Sisters of the Revolutionaries: The Story of Margaret and Mary Brigid Pearse


Teresa and Mary Louise O’Donnell

March 2017

In Sisters of the Revolutionaries the true extent of the sisters’ relationship with Patrick and Willie is revealed, along with the trials they faced in the wake of Easter 1916. This fascinating biography uncovers the dimensions of the Pearse sisters’ terrible estrangement, but also the joys that were the pattern of their upbringing, and their own formidable talents.


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Sisters of the Revolutionaries focuses on the lives of Margaret and Mary Brigid Pearse, whose brothers, Patrick and Willie, were executed for their role in the Easter Rising and have been commemorated as martyrs ever since. Comparatively little is known about the two sisters, despite their considerable talents and their efforts to uphold the image of their brothers’ legacies.

Margaret was an Irish language activist, politician and educator, working with Patrick in founding St Enda’s School in Dublin and taking it into her own hands following his execution. Mary Brigid was a musician and author of short stories and children’s fiction. The sisters’ successes were divergent, however, and their deep affection for their brothers never extended towards each other.

Teresa and Mary Louise O’Donnell provide a fascinating insight into the lives of Margaret and Mary Brigid, illuminating the many joys of their upbringing, their personal trials following the Rising, and the poignant disintegration of their own relationship later in life. This book reveals the previously unknown importance of the Pearse sisters’ contributions and the formidability of their characters.

Table of Contents

  1. The Childhood of Margaret and Mary Brigid Pearse
  2. From Girlhood to Womanhood
  3. A Pearse Family Project
  4. Surviving the Rising
  5. Mary Brigid Pearse: Literature, Loss and Litigation
  6. Margaret Pearse: The Politics of being a Pearse

About the Authors

Teresa O’Donnell is a harpist and musicologist. She was awarded a Foras Feasa fellowship to pursue doctoral studies at St Patrick’s College, DCU, which she completed in 2012; she also lectured there. Her research has been published in a number of journals including, the Journal of Music Research Online and the Journal of the Society for Musicology in Ireland.

Mary Louise O’Donnell is a harpist and author of Ireland’s Harp: the Shaping of Irish Identity, c. 1770-1880 (2014). She has published widely on topics relating to Irish cultural history, semiotics, and performance studies. Her research has been published in Utopian StudiesÉire-Ireland, the Journal of the Society for Musicology in Ireland, and The Encyclopaedia of Music in Ireland.