Women's Museum of Ireland

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  • 18 April '16

    ‘Did your granny have a hammer?’ - Tracking down the objects of the Irish women’s suffrage movement

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    Guest blogger Donna Gilligan is seeking assistance in a public appeal to locate surviving objects related to the Irish women’s suffrage movement.

    In this decade of centenaries, we will soon approach another important milestone in our national history. 2018 will mark a centenary since women (albeit a limited few) were first granted the right to vote nationally in Ireland. With this anniversary in mind, I have chosen to base my Masters research thesis on exploring and recording the material and visual culture of the Irish women’s suffrage movement. In the early stages of my research, I have been struck by the limited number of surviving objects from the long period of women’s suffrage in Ireland. Initial enquiries have uncovered a relatively small collection of objects in the national and local collections, and I believe that further associated objects may potentially survive in personal collections or as family heirlooms. As part of my research, I am attempting to trace and record information and images on as wide a range of Irish suffrage objects as possible, and am placing an appeal to people who may hold or know of objects of this nature to contact me with details for my catalogue.

    I am a material culture historian and a museum archaeologist, with a fascination for exploring the stories which a simple object can tell us through its design, use, and appearance. Objects hide much significant information within their materiality, and can offer us a direct insight into the issues, influences and industry of the contemporary society which produced them.

    Objects and images played a key role in the international women’s suffrage movements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The international movements are widely recognised for their means of successful political promotion through personal branding, imagery and symbolism, as well as for their significant role in the development of consumerism. This impact is seen through their mass production of promotional collectables and ephemera, their creation of a political uniform, and their clever visual and material advertisement of their cause – all of which served to actively promote and publicise their aim of votes for women.

    A relatively large documented collection of related objects and imagery survives from the British and American suffrage movements, and the specific choices and use of this associated material and visual culture has been shown to have significantly influenced the development and successes of their causes, and proved persuasive to wider societal trends. I have long been fascinated by the promotional memorabilia produced by the English suffrage movement – particularly the objects and imagery produced by the Women’s Social and Political Union (W.S.P.U.) – the organisation led by the Pankhurst family. The large catalogue of associated material held by the Museum of London collections document the creation and promotion of a successful brand and an important political message.

    The Irish suffrage movement is often considered as significantly different to the wider international suffrage movements due to its occurrence throughout a period of momentous political and national change. During the peak of the movement, Ireland was involved in events relating to the Irish War of Independence, the fight for Home Rule, the emergence of several new political parties, the outbreak of World War I, and the Celtic Revival. Several of the Irish suffragists were also heavily involved with a number of other significant national movements and organisations – such as the Irish Citizens Army, Sinn Féin, Inghindhe na hÉireann, Cumann na mBan, The Gaelic League, the Irish Women Worker’s Union and the Labour party. The Irish suffrage cause was closely associated with, and influenced by, a number of significant cultural, national and political movements, which would potentially have impacted visually, strategically and emotionally on their choice of use of material and visual propaganda and promotion.

    A wide range of objects can fall under the heading of the material culture related to this political movement. These can range from badges and lapel pins which advertised prominent suffrage groups such as the W.S.P.U. and the I.W.F.L. (Irish Women’s Franchise League), or replica prison badges worn by former suffragette prisoners at rallies in order to demonstrate their commitment and sacrifice. It also includes sashes, picket signs, flags, banners, placards and display stands used by suffrage activists and demonstrators during public events and rallies. Suffrage fashion and uniform dress also forms a significant part of the material culture.

    Further to this, a wide and varied range of promotional objects were mass produced by suffragists in the official colours of the W.S.P.U. – purple, white and green – for use and display in the public sphere, ranging from personal jewellery to tea sets. As well as W.S.P.U. colours, Irish suffragists also used specific national colours – particularly orange and green - in the presentation and production of their objects.

    Suffrage memorabilia also often features a large and varied range of printed ephemera, including postcards, Christmas cards, membership cards, flyers, handbills and letters. In addition to this, the material culture of militant suffragettes can be said to include prison charge sheets, prison art and graffiti, and hunger-strike medals. Objects used in militant protests could include chains for securement to railings, hammers and stones used to break windows, or weapons and damaging substances used in the public vandalism of items such as post-boxes and works of art.

    By the end of my research, my aim would be to have compiled a relatively thorough record and discussion of the visual and material culture of the Irish suffrage movement by the time of its centenary in 2018. I hope to identify the reasons and meaning behind the choice, style, and use of the Irish suffrage objects and imagery, as well as highlight similarities and differences between the Irish choices and those used by the wider international suffrage movement.

    Donna Gilligan is a museum archaeologist and material culture historian who is compiling a research thesis on the visual and material culture of the Irish women’s suffrage movement. The year 2018 will mark the centenary of the first granting of the right of national vote to Irish women. If you have any information or enquiries relating to Irish suffrage objects you can contact her directly at donnapgilligan@gmail.com

  • 14 March '16

    One City, One Book - the Road to the Vote

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    WMI co-founder Jeanne Sutton will be speaking at Dublin City Council’s One City, One Book event on March 18th.

    Jeanne will be joining Anna Carey, Nell Regan in a discussion, chaired by Rick O’Shea, on the suffragette movement in both Dublin and Belfast in 1916. Actor Jennifer Laverty will perform a dramatic piece about Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington.

    Find tickets or see the whole programme here

  • 1 November '15

    WMI meets Project Bowes

    7f32ff93b6dd86660c19a9a81b614944 Adam O'Keeffe / ©2015 Project Bowes

    In October WMI co-founder Jeanne Sutton and board member Zoë Coleman met with story-telling project, Project Bowes, to talk about the museum and the Women of Dublin Map.

