but not Forgotten

Left Countess Markievicz Postcard, 1916. McCoole Collection.
Right Detail of women activists 1916, Madeline Ffrench Mullen front left and Dr. Kathleen Lynn third right. Image courtesy of the Kilmainham Gaol Collection.


Eamon de Valera said of women: 'they are at once the boldest and the most unmanageable of revolutionaries.'

The Rising took place under the guise of routine manoeuvres of the Volunteers. There had already been a split in the Volunteer organisation with the National Volunteers joining John Redmond to fight in the First World War for the recognition of small nations. Those who did not espouse Redmond’s belief that Ireland would be granted Home Rule after the war remained at home as the Irish Volunteers. The majority of Cumann na mBan supported this home force.

The idea of using the opportunity to stage a rebellion while England was at war was being considered by a number of organisations including the Irish Citizen Army. James Connolly was co-opted onto a military council and plans were set for a Rising at Easter 1916.

The circumstances in which the men would participate in a Rising was disputed by some factions within the Volunteer movement and Eoin MacNeill, who headed the Irish Volunteers, cancelled all manoeuvres when he became aware of the plans. This caused immense confusion even in the outlying area of south east Dublin.

Women, even those offering to take part, had difficulty joining the fight as many members of Cumann na mBan were turned away from the garrisons until a directive came from the leadership to accept them. The sole exception to this position was Eamon de Valera's garrison at Bolands Mills, which never accepted them.

The leaders of the Provisional Government did recognise women, addressing their Proclamation to both "Irishmen" and "Irishwomen". The Proclamation offered everyone equal terms of citizenship in the Irish Republic.

The British authorities misidentified the 1916 Rising as having been organised by Sinn Féin, causing Nationalist organisations that joined together after the Rising to adopt this name. In 1917 a number of women were co-opted onto the Executive of Sinn Féin, including Dr Kathleen Lynn and Áine Ceannt.