Irish Women Rising: Margaret Skinnider (1893-1971)

skinnider1

Photograph of Margaret Skinnider from Doing My Bit for Ireland. NY: Century, 1921.

The New York Times called  Margaret Skinnider “the schoolteacher turned sniper,” which was both a testament and a slight to her remarkable life. Born to Irish parents in Scotland, she spent summers in the countryside of County Monaghan as a child , and it was there that she noticed the disparity between the wealthy Anglo-Irish, who held authority in most instances, and the poorer Irish living side by side with them. The need for radical action was very clear to Skinnider by the early 1900’s.

While she worked as a math teacher in Glasgow, Skinnider joined the Irish Volunteers and the Glasgow branch of Cumann na mBan (the Women’s Council). Skinnider was a feminist and nationalist who did not hesitate to embrace roles traditionally defined as masculine. Word of her skill as a markswoman and of her affiliation with radical nationalist organizations reached Constance Markievicz who invited Skinnider to visit her in Dublin. They became close friends, engaging in shooting practice in the Dublin Hills, and Skinnider always referred to the Countess as “Madam.”  

skinnider2

Photograph of Margaret Skinnider from Doing My Bit for Ireland. NY: Century, 1921.

When Madam suggested visits to museums and galleries, Skinnider expressed her desire to see the very poorest part of the city instead. Upon visiting the Ash St. section of Dublin, Skinnider saw the once beautiful old mansions that had belonged to Dublin’s well-to-do.  These residences, where many families huddled together in one room, now stood as witnesses to and ugly evidence of the destitution that plagued many unskilled workers and the countless unemployed.

In support of the Rebellion, Skinnider used at least one of her frequent trips to Ireland to smuggle detonators and bomb-making material for nationalist causes:

In my hat I was carrying to Ireland detonators for bombs, and the wires were wrapped around me under my coat.”

Not surprisingly, Skinnider was one of the most active female participants in the Easter Rising. She served with the St. Stephen’s Green contingent under Michael Mallin and her friend, Madam Markievicz, who was second in command. According to the Proclamation published by the leaders of the rebellion, women were equal to men—fact Skinnider reminded Commander Mallin of when he stopped her from throwing a bomb. She argued that women have as much right to risk their lives as men. In fact, Skinnider did risk her life and suffered the worst injury of any woman during the conflict. She took three bullets, and spent seven weeks recovering in the hospital. Arrested for her actions, she spent no time in jail due to the intervention of the hospital’s head doctor.

skinnider3

Photograph of Margaret Skinnider from Connolly, Thomas J. History of the Irish National Teachers’ Organization, 1868 – 1968. Dublin: Irish National Teachers’ Organization 1968

Skinnider continued her lifelong dedication to Ireland, labor, and feminism after the uprising. She taught in the Irish Sisters of Mercy school in Dublin until 1961. Active in the Irish National Schools Teachers Organization, she lobbied for equal pay and status for women teachers, and served as its president during the 1960s.

  • Kathleen Williams,  Senior Reference Librarian, Bibliographer for Irish Studies, John J. Burns Library
  • Michael Bailey,  Student Assistant to Kathleen Williams and Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History

Works Consulted:

Sadibh Walshe, “The Sisterhood of the Easter Rising,” New York Times, March 16, 2016

Skinnider, Margaret, Doing My Bit for Ireland, New York: The Century Company, 1917

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Athanasius Kircher: The Last Man Who Knew Everything

Would you rather be knowledgeable on a variety of topics, or an expert on just one topic? Today’s emphasis on academic specialization supports the latter—we rarely encounter someone with multiple PhDs in unrelated fields. Rarely do we go beyond the question or suggest the obvious third option: what if we could be an expert in a range of disciplines?

Modern academic world, meet Athanasius Kircher.

Portrait of Athanasius Kircher

Portrait of Athanasius Kircher, Mundus Subterraneus. Amstelodami : Apud Joannem Janssonium & Elizeum Weyerstraten anno MDCLXV. Q155 .K58 1665 Jesuitica, John J. Burns Library, Boston College

Kircher, a Jesuit priest of the German Enlightenment, has been referred to as “The Last Man Who Knew Everything” for attempting to be a polymathic scholar. Kircher published nearly 40 works on a diverse range of subjects, from linguistics and Egyptology to geology and medicine. Despite his powerful resume, however, history has forgotten him for one simple reason: Kircher was wrong about almost everything.