    Project Bowes tells the stories of Dublin and so we brought them to some of our favourite women’s history locations in the city.

    When you live in a place for a long time, sometimes not even a long time, you start to think you know it. The streets hold special things for you as do the places you visit, the shops, the cafes and restaurants, the bars, the parks, the galleries or the libraries - wherever you go, and if you’re lucky you feel a part of it. The city is yours and you have a place in it.

    But often you never really know a place, but instead hold a version of it in your mind that matches your experience.

    Dublin is a place full of history, a history that we learn about in school and that is then forever retold in broad strokes. But what about the stories that are left out of those large narratives, what about the parts that are never told?

    In 2012, four young women set out to answer a version of that question when they established The Women’s Museum of Ireland. As the name suggests, the museum is concerned with bringing women’s history in Ireland to the fore and next year they’re launching a Women of Dublin History Map. On a very blustery Saturday afternoon, we meet co-founder Jeanne Sutton and board member Zoë Coleman, to find out more about it.

    Read the full interview and see pictures from our day at Project Bowes

  • 4 August '15

    Help us put women back on the map of Dublin!

    1092494190da12accfb15fd9d59655e0 Mary Wollestonecraft / Niamh McGarry

    We at the Women’s Museum of Ireland are creating a unique map of Dublin city, to draw attention to sites around the city that are related to women’s history, in the hopes of inspiring preservation and recognition of those sites.

    We have commissioned two Dublin-based designers to create the map, but we need your help in mapping the city! Over the next three weeks we will be putting a call out for online submissions, to plot out sites across the city. We will then create a shortlist of sites to include on the physical map, and include a larger database of sites on an interactive map on womensmuseumofireland.ie

    This physical map will be made available for you to pick up or print out, to lead you around Dublin’s fair city. Rediscover the residences of Society hostess Lady Jane Wilde and the social activist Rosie Hackett, and the hidden histories of Moore Street and Henrietta Street in the city centre. Out in the suburbs of Dundrum, did you know that the sisters of the artist Jack B. Yeats ran the Cuala printing press, the only Arts and Crafts press to be run and staffed solely by women?

    There are still a great many stories to be uncovered, and we are appealing to you to share those stories with us. We want to present these stories to the wider public, and make them accessible to both locals and visitors to our great city. Once the project takes off, we hope to extend it beyond Dublin and around the country.

    We are using the hashtag #WomenofDublin to gather data, or you can contact us via Twitter and Facebook to help us plot out these sites around the city!

    Alternatively, email us at info@womensmuseumofireland.ie

  • 9 June '15

    Eva O’Flaherty - Achill's Forgotten Heroine

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    Mary J. Murphy tells the story of Eva O'Flaherty, a prominent member of County Galway’s landed gentry in the 19th century who trained in millinery and, after stints in Paris and London, settled in Achill Island in the early 20th century.

    Eva O’Flaherty was born in Caherlistrane’s Lisdonagh House in County Galway, into landed gentry and to avid Catholic nationalist parents. Eva’s father Martin O'Flaherty had defended John Mitchel during his 1848 Treason/Felony trial and her mother, from the O'Gormans of Ennis clan, came from staunch green-blooded stock also. Mary Frances Barbara O'Gorman Lalor O'Gorman O'Flaherty (to give her her full name!) was the daughter of Daniel O'Connell’s colleague, Richard O'Gorman; the sister of Young Irelander, Richard O'Gorman Jr; and the niece of Purcell O'Gorman. Purcell was O'Connell’s ‘second’ for his famous 1815 duel with D'Esterre.

    In the 1880s and 1890s, Eva O'Flaherty lived in Limerick and later Dublin where she went to school in both Mount Anville and Alexandra Colleges. She studied millinery in Paris at the end of the 19th century, where she knew Countess Markievitcz, and had a millinery emporium on Sloane Street, London, in 1913. Prior to World War I Eva was a well known beauty in the Café Royal, mixing with an eclectic intellectual artistic milieu, many of whom visited her in later years in Achill. During the course of research we have learned that senior London-based, Tuam-born IRB figure Dr Mark Ryan, was a ‘mentor’ of sorts to her when she lived in the UK capital in the years spanning the end of the 19th century.

    She was an involved but strangely historically elusive figure in the pre-Rising flurry and flux. Through Limerick family connections Eva knew the Dalys - the family of Kathleen Clarke who was then married to Tom Clarke. Eva corresponded with Kathleen and other notable Republican women such as Dr Kathleen Lynn and Máire Comerford all her life. She had moved to Achill in 1910, opening St Colman’s Knitting Industries in Dooagh which would proved much needed employment for local women for almost fifty years and co-founding Scoil Acla with poet, journalist and, later, politician, Darrell Figgis, Colm O’Loughlainn and Anita McMahon. Figgis had visited Achill circa 1913 to learn Irish and would be the leader of the Volunteers there in April 1916. In his biography from the 1930s, Desmond Fitzgerald’s wife, Mabel, alludes to “Miss O'Flagherty”, (sic), Darrell Figgis and ‘the Achill crowd’, illustrating that she, Eva, was part of that set in her time, elusive and all as her tracks are through history.

    By 1914 Eva was a member of Cumann na mBan in Dublin, with Louise Gavan Duffy. She may have been one of the sixteen couriers known as ‘basket-women’ during the Rising - so called because they carried messages in the baskets of their bikes. Eva would cycle in from the city’s outskirts, bluffing her way past sentries by bursting into tears and claiming to have a sick relative in need. These couriers were chosen by Kathleen Clarke and Sorcha McMahon at the behest of Tom Clarke and Sean MacDermott. Solicitor Henry Comerford has said that his father William told him that after the Rising Eva O'Flaherty had become ‘mixed up with Maud Gonne and those busy-bodies who were involved with the prisoners’, presumably the forerunner of the Women’s Prisoner’s Defence League.

