Kilcoole Women’s Group Presents
The Values of the Women of 1916 and their Relevance 100 Years Later Workshop
9.30am – 12.30pm – Saturday 4th June, 2016
“For Irish women, the fight for freedom was not just about nationalism or patriotism, it was a social movement.The women witnessed the reality of the poorest people in Ireland – the high infant mortality rates, the vile standards of living, the lack of education – and it was this social awareness that set women revolutionaries apart from their contemporaries.”
The centenary commemoration of the 1916 Rising has finally seen a recognition of the role that women played in that Rising. Some 300 who took part in the Rising came from all backgrounds and from all parts of the country. Many of those women remained politicized up to and during the Civil War. Six women deputies were elected to the first Dail of May 1921. Women also served as judges in the courts between 1919 and 1921.
However, as the country descended into civil war in the early 1920’s, the newly founded Free State reverted to traditional Catholic values. The women of Cumann na mBan found that their ongoing anti-treaty revolutionary activities – already well outside the prescribed gender roles of the time – were now deemed not only ‘unseemly’ by a deeply conservative Irish establishment but also a significant threat to the security of the state.
A London newspaper at the time, ‘The Sunday Graphic’ published an article carrying the headline ‘Irish Gunwoman Menace’ which described Irish women as ‘trigger happy harpies’. In a pastoral letter issued in October 1922, the Catholic hierarchy in Ireland urged all women to desist from revolutionary activities. The government of the Free State banned Cumann na mBan in January 1923 and opened up Kilmainham Jail as a detention prison for ‘suspect’ women. Minutes of the Executive Council of the Senate and Army Intelligence reports of the period – held at Military Archives – identify female dissidents at the time as a primary threat to the security of the state. The then Minister for Home Affairs described the female dissidents as ‘hysterical young women who ought to be playing five fingered exercises or helping their mothers with the brasses’.
As women’s role waned and a collective amnesia surrounded the role they did play in the making of the State, women became underrepresented in many of the institutions of the state. By revisiting the role that Irish women played in the Easter Rising, specifically focusing on the underlying values, we may gain some insights into the roles that women and other marginalized citizens play – or are discouraged from playing – in contemporary Irish society and the effects of this on the underlying values of equality and social justice in Ireland today.
Outline of the workshop:
9.30 – 10.00 Registration, tea and coffee
10.00 – 10.30 Welcome, introductions and setting the scene
10.30 – 10.45 Exploring the values of the Women of 1916
10.45 – 11.15 What are the contemporary issues of concern to women in Ireland in 2016
11.15 – 11.30 Tea/coffee break
11.30 – 12.30 How can the values of the Women of 1916 be applied to contemporary issues in Ireland 2016
12.30 – 12.45 Next Steps and Close