Kircher dedicated his life to the pursuit of knowledge. Kircher was born in 1602 in Fulda (now Hesse), Germany. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1628, and taught in Germany before fleeing from the Thirty Years War to Rome in 1630. Kircher taught at the Collegio Romano until granted full leave to study, experiment, and write. He remained in Rome for the rest of his life. Upon his death in 1680, Kircher’s heart was buried in Santuario della Mentorella, a church which he helped renovate earlier in his life.

Kircher is infamous for firmly defending outlandish claims. Kircher did not just posit ideas recklessly, he often pursued them recklessly. Kircher once lowered himself into a just-erupted Mount Vesuvius to better understand the inner workings of volcanoes. Albeit a bit dramatic, Kircher’s dedication to the hidden systems of geology produced one of his more famous (though fanciful) diagrams of the earth.

Illustration from Mundus Subterraneus.

Illustration from Mundus Subterraneus. Amstelodami : Apud Joannem Janssonium & Elizeum Weyerstraten anno MDCLXV. Q155 .K58 1655 Jesuitica, John J. Burns Library, Boston College

sunflowerclock

A depiction of the Sunflower Clock, Magnes Sive de Arte Magnetica. Coloniae Aggrippinae; Apud lodocvm Kalcoven, 1643. Print. QC751 .K58 1643 Jesuitica Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College

In addition to risking bodily harm for science, Kircher also attempted seemingly nonsensical experiments. For such an example, we need look no further than his legendary sunflower clock. In his work Magnes Sive de Arte Magnetica (1641), Kircher proposed that a plant’s attraction to the sun mimics a magnet’s attraction to its polar charge. Using this theory, a sunflower placed in water should follow the course of the sun throughout the day, thus acting as a rather accurate sundial.

As it turns out, Kircher’s sunflower clock is not a workable design. This seems not to matter; many other scientists attempted to reproduce this experiment, opening additional inquiries into the idea of magnetism and, for Kircher’s contemporaries, a heliocentric world.  This may be exactly what Kircher intended—rather than attempt a truly workable sunflower clock, Kircher might instead have wanted to show the potential of scientific imagination and inquiry.

Kircher’s imagination did not stop at the boundaries of science. His interest in history and linguistics led him to the field of Egyptology, which before the discovery of the Rosetta Stone remained virtually indecipherable. Kircher thought Egyptian society fiercely important to European culture, and so doggedly studied and promoted it. He attempted to develop a key to hieroglyphics. In one of his more famous blunders on this topic, Kircher mistakenly translated one text as “The treachery of Typhon ends at the throne of Isis; the moisture of nature is guarded by the vigilance of Anubis.” We now know it to mean simply “Osiris says.” His work in this area–however inaccurate–began the academic study of Egyptian society and today Kircher is widely considered the Father of Egyptology.

Illustration of Bembine Tablet

Center of Bembine Tablet, on which Kircher based his interpretation of Egyptian hieroglyphs. Oedipus Aegyptiacus. Romae : Ex typographia Vitalis Mascardi MDCLII-MDCLIV. PJ1093 .K564 1652 Oversize, John J. Burns Library, Boston College

Continue reading

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Irish Women Rising: Mollie Gill (1891–1977)

Photograph of Mollie Gill, 1911

Mollie Gill Portrait. Mitolsky, photographer, 1911. Loretta Clarke Murray Collection (MS2016.016), John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Mollie (or Máire, in Irish) Gill is the first woman featured in our Irish Women Rising blog series who did not come from the well-to-do, Anglo-Irish class. Hailing from an Irish family, Mollie Gill’s life is representative  of thousands of young women in Ireland at turn of century—independent working girls, many of whom never married and many of whom struggled to support themselves throughout their lives. These women challenged the expectations of the nineteenth-century society’s worldview every bit as much as the wealthy women who participated in activism in this period.

Gill was employed at Dun Emer Industries, the arts and crafts cooperative founded by Evelyn Gleeson and worked under Elizabeth Corbett “Lolly” Yeats as a printer.  The stated aims of Dun Emer Industries were to find work for Irish hands in the making of beautiful things and to educate young Irish girls so they too could pass on their acquired skills.

In 1908, the year that Gill joined Dun Emer, Yeats and her sister, Susan, broke with Gleeson and formed Cuala Industries, where Gill would remain employed for the rest of her life. Cuala, pronounced COOL-a, is an early name for Dublin. The press “published living Irish writers at a critical time in the development of modern Irish culture.”

