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Women of the Rising

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In the early twentieth century, women could not vote in elections to the Westminster parliament. The Proclamation of the Irish Republic, a document issued by the Irish Volunteers during the 1916 Easter Rising, challenged this with a commitment to women’s equality. While the seven signatories of the Proclamation were men, many women played their part in the Rising. In fact, more than 100 women were arrested. Here are just a few of their stories...


Collage of Countess Constance Markievicz, Elizabeth O’Farrell and Dr Kathleen Lynn

Countess Constance Markievicz

Countess Markievicz is renowned as the leading woman of the Easter Rising. Inspired by the poet W.B. Yeats, she became interested in Irish nationalism and worked closely with James Connolly prior to joining the Irish Citizen Army. 
 
During the Rising, Markievicz was appointed second in command to Michael Mallin at St. Stephen’s Green. Afterwards she was condemned to death for her role in the Rising, but her sentence was changed to life in prison on account of her sex. She was released under a general amnesty in 1917.
 
Following the general election of 1918, Markievicz became the first woman elected to the British House of Commons, but she did not take her seat. She was a member of Sinn Féin and all the party’s elected members refused to attend parliament in London. Instead they formed a parliament in Dublin, the first Dáil (meaning assembly).
 
From 1919-1922 Markievicz served as the Minister for Labour in the Irish Republic, at a time when nations everywhere were still campaigning for women’s right to vote. Opposing the Anglo-Irish Treaty, Markievicz left government in January 1922 along with Éamon de Valera, the president of Dáil Éireann. After this, she toured America to drum up support for the Republicans before joining the new Fianna Fáil party on its foundation in 1926. 
 
In 1927, she was elected to the Irish parliament but died the following year. She is honoured with a bronze bust in St. Stephen’s Green and is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.

Elizabeth O’Farrell

Nurse Elizabeth O’Farrell was stationed at the General Post Office (GPO) during the Rising. Remaining in the GPO for the entirety of the fighting, on 29 April 1916, O’Farrell was handed a Red Cross insignia and white flag and sent to seek terms of surrender from the British. As she emerged onto Moore Street all firing ceased. She was taken to Brigadier General Lowe, the leader of the British forces, who then sent her back to Patrick Pearse with the demand for unconditional surrender. 
 
When Pearse surrendered to General Lowe in person, O’Farrell was by his side. She then brought the order of surrender across the city of Dublin, accompanied by a priest and three soldiers. She spent several months in prison, but was shown clemency for her instrumental role in managing the final hours of the Rising.
 
Elizabeth O’Farrell continued to be active in republican politics for the rest of her life. She died in 1957 and is buried in the Republican Plot at Glasnevin Cemetery.

Dr. Kathleen Lynn

Born in Dublin and educated in Germany and England, Kathleen became a supporter of the Irish Labour Party, co-founded by Rising leader James Connolly in 1912. Dr Lynn joined the Irish Citizen Army and was the Chief Medical Officer during the Rising, stationed at City Hall. Following the surrender, she was imprisoned in Kilmainham Gaol.
 
She was arrested in 1918 for her part in the Irish War of Independence, but was released to assist with the global Great Flu pandemic which is estimated to have killed 23,000 people in Ireland. A pioneer for women in medicine, in 1919, Kathleen Lynn established St. Ultan’s Hospital for Infants on Charlemont Street.
 
She remained active in Irish politics throughout the 1920s until turning her sole focus towards her medical career. She continued to work as a doctor well into her eighties.
 
Dr Lynn died in 1955 and was buried in Deansgrange Cemetery with full military honours.

Article sources:
Sinead McCoole