The mighty Margaret Skinnider

On the third day of Ireland’s Easter Rising, a woman got off her bicycle at St. Stephen’s Green and delivered the message she’d been hiding to the rebel leaders inside. Then she took off her skirts, put on a homemade uniform, picked up a rifle and headed to the roof of the building to take her turn as a deadly sniper. In between shots, Margaret Skinnider formed a plan for a bombing mission that would make the area safer for her comrades and fellow rebels.

Attempting to execute that plan nearly killed her when Ms. Skinnider was shot three times on this day in 1916. Her grave wounds earned her the distinction of being the only woman who was so seriously wounded in the rebellion and it cemented her place in Irish history. You cannot have a project that involves women in the Easter Rising without including Margaret’s near death experience so today belongs to her.

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Skinnider’s Near Death Experience

Margaret Skinnider described the Easter Rising like this. “Every shot we fired was a declaration to the world that Ireland, a small country but large in our hearts, was demanding her independence.” Her words might not have had the same certainty and grand bravado if she had been writing while the bullets were flying…but then again, I am quoting Margaret Skinnider so maybe they would have. That utter devotion to Ireland nearly did her in on this day in 1916.

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Margaret Skinnider

Margaret Skinnider was a woman like no other, and I take every opportunity that I can to write about her. She is one of my biggest heroes – not just because she was a warrior and an intellectual but also because she was humble and quick. Without her contributions, many aspects of the Easter Rising may never have come to fruition but because she was not born in Ireland and she was a woman, it has been very hard to find anyone who gives her the full recognition she deserves in the history of the Rising.

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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.

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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.

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Remembering Margaret Skinnider

Margaret Skinnider was a woman who should have died long before she did, but like a cat with nine lives she nearly always landed on her feet. She did not die while learning to shoot weapons and build bombs in her home town of Glasgow. She did not have a fatal accident while smuggling explosives under her hat and detonators under her dress from Scotland to Ireland in 1915. She did not blow herself up while spending many afternoons testing dynamite in the hills around Dublin and she was not killed while acting as a courier between rebel outposts during the Easter Rising of 1916. On the contrary, between delivery missions on her bicycle, she joined the men on a roof over Stephen’s Green with a rifle and took her own deadly aim. She was proud of her sniper abilities and famously said, “More than once I saw the man I aimed at fall.”
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