Photo of Mollie Gill

Mollie Gill with Camogie Cup. Loretta Clarke Murray Collection (MS2016.016), John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Mollie Gill thus came into the Yeats’ family circle and became aware of William Butler Yeats and the Celtic Literary Revival.  Mollie studied the Irish language, and, as a member of Inghinidhe na hÉireann (Daughters of Ireland), engaged in an array of cultural activities. An active participant in the Irish Republican movement, she was a charter member of Cumann na mBann, or League of Women.  She was also an athlete who played Camogie, a stick and ball game similar to hurling, serving as President of Cumann Camógaíocht na nGael (Camogie Association of Ireland) for 18 years.

Different from many of the women of her day who worked in nursing or teaching positions, Gill played an important role in the actual mechanics of print communication: rolling inks, and operating the Albion handpress that Lolly Yeats had acquired for the printing side of Cúala Industries.

Gill marched with the Dublin Camogie group in the funeral procession of Fenian leader Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, which provided an opportunity for nationalist groups to gather in a show of strength and circumvent laws against demonstrations. Continue reading

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Traditional Music, Old and New: The Séamus Connolly Collection of Irish Music

photograph of Séamus Connolly,

Séamus Connolly, circa 2006. Photo by Bachrach Studios.

Irish traditional music followers worldwide can now access hundreds of music tracks in The Séamus Connolly Collection of Irish Music, a digital collection produced and published by the Boston College Libraries. This collection of tunes and songs was compiled over fifteen years by ten-time All-Ireland fiddle champion Séamus Connolly, a 2013 National Heritage Fellow and the Sullivan Family Artist-in-Residence in Irish Music from 2004 to 2015. Featuring audio recordings of some of the best-known performers of Irish traditional instrumental music and song, the collection’s audio, sheet music, stories, and essays display and play seamlessly on mobile phones, tablets, and desktop and laptop computers. The audio is freely available on both the fully-responsive website and via SoundCloud.

Connolly’s stories on the full site, together with the audio, sheet music, and song lyrics, offer a window into traditional music through his long experience as a performer and teacher. In “A Message from Séamus Connolly,” he explains that many of the new performances in the collection were inspired by older source recordings he had compiled over several decades. Connolly listened to his source recordings with an artistic ear, choosing tunes that were particularly meaningful to him and that are perhaps not often heard today. He invited specific musicians to listen to these early recordings and record their own interpretations of the same tunes.

The new performances of older tunes contain many subtle and exciting changes, as illustrated by selected audio clips featured in this blog post. The sheet music is often based on the earlier source recording, rather than on the new performance. In an essay  titled “Merging the Past with the Present,” music scholar Sally K. Sommers Smith Wells observes that the musical transcriptions provided in the collection are “bridges between the source recordings of original musicians and the contemporary interpretations.” Reading Connolly’s stories helps make these connections with the earlier recordings, as he pays tribute to musicians of the past whose music inspired the new performances.

julia clifford with stroh violin

Julia Clifford with Stroh violin. Photo by Séamus Connolly. Box 93, Folder 9, Séamus Connolly Papers, IMC.M064, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

One source musician who influenced Connolly greatly was the renowned Sliabh Luachra fiddle player Julia Clifford (1914-1997) from Lisheen, County Kerry. He writes, “When I was just sixteen years old, Mrs. Clifford offered to play tunes for me to record, learn, and add to my repertoire. This generous lady, along with her son Billy on flute, played some lovely music for me.” This musical encounter proved to be a milestone in Connolly’s life, as detailed by music critic Earle Hitchner in his biographical essay, “Seamus Connolly: A Living Legend in Irish Traditional Music.” Hitchner notes that part of this collection’s genesis came from Clifford’s question, “You don’t have it, do you?”, a remark she made occasionally to make sure she was adding new tunes to the teenage Connolly’s repertoire, and not repeating what he already knew.

