“The Irish Republic is entitled to, and hereby claims, the allegiance of every Irishman and Irishwoman.”
Today is International Women’s Day and with the month that is in it we want to look back at the women who played a vital role in the rebellion.
Almost everyone can name the men who were executed and imprisoned but what about the women? Despite the fact most that served were men there were still a number of iconic women that played their part too in the 1916 Rising. Although some of these names you will have heard before I don’t feel they get the recognition they deserve.
One name most will be familiar with will be that of Countess Markievicz, who was undoubtedly the female lead of the Easter Rising. She was a woman of the times and someone almost 100 years on that we can still take so much from.
She was a politician, suffragette and socialist, Markievicz lead a remarkable life before and after 1916 becoming one of the first women in the world to hold a cabinet position, as Minister for Labour in the Irish Republic from 1919-1922.
Although more than 100 women served actively in the Rising, the Countess is certainly the most famous. She served as an Officer during the Rising, making her a decision maker and legally allowed to carry weapons. Markievicz went on to be the first woman to be elected to the House of Commons, but refused to take her seat.
The image of Markievicz is as iconic as many of the men of that period but what about the other women whose involvement in the Rising was as important.
Elizabeth O’Farrell? Elizabeth worked as a mid-wife in Holles Street Hospital, and was one of the three women who were left last in the GPO. Her role was as a dispatcher, delivering instructions to rebel outposts outside of Dublin.
She was picked by Pearse to deliver the order of unconditional surrender to the British and was imprisoned following the Rebellion. She remained active in politics until her death in 1957.
Another woman that’s name may not be on the tip of your tongue while speaking of the women of the Rising is Rose McNamara. Rose was a member of Cumann na mBan, the women’s arm of the Irish Volunteers. Rose went on to play an important role in the Civil War serving under Countess Markievicz but she ultimately served as the Officer in charge of female battalion at the Marrowbone Lane Distillery and when the order came through to surrender, she marched, with 21 other women, to the British and confirmed they were part of the rebel contingent.
Helena Moloney for me was one of the most interesting of the Irish Volunteers due to her occupation, she was an actress and a journalist. She was a member of the public that few would have associated her with the Rising. A woman who came from a rather privileged background. Helena was responsible for smuggling guns in before the rebellion.
Finally there was Margaret Skinnider a name I’m sure most have heard of if read up on the Rising. Margaret was born in 1893 to Irish parents in the Lanarkshire town of Coatbridge.
She trained as a mathematics teacher and joined Cumann na mBan in Glasgow, she was also involved in the women’s suffrage movement there too. Her role was as a dispatcher, sniper and raider. She was the only female wounded in action throughout the Rising. When she was first imprisoned, she was seriously wounded and spent a long time in hospital.
The women of the Rising gave up so much to insure an Ireland that was fair and equal for all, we remember them today on International Women’s Day and look forward to seeing their efforts honoured at the end of the month during the Centenary celebrations.