commissioned by her idol and friend Eamon De Valera. Her blind faith in his political party and leadership is apparent throughout her history book but so are the echoes of a rebel suffragist and her whispers of dissatisfaction when it came to women’s rights. Dorothy Macardle may have been a vocal member of Dev’s faithful flock, but that’s not to say she was entirely happy with all of his policies.

Dorothy was born into a wealthy Catholic family and she enjoyed the perks of that upbringing, such as travel and a good education but she bucked against her Unionist-leaning family when she started participating in Nationalist politics. She may  have been influenced by her landlord, who happened to be the great Maud Gonne Macbride – a professional agitator, 1916 widow, and founder of Inghinidhe na hEireann. Dorothy began writing for outlawed political publications and gradually she  became a staunch supporter of De Valera’s flavor of Republicanism. In 1922, Ms. Macardle was arrested in a raid on the headquarters of Cumann na Poblachta, along with nine other women. She claimed she was not a member of any political organization and protested her arrest vehemently but she  ended up in prison anyway. While in Kilmainham Gaol, she wrote one of the most harrowing accounts of the many ways that female prisoners were mistreated, especially on the night that authorities tried to break a hunger strike by moving most of the women to another prison. This caused a riot and Macardle chronicled the situation as it happened. She continued to report on current affairs after she was released. Many women were writing about Irish history at that time, but Dorothy was one of the only ladies who focused on more recent events and current troubles, rather than Ireland’s distant past. This set her apart and led her straight into the heart of Eamon De Valera’s new political party, Fianna Fáil. She was one of the six original female representatives, which also included political giants like Constance Markievicz, Kathleen Clarke, Hanna Sheehy Skeffington, and Margaret Pearse.

Ms. Macardle’s devotion to the party and the recent events that shaped it culminated in her history book The Irish Republic. The book received rave reviews and critical acclaim in many publications, despite its obvious bias and slanted point of view.


She was quite proud of the book even though it was published after she became slightly disillusioned with De Valera and his political agenda. She had always been an unapologetic suffragist and she strongly disagreed with many of his decisions when it came to women’s rights. This didn’t sour their relationship completely but when Dorothy eventually returned to writing, she left history and narrowing politics behind. She focused on dark fiction and morbid novels, one of which is said to have inspired Hitchcock himself after it became the film, The Univited.

Dorothy Macardle passed away fifty-eight years ago today, but her book The Irish Republic is still available today. When she died she left the royalties to Eamon De Valera, because despite their disagreements she still considered him a friend and leader. They remained close  until her death.

Dorothy Macardle was an amateur historian whose passion for Ireland led to one of the most opinionated and well-known books of her lifetime. She continued to write with varying degrees of success until the day she she died. We should all be so lucky.


Portrait via Wikimedia and Midsomer95

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