    After her hectic experiences in Dublin, Eva settled back into life in Achill, where artist Paul Henry became a close friend and where writer Graham Green played cards regularly in her home. Such was Eva O’Flaherty’s contribution to the fledgling Irish state that President Eamon De Valera sent Senator Mark Killilea as his government representative to give the oration at her funeral in Donaghpatrick graveyard in April 1963. Her coffin was draped with a tricolour and she received military honours. Some of those who were there, like Caherlistrane’s Brendan Gannon, who was involved in her funeral arrangements, and now-retired solicitor Henry Comerford, (who looked after her legal affairs), recalled the extent to which Senator Killilea extolled Eva’s fullsome 1916 and Cumann na mBan activities.

    An intriguing mixture of a fashionista and an intellectual with a heightened political awareness, her former nurse Mary Jo Noonan summed Eva up very succinctly: ‘She was unique. Beautiful, witty, good fun and young at heart until the day she died (at nearly ninety). She joked about having the ferocious O’Flaherty temper, liked me to read the Oxford Book of Verse to her over breakfast, and was a real rebel at heart, in a nice kind of way’.

    Eva O'Flaherty: Achill’s Forgotten Island Heroine by Mary J. Murphy is available from Achill Tourism

  • 23 March '15

    Fictionalising History - Guest Blog by author Marina Neary

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    In 1903, at the age of 20, Dubliner Helena Molony (1883-1967) was inspired to join Inghinidhe na hÉireann (Daughters of Ireland) by a speech given by Maud Gonne. Somewhat of a renaissance woman, she engaged in a campaign to compel Dublin City Council to provide meals to the starving children of Dublin, she founded and edited Bean na hÉireann (a monthly ‘woman’s paper advocating militancy, separatism and feminism’ that could count Eva Gore-Booth, Countess Markeviecz, Roger Casement and Patrick Pearse amongst its contributors) and acted on the Abbey stage.

    She was a member of Cumann na mBan and, ‘always on the side of the underdog’, she became active in the Labour Movement. During the 1916 Rising, she was one of the Irish Citizen Army that attacked Dublin Castle. She was imprisoned until December 1916 after which she continued her activities in left-wing, nationalist and feminist activism. Post-Independence, Helena began to despair of the manner in which the Free State treated women - ‘their inferior status, their lower pay for equal work, their exclusion from juries and certain branches of the civil service, their slum dwellings and crowded, cold and unsanitary schools for their children’. She became President of the Irish Trade Union Congress in 1937 but was forced into retirement in 1941 and lived in poverty until her death in 1967. A complex and dynamic woman, it could be argued Helena was too revolutionary and idealistic to be contained even by the turbulent era in which she played such an integral part.

    In her novel, Never Be At Peace, Marina Neary fictionalises Helena’s life and here she describes the challenges of taking on the voice of an historical character.

    The legacy of Helena Molony has been, unfortunately, downplayed and neglected by historians. I hope with the 100th anniversary of 1916 just around the corner, the obscured figures will be resurrected and illuminated.

    I started writing Never Be at Peace in 2011 shortly after completing Martyrs and Traitors: a Tale of 1916 which featured the political and intimate misfortunes of Bulmer Hobson, another figure whose contributions to the Irish nationalistic movement had been downplayed on the account of his opposition to the Easter Rising. According to some sources, Hobson and Molony had been more than former comrades torn apart by an ideological rift – they had been lovers. They came from two different worlds. He was an upper middle-class Protestant from a stable family in Belfast. She was a quintessential lower middle-class Catholic girl from Dublin, an orphan to boot. After finishing Martyrs and Traitors, I realised that I was not finished telling the story of Hobson’s first love. A separate novel had to be written.

    Historical literature abounds with tales of troubled revolutionary actresses who defied the convention. Who can resist a pugnacious girl who was arrested for throwing rocks at the portrait of King George, took part in an armed rising and who tried to dig her way out of prison with a metal spoon? Sometimes I half-jokingly say that Helena Molony is Ireland’s Cinderella. Indeed, there are some undeniable parallels. Helena had a wicked stepmother and a fairy godmother figure – the indomitable Maud Gonne who helped launch her theatrical career and propelled her to the new level of prominence in nationalistic circles. Helena even had a potential Prince Charming in the face of Bulmer Hobson, though that relationship was not meant to have a happy ending. Helena’s golden carriage turned back into a rotting pumpkin a little too soon. Personal disappointments and losses aside, her dreams for a free Ireland did not transpired as she had hoped.

    One of the reasons why I didn’t write a straightforward biography on Helena Molony is because there isn’t enough material to work with. Nell Regan was fortunate enough to interview some of the people who knew Helena personally but alas, so much documentation has been lost. Most of Helena’s photos from her days on stage perished in the fire at the Abbey Theatre. Her image had to be reconstructed from the episodic accounts and references of her surviving contemporaries.

    When writing historical fiction with limited amount of primary sources on hand, it’s not just about filling the gaps with whatever comes to mind. It’s about making educated guesses and choices that will honour the integrity of the era. While the revolutionary women of that era acted somewhat outside social norms, there is a limit to how much freedom a novelist can take. Historical fiction is like a minefield. You have to be wary of anachronisms. Believe me, I’ve read many manuscripts featuring ‘forward-thinking’ heroines who act not like they are 10 years ahead of their time but a few solid centuries. I’m referring to scenes where a medieval maiden tosses her hair, rolls her eyes and declares that ‘she has a mind too, and will not be treated like a piece of meat.’ In short, shop girls from Edwardian Rathgar do not behave like reality TV stars. How would an unmarried woman of the late Victorian era deal with an unplanned pregnancy? Even Maud Gonne, with her penchant for defying conventions, raised her illegitimate daughter Iseult in a convent and then presented her to the polite society as her niece.

