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 this day inn 1946 Ireland lost a powerful voice when Ms. Hanna Sheehy Skeffington passed away. She was one of the country’s most independent and fierce women who always fought for equal rights, for peace, and for Ireland, even when those beliefs cost her dearly. Hanna was indomitable and as she reminded her son before her death, she was an unrepentant pagan. Continue reading
Sophie Bryant was born on this day in 1850, into a time when women did not receive much education or have too many professional options. She was lucky enough to be largely home-schooled by her father who was a math professor at the University of London, and by private governesses that he hired. She became fluent in many languages and fell in love with math and science. She was an exceptionally strong student.
Kathleen Lynn was an anomaly among women at the turn of the century in Ireland. She was extremely well educated, which was very rare for females at the time, and she was a doctor – not a nurse – which was an incredibly unusual profession for a woman of that era. She faced discrimination and difficulty in the field for many years due to her gender and it made her a strong suffragist and a very tough woman.
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.
It must be agonizing for a parent to outlive their child. It goes against the natural order of the universe and has to be absolutely devastating. For many, it usually involves anger and hopelessness. Margaret Pearse knew that suffering better than most, for she didn’t lose one son, but two—at once—both executed at the hands of the British for their roles in the Easter Rising of 1916. Despite this, she steadfastly refused to give in to despair and she spent the rest of her life fighting for the free Ireland that her sons had died for.
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.