Sharing of time and talent is highly valued across the Irish music community, as witnessed by the generosity of over 130 international musicians and others who contributed to Connolly collection. Over 330 tunes and songs in ten playlists are freely accessible worldwide under a Creative Commons License (CC-BY-NC 4.0). Connolly and the Boston College Libraries are grateful to all of the performers, composers, editors, writers, artists, and other collaborators and rights holders who generously contributed content and made this collection possible. Continue reading

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Hidden Gems

While working as a student assistant in the conservation lab of the John J. Burns Library was never something I knew I wanted to do, it has become such an informative part of my career at Boston College. Many who work on campus have told me about their work study experiences, and this led me to believe that most work study jobs are a great means to get your homework done while getting paid. Considering all bags and backpacks must be secured before entering the lab, it’s easy to see this is not one of those jobs. These past few weeks have been like stepping into a whole new secret world on BC’s campus; one senior I encountered even went as far as describing the Burns Library as “Boston College’s most hidden gem.” After seeing the rows and rows of rare books and artifacts, getting to go inside private rooms while I collect climate control data, and learning so much about female Irish revolutionaries while working on dozens of artifacts’ exhibit supports, I couldn’t agree more with her analogy.

In a short amount of time, the Burns’ conservator, Barbara Adams Hebard, has taught me so much about the tasks of conservation. There are specific methods for using a board shear, cleaning materials, making a basic exhibit support, and locking stubborn doors after collecting climate control data. Recently, we worked on assembling Irish Women Rising: Gender and Politics in Revolutionary Ireland, 1900-1923, an exhibit about the participation of Irish women in revolutionary activities from the turn of the twentieth century through the Irish Civil War. I had little knowledge of Irish history, so exposure to completely new material by means of unique, fascinating artifacts has surpassed any history book I’ve ever read. Reading entries from diaries, Christmas cards mailed from jail, and political cartoons while building the exhibit support for each object sparked questions and conversations with Barbara and other members of the Burns staff who are happy to gush about events that fascinate them.

A few particularly interesting items in Irish Women Rising are several pieces of jewelry which I examined in order to assist with their condition reports. Equipped with white gloves, a magnifying glass, and the internet, I dove in to find out more about Tara Brooches and rare Irish jewelry.  The main purpose of my research was to discover the names of particular jewelry components so the condition reports could be properly completed with any problem areas accurately  described and located.

tarastylebrooch

Brass brooch, early 1900s. [Loretta Clarke Murray Collection (MS2016.016, cat. no. 87), Burns Library, Boston College]

Historically, brooches were not just decorative jewelry, they were also practically employed to secure one’s cloak. Some brooches were lavish and expensive, while others were cheaper and plain, but they all were and remain beautiful representations of Celtic art. The first brooch I examined is similar in style to the Tara Brooch. This style, featuring a long pin attached to a ring with a small gap in it, is known as a pseudo-penannular brooch, and on either end of the gap are two plates known as terminals. (An annular brooch is comprised of a completely circular ring.) While the terminals add to the decorative quality of the jewelry, over time the right terminal of our piece has unfortunately warped, making it slightly misaligned with the other side. This brass piece is engraved with “Inghinidhe na h-Éireann” (Daughters of Ireland), dates from the early 1900s, and a jeweler’s mark on the brooch indicates it was made in Dublin by E. Johnson Ltd. I found these tidbits of information to be some of the most fascinating parts of the brooch because all these years later it’s origin remains traceable.

cnambrifle

Cumann na mBan gold badge, [ca. 1916-1921?], in original leather Hopkins & Hopkins Jewellers Case. [Loretta Clarke Murray Collection (MS2016.016, cat. no. 88), Burns Library, Boston College.

The other two artifacts I examined did not have maker’s marks, but were in substantially better condition than the bent Tara style brooch. Stamped on the back of the rifle shaped CnamB badge (an abbreviation for Cumann na mBan, an auxiliary of the Irish Volunteers) was the number 14 in a square box, indicating that it was made of 14 karat gold. This piece, dating between 1916 and 1921, is in much finer condition than the Tara style brooch, with only a minor imperfection on the back, probably due to soldering.

The final piece of jewelry I reviewed was a pin made from bog oak wood, which is  wood that was buried in a peat bog for hundreds to thousands of years and preserved by these particular conditions such that it begins to fossilize. This piece, dating from ca. 1860, was easily my favorite due to the fine, Celtic details of the carved harp motif and gold clovers which highlight the exquisite craftsmanship.

eringobraghbogoak

Irish bog oak carved pin with central harp motif within a gold-leafed oval band engraved with the words “Erin go Bragh,” embellished by gold-leafed clovers. Ca. 1860. [On loan from Loretta Clarke Murray]

There are so many hidden treasures in the Burns Library and I am excited to see visitors’ reactions to the new Irish Women Rising exhibit. Many people have worked diligently on this project, and the end result is truly something wonderful. Having completed my work with the Irish jewelry,  I will now be creating protective mylar jackets for Graham Greene’s library, learning about leather treatment in order to repair rare Jesuit books, and much, much more. There are gems hiding everywhere among the stacks of books, artifacts, and people at the Burns Library, and throughout my time here I hope to uncover as many as I can.