    One of the most surprising conclusions of my research was that women in 1908 appeared to have more freedom and moral latitude than in 1938 after De Valera’s constitution that hurled Ireland into a sort of theocratic patriarchy. In light of the new cultural shift, Helena suddenly fell out of favour. Prone to alcoholism and angry outbursts she became a persona non grata. Her penchant for violent melodrama that made her such a compelling revolutionary figure suddenly made her less than desirable in the context of new culture that encouraged obedience and domesticity in women. The nature of her relationship with Dr. Evelyn O’Brien, a psychiatrist seventeen years her junior was subject to speculation. Some historians insist that Helena was bisexual, and Dr. O’Brien was her romantic partner. So when she started falling out of public life, nobody protested.

    The novel features an ensemble of other prominent women of the nationalistic movement such as Countess de Markiewicz, Dr Kathleen Lynn and Lily Connolly. In the words of Pearse, ‘Ireland unfree shall never be at peace’, but it seems that the war continues even after the last shot had been fired.

    Marina’s novel Never Be At Peace is available from www.amazon.com

  • 14 January '15

    Kathleen Mills - the 'Inchicore Invincible'

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    There was much disappointment this week when Stephanie Roche from Shankill in Dublin, was overlooked for FIFA Puskas Goal of the Year. Peamount United Roche’s nominated goal during a WNL game against Wexford Youth took place in Ferrycarrig Park in front of 95 people but has since sparked six million views on YouTube and a concerted social media campaign to net her enough votes to win the coveted prize.

    Many Irish women have proved themselves to be highly skilled, if underappreciated, sportspeople: perhaps none more so than Kathleen Mills of Inchicore in Dublin. Her record of 15 All-Ireland Senior Medals over a camogie career spanning 20 years has never been equalled by any other player, male or female, in camogie, hurling or football and is enshrined in Irish sporting folklore.

    Kay Mills, also known as the ‘Inchicore Invincible’, was born on 8 October 1923 at 31 South Terrace, Inchicore, Dublin and her Cork father worked for the Great Southern Railways in the Inchicore Works. For two pence per week Kay could participate in the GSR Athletics Union and became an avid player of table-tennis, soccer and gymnastics. However, camogie was her first love and she made her debut with the Great Southern Railways camogie team in 1938. Her talent was immediately apparent and she was promoted to the senior team after her second match with the team. By 1941 she was playing for the Dublin county team and won her first All-Ireland medal against Cork in 1942. In 1943, she claimed another medal, scoring a goal from 50 yards.

    Controversy accompanied the 1947 final when Dublin were kept out of the All-Ireland championships due to a dispute between Dublin County Board and the Central Council of the Camogie Association. The dispute resulted in only Mills’ CIE (as the GSR was now called) team being eligible to play for Dublin. Although Antrim won that game, the Irish Independent wrote that ‘Miss K Mills was to the fore consistently and she was Dublin’s best player’. Kay married George Hill in 1947 but in all match reports she retains the title ‘Miss Mills’.

    Dublin were back on form in 1948 and Kay won her fourth medal. Between 1950 and 1955, Kay won six All-Ireland titles in a row but in 1956 Dublin lost out to Antrim in the semi-finals - the team’s only championship defeat in a 8 year spell. Undaunted, Dublin won again in 1957 and in 1958 Mills was appointed captain. The team won three more All-Ireland medals in 1959, 1960 and 1961. Kay retired in 1961 at the age of 38 retaining the All-Ireland camogie title against Tipperary in a match described by the Irish Times as ‘a hard fought game that provided Kathleen Mills with her fifteenth All-Ireland medal on her farewell appearance - an unequalled achievement’. In all she collected 20 Leinster Championship, six Dublin Senior Championship and five Inter-Provincial medals with Leinster, as well as her fifteen All-Ireland medals for Dublin.

    After her retirement, Mills remained active in camogie circles and ran a leather goods and vintner’s business with George. She remains the most decorated player in the history of Gaelic games and The Kay Mills Cup, named in her honour, is presented for the All-Ireland Premier Junior Championship. In 2014 Mills was short-listed to have Dublin’s newest bridge named after her but in a rare moment of defeat lost out to Rosie Hackett by sixteen votes. She died on August 11, 1996 and in 2011 a memorial plaque was unveiled on her previous home on Abercorn Terrace in Inchicore. It reads

    ‘Lithe and graceful, a superb midfield player with neat wrist work; quick to lift and strike at full speed she could score from any angle.’

  • 3 November '14

    Support the 'Modern Wife, Modern Life exhibition', forthcoming in 2015

    3be15d7fa398d22dfdc7d5c02ec89158 Dr Ciara Meehan

    Modern Wife, Modern Life is a new exhibition that will run at the National Print Museum of Ireland between August and October 2015. It explores the representation and expectations of housewives in 1960s Ireland as seen through the pages of women’s magazines.

    Locating the Everyday Woman I was inspired to organise the exhibition for two reasons. My previous publications have related to high politics and as I undertook the research, I noticed the absence of the ‘everyday’ or ‘ordinary’ person. My last book (A Just Society for Ireland? 1964-73), for example, dealt with such issues as abortion, divorce and contraception, but it was the voice of the policymakers, activists and lobbyists that were most prominent. I began to look at more diverse sources to identify the views of the ‘ordinary’ person whose way of life was being debated. Influenced by the work of my friend and former colleague at UCD, Dr Niamh Cullen, I turned to women’s magazines, particularly the letters pages. Although some of the letters were created by the magazines’ editors and genuine ones only represent a snapshot of Irish life, they still offer some insight into the values of and issues confronting non-political women.

