Bridget “Brede” Connolly was one of the many women who took part in Ireland’s Easter Rising of 1916. She navigated through the streets of Dublin ferrying communications between James Connolly in the General Post Office and Ned Daly, in Church Street. Brede didn’t have that far to go as the crow flies but she had to make it through some of the fiercest fighting of the insurrection to deliver these messages and she did it time and time again.
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.
When Máirín Cregan was born on this day in 1891, her mother made a very important decision. She insisted that her daughter would grow up learning history and the Irish language. As a young adult, this eventually led Máirín right into the Gaelic League where she developed a sort of nationalist fervor. She was also quite a talented vocalist so she ended up moving to Dublin to study at the Leinster School of Music. When she arrived in the city in 1914, she socialized with the Ryan family, a strong Nationalist clan. Máirín was quickly rubbing shoulders with some of the most prominent Nationalists in Dublin including Min Ryan and her fiance, Seán Mac Diarmada, who was one of the future leaders of the Easter Rising.
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.
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.
Dr. Ada English was a strong woman, a fervent Nationalist, a prominent member of Cumann na mBan, and one of the first female psychiatrists in Ireland. Like her peer Dr. Kathleen Lynn, Dr. English devoted her spare time to politics and to healing and aiding the Irish Volunteers who were fighting for a free Ireland. Her story is not as well known as Dr Lynn’s however, since Ada was not in Dublin during the Easter Rising. Many political women of Ireland’s revolutionary periods have slowly vanished throughout the years, and Dr. Ada English has not been an exception to that unfortunate trend, though she should be.