“They think that they have foreseen everything, think that they have provided against everything; but, the fools, the fools, the fools! — They have left us our Fenian dead, and while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace” – Patrick Pearse
This passionate call to arms and declaration of war was delivered by Patrick Pearse at the graveside of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa. It is one of the most famous speeches in Irish history and O’Donovan Rossa’s funeral was a show of military might, a genius stroke of propaganda created by the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and one of the catalysts that led to the Easter Rising in 1916. It took place on this day in 102 years ago.
Ireland has always had more than its fair share of feisty women. By 1908 there were already numerous Suffragist groups in Ireland, full of women who wanted equality, the ability to vote, and more freedoms. Many of these groups focused on petitions, publicity, and spreading their message through polite channels and discourse, and they attracted many prominent socialites who used their influence to further the cause. This was not good enough for Hanna Sheehy Skeffington, her husband Francis, and their radical friends. 108 years ago today, they founded the Irish Women’s Franchise League, a group dedicated to equal rights that used agitation and action to spread their message.
On June 30th, 1890 a horrible tragedy struck the O’Connor family in County Dublin. John O’Connor was a well-known journalist and Nationalist politician. He was the M.P. of West Wicklow and a family man who had a loving wife and five young children. This seemingly adoring family was torn apart when almost all of them were fatally poisoned. Only John O’Connor and one of his daughters survived.
On this day in 1939, poet and patriot William Butler Yeats said farewell to the world from the south of France. Yeats spent many of his winters in France and in Italy due to life-long health issues but he always left his heart in Ireland, even after death. He told his wife George to bury him quietly in the hills above Monaco but “to dig me up and plant me in Sligo” a year later when he thought everyone would have forgotten about him. That idea is laughable given that he is still revered and remembered today.
Now that some of the Women of 1916 have been highlighted, it’s time to move on to another group that has been largely left out of the history books when it comes to The Easter Rising. Many brave rebels are celebrated throughout the world every year at this time…but what is ignored by most is that the fighters were not exclusively Irish. There were more than a hundred foreign soldiers who assisted in the Rising and while some were 2nd or 3rd generation Irish there were others who had no Irish blood whatsoever. They came from all over Europe and the rest of the world to join forces against the English and were some of the fiercest warriors in the conflict.
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.
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.