    The New Marriage Manual? Around the same time, I discovered The Young Wife, a marriage manual from 1938 that belonged to my late grandmother Annie Meehan amongst some of her papers in my parents’ attic. As I read through it, I noticed that much of the advice given was very similar to that outlined in the magazines in the 1960s: needs of the husband to be placed above that of the children; the importance of budgeting; how to run a home, and so on. The major difference was that the magazines pushed the boundaries and gave advice on sex and intimacy, and they also carried an array of advertisements. ‘Modern’ was the buzzword in those advertisements, which promoted time- and labour-saving devices and new technologies. I began to read the magazines as the new marriage manuals. The concept of the ‘good wife’ and the ‘modern wife’ became blended into the one ideal.

    Themes The exhibition will focus on six key themes: print culture; advice for the newly-married wife; beauty and presentation; new technologies in the home; women behind the wheel; and the wife who works. While, on first glance, it would seem that the magazines via the advertisements they carried located women firmly in the home, editorials and various articles argued vigorously for women in the workplace and advocated women in politics. In fact, many of the issues that became mainstream demands of the feminist movement in the 1970s can be seen identified in the magazines in the sixties.

    Support the Exhibition Although the magazines will be at the centre of the exhibition, the display, in an effort to create a ‘people’s history’, will be supplemented with objects and items largely crowd-sourced from the Irish public. Anyone can be part of this project by donating or loaning items from around the home dating from the 1960s. A full credit will be given in all exhibition literature, and items will be handled with care and returned promptly once the exhibition ends. People can also support the exhibition by contributing to the financing of the production costs. Rewards for donating include a private curator’s tour, reproduction images and a signed limited-edition booklet.

    Further Details For further details about Modern Wife, Modern Life or to loan an item, visit the exhibition website: modernwifemodernlifeexhibition.com.

    Donations to the exhibition fund can be made securely through the dedicated Fund It page: http://fundit.ie/project/modern-wife-modern-life-exhibition.

    Regular updates are also posted on the exhibition’s twitter account: @ModWifeExhibit.

    Dr Ciara Meehan is a lecturer in history at the University of Hertfordshire. The Modern Wife, Modern Life exhibition is one element of her current research project that explores the everyday lives of Irishwomen in the 1960s. She is also writing a book on the same topic.

    Modern Wife, Modern Life from Ciara Meehan on Vimeo.

  • 4 October '14

    Smock Alley Theatre and the Kelly Riots of 1747

    9d0f2f6d63f9c27f3a52701e6f728561 Smock Alley Theatre

    This year’s Dublin Theatre Festival, showcasing the best of Irish and international theatre, is running until 12 October across 19 venues across the city. One of these venues is the wonderful and atmospheric Smock Alley Theatre which dates from 1662 - the first custom-built theatre in the city and the first Theatre Royale outside London.

    With such a long and illustrious history, it’s not surprising that Smock Alley has been the site of much drama onstage and off. Perhaps the most infamous event is the Kelly riots or ‘Gentlemen’s Quarrel’. The Kelly Riots were a response to Smock Alley’s manager Thomas Sheridan curtailing of what was know as ‘the freedom of the scenes’ which allowed ‘gentlemen’ free run of the backstage area, during performances. A man identified as E. Kelly from the West thought himself equally free to carouse backstage as the other ‘Gentlemen’ and attempted to molest the actress Harriet Dyer, threatening that he would ‘do what her husband Mr. Dyer had done to her’. When confronted by one of the dressers, Ann Banford, he ‘us’d her with great indecency’ and ‘swore that wou’d have carnal knowledge of one of them between the scenes’. Ann’s intervention enabled Dyer and fellow actress George Ann Bellamy to take refuge in a nearby dressing room.

    The women demanded that Thomas Sheridan remove Kelly from the backstage area with the threat that they would not leave the room and perform should he remain. Sheridan initially refused but, Sheridan writes, as the women ‘open’d the Door the Gentlemen pour’d out such a Volley of execreble Oaths, abusive Names, and obscene Expressions, as were hardly ever utter’d from any Mouth in so short a space’. Dyer and Bellamy returned to the dressing room and eventually Sheridan had Kelly forcibly removed by constables. Doubly enraging for Kelly was that it was later argued whether or not Sheridan was ‘as good a gentleman’ as he. The ‘freedom of the scenes’ had been revoked.

    The stage was set for a series of confrontations and disturbances between Sheridan, the urbane theatre manager often perceived as a lackey of the Protestant gentry that composed a large proportion of his audience and income; and those who took Kelly’s side - hailing from the rural counties, and identified with the native Catholic interest. The event became a narrative in which English ‘civility’ faced Irish ‘barbarity’ and a tussle about who could or could not legitimately be called a ‘Gentlemen’.

    The Gentlemen’s Quarrel may have been about class but it was fought through the possession of women, as sexual playthings and as employees. When Dyer and Bellamy refused to leave the room and submit to Kelly, their bargaining with Sheridan could be seen as a form of negotiation between employee and management about safety in the workplace. Their value for Sheridan was grounded in their work onstage and the furore the Quarrel provoked had repercussions, not just for the working life of actresses, but for how women would later carve a space for themselves in the theatre as performers and spectators.

    So, if you are lucky enough to catch one of the plays in Smock Alley during the Dublin Theatre Festival - grab a drink at the bar afterwards and raise a glass to Harriet Dyer, George Ann Bellamy and Ann Banford.

    Read about other renowned actress of the Irish stage - Sara Allgood and Molly Allgood.