  • Katherine Oksen, Burns Library Conservation Assistant and Boston College, Class of 2019 

Works consulted:

https://www.claddaghdesign.com/history/irish-treasures-tara-brooch/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tara_Brooch

https://www.celtic-weddingrings.com/blog/index.php/2011/10/31/the-history-of-the-tara-brooch/

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Irish Women Rising: Constance Markievicz (1868-1927)

“The history of her family – typical of a hundred and one Anglo-Irish families – pointed the way to only three kinds of life: either she became an ornament , at best graceful, of the little social round that divided itself between the drawing-rooms of Sligo, and the drawing-rooms of Dublin and London; or she became a philanthropist, in Ireland or out of it and with more hope of requital out of it than in it; or she might snatch, from whatever Victorian society still retained of the traditions of the Anglo-Irish bucks, as gay and unconventional a life as she dared and her allowance could afford.”

Constance Markievicz lived all three kinds of life, but was a woman different from most of her group.  She operated outside expected roles, breaking with many traditions, and is commemorated for doing that. “She is the only woman of the Big Houses to whose memory a public monument has been erected by the pennies of the simple folk of Ireland.”

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Constance Markiewicz at Lissadell House, ca. 1900. Unknown photographer. From Dublin and the “Sinn Féin Rising” … Issued by Wilson Hartnell & Dublin, 1916.

Constance was born a Gore-Booth, a descendant of the Gore family that had been granted land in the seventeenth-century  for ancestor Paul Gore’s  service in a  cavalry troop led by the Earl of Essex. Land acquisitions and marriages ensued over the years, but, by February 4, 1868 when Constance was born, the family was well settled in Lissadell House, one of the ‘Big Houses’ in County Sligo.

Typical of the leading landowners in Ireland the Gore-Booths entertained many visitors, and enjoyed riding, hunting, and driving.  Constance and her sister, Eva enjoyed an upbringing that reflected their class and social standing. Home-schooled, they were taught to appreciate music, poetry, and art. Constance was presented to Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace in 1887, making her formal debut into society.

Despite her family’s objections, Constance attended the Slade School of Art in London and also gained a great interest in the suffrage movement. In 1898, to further her studies, she took art classes in Paris and met Count Casimir Dunin-Markievicz, a Pole whose family held land in Ukraine.  They married in 1900, and had a daughter, Maeve, the next year.

The Count and Countess lived in Dublin where they socialized, collaborated artistically, and performed with artists like William Butler Yeats, Æ (George Russell), Maud Gonne, and many others who represented varying political and social views. It was also in Dublin that Markievicz witnessed the desperately poor, unskilled, and unemployed people who were living in Dublin’s crowded tenements.   

markiewicz_soup-kitchen

Kitchen in the basement of Liberty Hall; Countess Markievicz is pictured stirring a pot of soup accompanied by members of Cumann na mBan. Unknown photographer.

By 1908, Markievicz was heavily involved with Irish social and political issues, and she helped organize soup kitchens for striking workers and their families after the 1913 Dublin Lockout. Markievicz grew into a celebrated feminist, cultural patron, nationalist, and socialist, advocating for workers’ rights, and like many other radicals at the time, believed in an independent Ireland.

In 1915, Markievicz co-founded the Fianna Eireann (The Fianna of Ireland, named for Finn, the heroic leader of his band of soldiers in one of Ireland’s mythological tale cycles), a nationalist youth organization akin to the Boy Scouts, and become editor for Bean na hEireann (The Irish Woman), the monthly publication of Inghinidhe na hÉireann (Daughters of Ireland). Bean na hEireann regularly published pieces supporting a variety of causes, including suffragism, labor, the Irish cultural revival, and nationalism.

markiewicz_pistol-lcm-65

Constance Markiewicz with pistol. Loretta Clarke Murray Collection (MS2016.016), John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

