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Irish Women and Nationalism: Soldiers, New Women and Wicked Hags ~ New Edition


Louise Ryan & Margaret Ward (Eds)

September 2019

In this exciting new book the full range of women’s contribution to the Irish nationalist movement is explored by writers whose interests range from the historical and sociological to the literary and cultural.


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Studies of Irish nationalism have been primarily historical in scope and overwhelmingly male in content. Too often, the ‘shadow of the gunman’ has dominated. Little recognition has been given to the part women have played, yet over the centuries they have undertaken a variety of roles – as combatants, prisoners, writers and politicians. In this important and influential collection the full range of women’s contribution to the Irish nationalist movement is explored by writers whose interests range from the historical and sociological to the literary and cultural. From the little known contribution of women to the earliest nationalist uprisings of the 1600s and 1700s, to their active participation in the republican campaigns of the twentieth century, different chapters consider the changing contexts of female militancy and the challenge this has posed to masculine images and structures.

Using a wide range of sources, including textual analysis, archives and documents, newspapers and autobiographies, interviews and action research, individual writers examine sensitive and highly complex debates around women’s role in situations of conflict.

Irish Women and Nationalism, first published in 2004 and now reissued with a new foreword by Marie Coleman, is a major contribution to wider feminist debates about the gendering of nationalism, raising questions about the extent to which women’s rights, demands and concerns can ever be fully accommodated within nationalist movements.

Table of Contents

Preface ~ Marie Coleman
Foreword ~ Sinead McCoole
1. Introduction ~ Louise Ryan and Margaret Ward
2. Testimonies to history: reassessing women’s involvement in the 1641 rising ~ Andrea Knox
3. Revolution in Ireland, evolution in women’s rights: Irish women in 1798 and 1848 ~ Jan Cannavan
4. ‘In the line of fire’: representations of women and war (1919–1923) through the writings of republican men ~ Louise Ryan
5. Constance Markievicz and the politics of memory ~ Karen Steele
6. Representations and attitudes of republican women in the novels of Annie M. P. Smithson (1873–1948) and Rosamond Jacob (1888–1960) ~ Danae O’Regan
7. ‘And behind him a wicked hag did stalk’: from maiden to mother, Ireland as woman through the male psyche ~ Jayne Steel
8. ‘We had to be stronger’: the political imprisonment of women in Northern Ireland, 1972–1999 ~ Mary Corcoran
9. Female combatants, paramilitary prisoners and the development of feminism in the republican movement ~ Rhiannon Talbot
10. Narratives of political activism from women in West Belfast ~ Claire Hackett
11. The emergence of a gender consciousness: women and community work in West Belfast ~ Callie Persic
12. Times of transition: republican women, feminism and political representation ~ Margaret Ward

About the Editors

Louise Ryan is Professor of Sociology at the University of Sheffield. She has published extensively on suffragism and migration. She is the editor of Gendering Migration (with Wendy Webster, 2008) and Migrant Capital (with Umut Erel and Alessio D’Angelo, 2015). She is the recipient of the Fellowship of the Academy of Social Sciences.

Margaret Ward is currently Visiting Fellow in the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics at Queen’s University, Belfast. She has worked at Bath Spa University and the University of the West of England, and was the Director of the Women’s Resource and Development Agency. She is the author of Hanna Sheehy Skeffington: Suffragette and Sinn Féiner – Her Memoirs and Political Writings.

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