    What’s on in Smock Alley? Find out here.

    Niamh McGarry

  • 4 October '14

    WMI feature in Irish Independent's 'Ireland's Greatest Women' supplement, September 2014

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    Well look at us! The Irish Independent interviewed Kate Cunningham about the WMI and our plans for the future in last week’s Irish Independent (20 September)

  • 4 July '14

    The WMI is looking for a Content Editor

    After a wonderfully successful year with our Content Editor Stephanie Kelly, the WMI is looking for a new enthusiastic person to fill her shoes.

    As well as being familiar with the work and goals of the WMI, the ideal candidate should have a real passion for history, and specifically women’s history and issues in Ireland and abroad. Working alongside a fantastic team of copy editors and founding women, the content editor’s role includes:

    • Seeking out submissions and authors for publication on the WMI website from universities around Ireland

    • Communicating with authors, largely via email, for any and all questions they have about submissions

    • Editing the content of submissions to make them website-ready, and correcting for any glaring grammar and spelling issues as well as working with our freelance copyeditors

    • Working with the different members of the WMI team in the general running of the museum

    Responsibilities

    While the hours are not long, averaging anywhere from 2 to 8 hours per week, submissions can come in last minute so the Content Editor must be flexible with their time

    • Check the WMI email frequently as that is where most communication and submission ends up

    • Work with the copy editors to make sure each submission is proofed by at least two people on the team before publication

    • Communicate and coordinate with the website and social media operators on the team to ensure that the submissions process is smooth and the exhibit well publicized.

    The WMI is currently a voluntary non-profit organisation so the position of Content Editor is an unpaid one. Both women and men are encouraged to apply for this position.

    Please send an application telling us about your experience, what you would bring to the WMI team and how you would best fit the content editor role to submissions@womensmuseumofireland.ie with Content Editor in the subject line by August 1st.

  • 25 April '14

    Guest blog: Irish Female Revolutionaries

    C84577479c2bd48c02aabbd6f6a553cc Patrick Pearse surrenders to General Lowe of the British Army, 29 April 1916 (Elizabeth O' Farrell's feet visible here but were later removed)

    A couple of months ago we received an email from a reader, Stephen Poleon. He informed us that his 13 year old daughter, Shannon and a schoolfriend were researching for a project on the discrimination of Irish female revolutionaries. Working on the Women’s Museum of Ireland project, we passionately believe in encouraging young people to engage with history, particularly rediscovering women’s history, especially at a junior cycle level. So we are thrilled to share with you the results of her project examining why Irish Female Revolutionaries have been ‘airbrushed’ from history. This is our first guest blog post!

    My name is Shannon Poleon. I am 13 years old and I attend Montgomery High School in Blackpool, England. I am currently doing a project about rights and wrongs in history. The topic I have chosen is discrimination against Irish female revolutionaries from the Easter Rising and War of Independence. Due to my Irish heritage I have a high interest in Irish history. I am very proud to be Irish. I am also proud that my Great Grandfather Christopher Poleon fought in the Irish Civil War on Michael Collins side and was a member of A Company (Dunboyne) 1st Eastern Division IRA during the War of Independence and received a Military Service Pension for his actions. Women also gave service during this war and the Easter Rising but did not get the same pensions that men received. The Proclamation of the Republic read out during the Easter Rising gave women equal rights, but they were still treated unfairly when applying for a military pension.

    The process of applying for a military service pension included giving a sworn statement before an advisory committee and providing references. Applicants both male and female would be asked a series of questions about their activities in the Easter Rising, War of Independence and the Irish Civil War. Women were treated very unfairly in this process. An official decided that women were not to be treated equally when applying for pensions. This male official said that women’s activities had to be of a military nature. Some women took part in gathering military intelligence, buying and delivering guns and ammunition and raising funds for volunteer dependants and buying guns.

    Women applying for military service pensions were frequently told that those were not military activities. How do you fight a war without guns and ammunition? How do you fight a war without knowing what your enemy is doing? How do you fight a war without money? Michael Collins was in charge of intelligence gathering, buying and transporting guns and ammunitions. He was also a paid secretary of the organisation set up to look after the dependants of imprisoned volunteers. What about the women who risked their lives doing all those activities in a volunteer role? Should they not be recognised for their work? In applying for a pension military service for women meant taking part actual fighting. Did women actually fight in that way? Yes!! Margaret Skinnider from Glasgow was one such woman.

    Margaret Skinnider was a maths teacher and member of Glasgow Cumman Na mBan. She had a love of Irish culture and nationalism. Margaret was also a skilled markswoman and bomb maker. She smuggled bombs and bomb making equipment to Surrey House in Dublin, which was the home of Countess Markievicz. Along with the Countess, affectionately known as Madame Margaret taught Fianna boys as young as 12 how to fire guns and make bombs in preparation for the Easter Rising. During the Rising itself Margaret was amongst 14 women at the College of Surgeons near St Stephens Green in Dublin. She acted as a sniper and as a despatch rider carrying messages across the city. Being a despatch rider was extremely dangerous, machine gun bullets were flying everywhere, snipers were on every corner, and Margaret could have been shot at the speed of light. She did indeed get shot leading a bombing mission. Receiving severe injuries that affected her for the rest of her life Margaret’s life was in grave danger. In 1925 she applied for a ‘Wound Pension’, under the Army Pensions Act 1923. She was denied. Why? Simply because she was not a man. It was almost if not just Margaret’s but all female contributions towards Irish freedom were airbrushed out of history.