During the Rising, Constance was second-in-command of the troops garrisoned at St. Stephen’s Green and was jailed for her part in the rebellion. After the Rising, she was elected to the British House of Commons in 1918 as a member of Sinn Féin (We Ourselves), becoming the first female member of Parliament. Yet, like other Sinn Féin partisans, she refused to take her seat. As Minister for Labour in the Irish Dáil (Assembly) in 1919, she became both the first Irish female cabinet minister and second female government minister in Europe. During the Civil War she was arrested for support of the Anti-Treaty forces. She was a leading figure, along with Éamon de Valera, in forming the Fianna Fáil (Soldiers of Destiny) political party in 1926. She was elected to the Fifth Dáil the following year, but died before she could take her seat

Her life was one of political, social, and labor activism and as an integral player in the many causes she supported, she broke with traditions and stereotypes, particularly those of the Victorian era. Constance Markievicz, not surprisingly, is one of the more famous revolutionary women of this period.

  • Kathleen Williams,  Senior Reference Librarian, Bibliographer for Irish Studies, John J. Burns Library
  • Michael Bailey,  Student Assistant to Kathleen Williams and Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History

Works Consulted:

O’Faolain, Sean. Constance Markievicz. London: Sphere, 1968.

Senia Paseta. “Markievicz, Constance Georgine Countess Markievicz Gore-Booth”. Dictionary of Irish Biography. (ed.) James McGuire, James Quinn. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2009. (http://dib.cambridge.org.proxy.bc.edu/quicksearch.do#).

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Irish Women Rising: Maud Gonne (1866 – 1953)

gonne-bio-pimary-czira-studio-portrait-1887-lcm-54-scan-2

Maud Gonne. F. Czira, photographer, 1887. Loretta Clarke Murray Collection(MS2016.016), John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

In a letter to her suitor, William Butler Yeats, who complained that he was unhappy without her, Maud Gonne wrote “Oh yes, you are, because you make beautiful poetry out of what you call your unhappiness and you are happy in that. Marriage would be such a dull affair. Poets should never marry. The world should thank me for not marrying you.” This letter both succinctly captures the extraordinary Maud Gonne and, paradoxically, overshadows her. Known as Yeats’ unrequited love, Gonne was, in her own right, a powerful woman committed to social, cultural, spiritual, feminist, and nationalist causes.

In the 1890s,Gonne witnessed evictions of Irish tenants and incarcerations of men for rebellious acts. She believed each to be unjust, and this inspired her lifelong commitment to issues of humanitarianism and social justice. In 1900, Gonne was a founding member of Inghinidhe na hÉireann (Daughters of Ireland),  a nationalist women’s organization that supported an independent Ireland, the promotion and education of Gaelic culture and language, the promotion of Ireland’s domestic economy, and discouraged all uses of English and displays of English culture. It began a monthly publication, Bean na hÉireann (Woman of Ireland), in 1908 and published pieces supporting women’s rights and suffrage as well as Irish nationalism.She served as its president until 1914 when the group merged with Cumann na mBan (The Irishwomen’s Council).

Through this endeavor, Gonne was introduced to and included in a wide web of Irish activists that included fellow female radicals such as Constance Markievicz and Helena Molony. Gonne’s activism also extended to the labor movement, where she coauthored “The Right to Life and The Rights of Property” with famous Irish Socialist and 1916 Proclamation signer James Connolly.

gonne-bio-secondary-with-large-dog-in-walled-garden-lcm-61

Maud Gonne. Unknown photographer, dated 9/23/1939. Loretta Clarke Murray Collection (MS2016.016), John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

In 1918, Gonne was accused of assisting the “German plot,” and imprisoned alongside Constance Markievicz, Kathleen Clarke, and Hanna Sheehy Skeffington in Holloway women’s prison in London. Following the  War of Independence, Gonne opposed the Free State, was imprisoned twice, and worked tirelessly on behalf of republican prisoners and their families. A prolific writer on many social causes, she was also very much an active participant in aiding the poor, the dispossessed, and disenfranchised.

The letter mentioned at the start indicates much more than her curious relationship with Yeats. It hints at the language of a strong, feminist woman who believed in her own strength and put her beliefs into action. She was active and influential in women’s suffragist, labor, humanitarian, cultural and nationalist causes. Maud Gonne is best understood not as Yeats’ unrequited love, but as a strong and influential woman.

  • Michael Bailey,  Student Assistant to Kathleen Williams and Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History
  • Kathleen Williams,  Senior Reference Librarian, Bibliographer for Irish Studies, John J. Burns Library

Works Consulted:

Maud Gonne, The Autobiography of Maud Gonne: A Servant of the Queen. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1938.

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