Over the last few years interest in the roles that women played throughout Irish history has finally picked up. We now know that there were far more women who took part in the Easter Rising than previously thought. Estimates have put their numbers anywhere from seventy-seven to several hundred and many are finally getting the recognition that they have deserved for so long. Sorcha MacMahon was one of those women and without her, the 1916 uprising may have been very different indeed.
Piaras Béaslaí may have been born in England, but that didn’t stop him from being profoundly Irish. His Irish Catholic parents emigrated to Liverpool before Piaras was born but he grew up with a strong love for his heritage. By the time he was a teenager he was fluent in Irish and obsessed with Ireland’s struggle for independence. He wrote fiery newspaper articles and rebellious poetry that highlighted the Irish Republican cause and eventually led him into the Gaelic League and the secretive Irish Republican Brotherhood. He developed close friendships and worked side by side with many prominent revolutionaries like Ned Daly, Thomas Ashe, and Michael Collins, just to name a few.
On this day sixty-nine years ago, Ireland said goodbye to one of its fierce daughters. Elizabeth “Lily” O’Brennan was one of three revolutionary sisters in the O’Brennan clan, and was a true believer in the cause of Irish freedom. She fought for it even when it cost her her own.
Love him or hate him, Eamon De Valera was perhaps the most influential man in Irish History, despite the fact that he was born in the United States. He helped create the political machine of modern Ireland and his influence is still being felt (and untangled) today, forty-one years after his death.
In honor of Margaret Pearse who died 84 years ago today I thought I’d share the bit I wrote about her in my book, Petticoats, Patriots, and Partition. Many women suffered incredible loss during Ireland’s revolutionary period, but Margaret had a special kind of pain, losing both of her only sons. We are days away from their commemoration times and remembrances, so I thought Margaret should have hers too.
The ladies of Cumann na mBan have always had very strong opinions about the state of Ireland and its politics. Since its inception, the majority of CnamB members have fought for a united Ireland. During the lead up to the Easter Rising of 1916, these women supported the Republican cause in many different ways. They raised funds for the uprising, trained in first aid in order to help wounded Volunteers, smuggled various weapons and explosives throughout Ireland, spread important news, and many learned to shoot and fight themselves. They became a force to be reckoned with.
In the aftermath of the Rising, CnamB was flooded with new members and big ideas. They were prominent in the Dáil Éireann, the Republican legislature set up to counter England’s rule. Many of the widows of the leaders of the Rising were some of the loudest voices and strongest supporters of a free Ireland, and almost all were members of the female Republican organization. Eamon De Valera called them the “most unmanageable revolutionaries.” Many others accused the organization of making decisions based on vengeance and emotion without thought or consequence, especially when they voted against the Anglo-Irish Treaty ninety-four years ago today.