    One such woman who was actually airbrushed out of history is Elizabeth O’Farrell. One of 40 women in the GPO, headquarters of the Provisional Government she provided first aid to wounded volunteers. After a week of heaving fighting Padraig Pearse decided to evacuate all the women from the GPO for their own safety. They refused to leave arguing they had as much right to be there as the men. The majority did eventually accept their orders and left but Elizabeth O Farrell, Julia Grennan and Winnie Carney stayed behind to help with first aid. Due to heaving bombing and fire the building was falling down. It was deteriorating by the minute and so it was decided to evacuate the GPO. They fled to some houses on Moore Street, it was here to save more damage to Dublin and innocent people dying that Pearse decided to surrender. Elizabeth O’Farrell was chosen to deliver the surrender to the British. They needed someone who was calm and strong. Venturing out into the dangerous streets with nothing but a white flag for protection she could have quite easily been shot. Luckily she finished her mission and reached General Lowe who was in command of the British forces. General Lowe told Elizabeth to come back with Padraig Pearse to surrender.

    At that surrender one of the most iconic photographs of Irish history was taken. An anonymous photographer appeared to capture this historic event. Before the picture was taken Elizabeth took a step backwards and only her feet could be seen in the photograph. Ten days later this photograph appeared in the Daily Sketch newspaper. Elizabeth O' Farrell was nowhere to be seen. Pearse was standing alone surrendering to two British officers. She had been completely air brushed out of history. Elizabeth O’Farrell’s contribution just like other Irish women had been air brushed out of history. It is almost like women’s fight for Irish freedom did not exist. Learning that this had actually happened to Irish women in the past makes me feel disgusted. These women are not just normal women; they are people who made history. They fought not just for Irish freedom but for equal rights for women. Their contribution has been ignored, forgotten and almost completely air brushed out of history. Should we stand for this? What do you think we should do about it? Are we just going to stand by and let that happen? I know what I want to do.

    What about you?

    Shannon Poleon

    (Note: You can see the photograph Shannon refers to here.)

    Related: Nurse ‘sorry she hid’ in iconic image, Irish Independent, 1 December 2012

  • 6 January '14

    Oiche Nollaig na mBan

    Oiche Nollaig na mBan (‘The Night Of Women’s Christmas’), Sean O'Riordain (1916-77)

    There was fury in the storm that came last night last night,
    The night of the Christmas of Women;
    It came as if released from a distant bedlam
    A lunatic shriek howling through the sky;
    Rattling against the gate like the gaggling of geese
    Roaring up the river like a bellowing bull
    Dousing my candle like a blow upon my mouth :-
    An unexpected spark for anger

    I hope such a storm will come to me
    The night I begin to die
    As I return home from the dance of life
    With the light of this life sputtering out,
    So every moment might be filled with cries from the sky,
    Transforming the world into a chorus of screams,
    So I would not hear the silence moving toward me
    Or feel the engine that moves me stop


    (Translated from the original Irish by Sarah Lundberg and Oran Ryan)

  • 31 December '13

    Centenary memorial for Alicia Brady, Jacob's factory striker - January 4th, Glasnevin Cemetery

    B971ee54d37c6a1e899b98f211c8c95a Irish Women Worker's Network, 2013

    A centenary memorial is being held at Glasnevin Cemetery on Saturday, January 4th at 2pm to commemorate 16 year old Jacob’s worker, Alicia Brady, who was fatally injured by the ricochet from a revolver fired by a strike breaker, or scab, called Patrick Traynor on December 18th 1913.

    No photograph of Alicia Brady exists, instead this reproduction of the incident features in the Lockout Tapestry.

    Read about the death of Alicia Brady here.

  • 12 September '13

    Leonora Carrington: The Celtic Surrealist exhibition at the Irish Museum of Modern Art

    5cb9114315c43c8576bbda5152e4a516 Portrait of Leonora, c/o the Carrington Estate, via IMMA

    There are a series of major retrospective exhibitions coming to the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) this Autumn. Irish artist Leonora Carrington (6 April 1917 – 25 May 2011) is the subject of IMMA’s retrospective in their newly refurbished galleries at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham site. As expected, IMMA have delivered, with a series of talks and seminars surrounding the exhibition, which opens to the public from the 18th of September, running until the 26th of January 2014.

    Talks and Lectures Prelude Talk | Teresa Arcq Surrealist Women Artists in Exile Sunday 15 September, 2.00pm – 3.00pm, Lecture Room, IMMA As a prelude to the Leonora Carrington retrospective, Teresa Arcq (Adjunct Curator, Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City) introduces Leonora Carrington’s magical world of paintings and stories, and situates this in the broader cultural context surrounding the exile of other Surrealist women artists to Mexico and the USA.

    Preview Seminar | Rediscovering Leonora Carrington Tuesday 17 September, 1.00pm - 6.00pm, the Chapel, IMMA
    Garden Galleries Open from 10.00am – 8.00pm
    The enigmatic work of Leonora Carrington is informed by her rich interest in Celtic mythology, children’s literature, feminism, and the ethnographic study of religion, myth, and magic. Yet, until recent times, little is known of this last Surrealist artist and her significant contribution to the Surrealist cultural movement. This seminar features presentations by leading scholars on Carrington’s work, who will discuss the artist’s personal and creative connections to prominent Surrealist circles in Europe and Mexico, explored through a range of critical contexts that are informing international reappraisal of Carrington’s work.

    Invited speakers include Seán Kissane (Curator, Exhibitions, IMMA), Giulia Ingarao (Art Curator and Historian, Accademia di Belle Arti di Palermo) Teresa Arcq (Adjunct Curator, Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City), Dawn Ades (Professor of Art History and Theory, University of Essex, UK), Alyce Mahon (Senior Lecturer in History 20th Century Art, University of Cambridge), Susan Aberth (Associate Professor of Art History, Bard College, NY) and Chairperson Roisin Kennedy (Lecturer, School of Art History & Cultural Policy, UCD). The official exhibition launch and wine reception follow this event.

