The Women of 1916

It is estimated that at least 200 women were involved in the Easter Rising of 1916, many more than previously thought. Their roles varied as widely as the women themselves – and ranged from the traditional fundraisers, cooks, and nurses, to the more unexpected roles of sharpshooters, spies, smugglers, and experts on explosives.  A decent effort has been made over the last few years to give them credit for the part they played in the fight for Irish freedom, but sadly, they are still largely absent from many of the narratives.

Worse still is when a historian refers to the women as “great supporters” or “brilliant fundraisers” or “backbones”. These statements are true, but they still have an air of dismissal even amidst the recognition. They still show women in supportive or secondary roles and ignore the fact that many of them saw themselves as rebels, fighters, and soldiers in their own right – regardless of whether or not there were any men around. Until more historians can acknowledge that, many of the women who continuously risked their lives during Easter Week and in the years that followed, will not get the respect and honor that they are due.

Continue reading

The Countess in New York

She stepped off the boat to a throng of admirers and reporters. The Countess was a romantic heroine that had captured hearts and minds across the world and America was no exception. When Constance Markievicz arrived with Kathleen Barry at the Cunard pier in New York City on this day in 1922, a massive crowd greeted her with adoration and cheers.

Approximately 50 journalists and photographers had already boarded the ladies’ boat, the Aquitania, when it was stopped at the quarantine station. The Countess captivated every one of them and their glowing reports spread out all over the nation. They described everything in the greatest detail about her clothing and style and marveled that such a small woman could have done so much in the cause for Irish Freedom. They ate her stories up completely, as did her audiences whenever she spoke.

Continue reading

Top ten Favorite Facts about Constance de Markievicz

Today, February 4th, 147 years ago, one of Irish history’s most famous women was born…in London. Constance Gore-Booth was an aristocratic socialite who fell in love with Irish politics and went on to be one of the most beloved and recognized names in Nationalist history. She fought for women’s rights in Ireland and was a devoted Republican fighter who would have been executed for her role in the Easter Rising, had she not been a woman. Her most famous advice to women was to “Dress suitably in short skirts and strong boots, leave your jewels in the bank and buy a revolver.” In honor of her birthday today, here are my top ten favorite facts you may or may not already know about her life.

Continue reading

The Ghosts of Kilmainham

Kilmainhamlock

It has been said that tourists – and mostly American tourists – are the only reason that Kilmainham Gaol is still open because most Irish couldn’t be bothered with it these days. My new friend who is now happily married here in the U.S. agrees with the travel books that say things like that because he and his generation seem to be sick to death of the glorious dead mentality and couldn’t care less about the history and the Troubles that have haunted the country since even before the Rising of 1916. In fact, he was shocked that we were still asked questions about our religion and last names on our travels to Ireland at the end of last year, both in the Republic and the North because he thought those kinds of things were finished.

However, when I did tour Kilmainham Gaol, I was in a group mostly made up of Irish people and all seemed just as profoundly affected by it as I was. Perhaps it was because of the off season which meant my group was thankfully smaller when we went through the infamous prison, or perhaps it was an anomaly altogether but I was glad for it. It made for a decidedly more intimate and more personal experience.

Continue reading

The Death of the Countess

Her cell at Kilmainham, following the Easter Rising. I should mention the tour guide let me go back to take this picture, despite not usually allowing it, because I begged

“I do wish you lot had the decency to shoot me.” -Constance Markievicz, 1916.

Constance Markievicz may have wanted to die like her compatriots for her role in the Easter Rising but the English wouldn’t execute a woman. In the end, they may have wished they had, for the Countess had another 11 years to continue being a thorn in their side. She went straight into an even more political role, creating a world where women were more equal to the men, remaining staunchly Republican and inspiring thousands of people, including myself, throughout the years since. She is one of my favorite heroes.
Continue reading