Women and the Irish Revolution: Feminism, Activism, Violence


November 2020

Linda Connolly

An important new reassessment of women’s roles and experience in the Irish revolution, with contributions from esteemed sociologists, historians and literary theorists in Irish studies.


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The narrative of the Irish revolution as a chronology of great men and male militarism, with women presumed to have either played a subsidiary role or no role at all, requires reconsideration. Women and feminists were extremely active in Irish revolutionary causes from 1912 onwards, but ultimately it was the men as revolutionary ‘leaders’ who took all the power, and indeed all the credit, after independence. Women from different backgrounds were activists in significant numbers and women across Ireland were profoundly impacted by the overall violence and tumult of the era, but they were then relegated to the private sphere, with the memory of their vital political and military role in the revolution forgotten and erased.

Women and the Irish Revolution examines diverse aspects of women’s experiences in the revolution after the Easter Rising. The complex role of women as activists, the detrimental impact of violence and social and political divisions on women, the role of women in the foundation of the new State, and dynamics of remembrance and forgetting are explored in detail by leading scholars in sociology, history, politics, and literary studies. Important and timely, and featuring previously unpublished material, this book will prompt essential new public conversations on the experiences of women in the Irish revolution.


Introduction: Women in Ireland’s Revolution, 1917–1923: Marginal or Constitutive? ~ Linda Connolly

Part I

  1. Nationalism and Feminism: The Complex Relationship between the Suffragist and Independence Movements in Ireland ~ Louise Ryan
  1. Comradeship: Feminists and Revolutionaries in Holloway Prison, 1918–1919 ~ Lucy McDiarmid
  1. Gendered Memories and Belfast Cumann na mBan, 1917–1922 ~ Margaret Ward
  1. Cumann na mBan, Martial Women and the Irish Civil War, 1922–1923 ~ John Borgonovo
  1. Women’s Political Representation in Dáil Eireann in Revolutionary and Post-revolutionary Ireland ~ Claire McGing

Part II

  1. Towards a Further Understanding of the Sexual and Gender-based Violence Women Experienced in the Irish Revolution ~ Linda Connolly
  1. Compensation Claims and Women’s Experience of Violence and Loss in Revolutionary Ireland, 1921–23 ~ Marie Coleman
  1. Female Fatalities in County Cork during the Irish War of Independence and the Case of Mrs Lindsay ~ Andy Bielenberg
  1. The Homefront as Battlefront: Women, Violence and the Domestic Space during War in Ireland, 1919–1921 ~ Mary McAuliffe

Part III

  1. ‘When we’ve licked the wounds of history’: Literary Representations of Women’s Experiences of the War of Independence and Civil War ~ Ailbhe McDaid
  1. Commemorating the Irish Revolution: Disremembering and Remembering the Women and Children of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home ~ Sarah-Anne Buckley and John Cunningham
  1. Brightening ~ Doireann Ni Ghriofa

About the Editor: Professor Linda Connolly is the Director of the Social Sciences Institute at Maynooth University. She has published extensively in sociology and Irish studies, including the following books: The Irish Women’s Movement: From Revolution to Devolution (2003), Documenting Irish Feminisms: The Second Wave (with Tina O’Toole, 2005), Social Movements and Ireland (edited with Niamh Hourigan, 2006) and The ‘Irish’ Family (2015).

Praise for Women and the Irish Revolution

‘This is such an important and timely publication, covering as it does such a wide number of crucial issues. Professor Connolly and all the contributors to this book have placed us in their debt as scholars … I very much welcome this most important contribution to our understanding of our past.’
President Michael D. Higgins

‘This volume adds fresh perspectives and groundbreaking insights on the topic of Women and the Irish Revolution. The editor and contributors have chartered new territory that will undoubtedly inspire scholars and researchers to new depths of thinking.’
Sonja Tiernan, Journal of Irish Labour History

‘This book highlights multiple female experiences, the original and vital insights provided by those who have been researching women’s history for decades, and the continuing efforts to broaden and complicate the narrative of the Irish revolutionary decade.’
Diarmaid Ferriter, The Irish Times

‘[A] chilling reminder that the Irish revolution remains unfinished!’
Marie Quiery, Andersonstown News

‘A pleasing mix of solid historical research and creative responses…[Women and the Irish Revolution] deserves to be widely read.’
Dymphna Lonergan, Tinteán


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