    Culture Night Talk | Seán Kissane Friday 20 September, 7.00pm, Garden Galleries, IMMA Curator of the exhibition Seán Kissane (Curator, Exhibitions, IMMA) presents a gallery talk on some of his most fond works selected for this exhibition.

    In Discussion | Women, Art and Society Thursday 17 October, 5.30pm - 7.00pm, Lecture Room, IMMA In conjunction with Leonora Carrington The Celtic Surrealist and Eileen Gray Architect Designer Painterthis discussion invites artists, curators and academics to re-examine feminist art history in addressing closely related issues of ethnicity, class, labour, and sexuality in recent developments of contemporary art practice. Speakers explore the turn towards autobiography in women’s art and consider issues of the personal versus the political in reviewing similarities and differences for women artists working today and the seminal work of feminist artists of the past.

    Gallery Talk | Artist Responses Wednesday 13 November, 1.00pm - 2.00pm, Garden Galleries, IMMA Contemporary artists discuss Surrealist ideas and their eclectic interests in metamorphosis, humour, gastronomy, animal imagary and fairytale as a means to re-evaluate Carrington’s unorthodox relationship to traditional aesthetics.

    Lecture | Luke Gibbons Magical (Sur)realism: Ireland, Mexico
    Wednesday 20 November, 5.30pm - 6.30pm, Lecture Room, IMMA

    Luke Gibbons (Professor of Irish Literary and Cultural Studies, National University of Ireland, Maynooth) will discuss the affinities between vernacular modernism and folklore in Surrealism. Gibbons examines the links between Carrington’s Irish interests with the distinctive Mexican cast of her visual modernism, in relation to film and the ‘spectral’ in contemporary Irish culture.

    Read more about the ‘Leonora Carrington: The Celtic Surrealist’ exhibition and booking details for the above events at IMMA’s site.

    Admission to this exhibition is free.

  • 9 August '13

    WMI and The Arthur Guinness Project Funds

    Ef6cdd4f67248e7c0ec01f6843c880c0

    The WMI is now part of the Arthur Guinness Projects Fund race, having applied for a grant to find the museum a home.

    The Arthur Guinness Fund is awarding up to €50,000 to innovative and inspiring ideas in the areas of arts, food, sport and travel. The WMI have applied in the hopes of bringing the project to the next chapter and finding a permanent space in Ireland.

    Only projects in the top 10% of votes are put forward to the judging panel for consideration. Voting for the project can be done here and votes can be cast once a day until August 23rd.

    Make sure to vote for and share the campaign to give us the best chance of success

  • 20 June '13

    The Things My Mothers Taught Me

    D8f5722c67fa1a46ebcf761746e4418a Clíodhna Meldon

    Clíodhna Meldon took some beautiful photographs of our launch back in March.

    It’s wonderful to see that the inspiration flows both ways, as for her final year project she put together this wonderful publication entitled ‘Things My Mothers Taught Me’, partially inspired by our venture, and mostly paying tribute to the strong, influential women in her life.

    You can view it below:

    You can read more about her project here and here.

    Thank you for sharing Clíodhna!

  • 1 June '13

    Find us on Google+

    The Women’s Museum of Ireland is now on Google+!

    We are currently friendless so connect with us at bit.ly/wmusirlgoogle.

  • 17 May '13

    WMI at the Countess Markievicz School

    We’ll be attending the 2013 Countess Markievicz School in Liberty Hall tomorrow and live-tweeting from the event.

    The Countess Markievicz School is a discussion forum on women in Ireland in honour of Ireland’s first female MP and Cabinet Minister. This year the school will address “Women and Poverty: Then and Now”.

    More information on the Countess Markievicz School can be found at http://www.countessmarkieviczschool.ie/

  • 7 April '13

    WMI Talks History

    Founders Kate Cunningham and Jean Sutton will be joining historian Patrick Geoghegan on Newstalk’s Talking History Show this evening at 8.30pm

    We’ll be discussing why Ireland needs a Women’s Museum and what our plans are for the future.

    Tune in on 106-108fm or online http://www.newstalk.ie/talkinghistory

  • 28 March '13

    Join the WMI team!

    As the Women’s Museum of Ireland expands we are looking for a candidate (male or female) to fill the position of Content Editor. We are a group of young women working voluntarily on this project, and are looking for new people to join our team!

    As Content Editor your primary responsibilities will be:

    -Sourcing content: submissions on Irish women’s history for the website on an ongoing basis -Sourcing (and ensuring we have copyright to reproduce) images to accompany website entries -You will be liasing mainly with the Outreach Officer and Digital Communications & Online Manager

    You will gain experience in: copyright permissions, content editing, autonomous research, and outreach.

    The right candidate will be highly motivated and have a genuine interest in social history and digital humanities.

    This role is voluntary, but is a worthwhile endeavour, and will be a great addition to your CV. This role can be carried out remotely, from anywhere in Ireland, though you may be required to travel to Dublin for strategy meetings every couple of months.

    If you are interested please get in touch with us via info@womensmuseumofireland.ie, with a short paragragh highlighting your interest in this project, and any relevant experience you may have.

    We look forward to hearing from you!

  • 8 March '13

    Women's Museum of Ireland on Moncrieff today

    WMI Founder Kate Cunningham will be talking to Sean Moncrieff about founding the museum and plans for the future on Newstalk 106 - 108fm today.

    Tune in at 2.15pm or contribute some ideas for the museum.

    http://www.newstalk.ie/What-would-you-put-in-the-Womens-Museum-of-Ireland

  • 2 March '13

    'Monsters of Creation': Snapshots of Women in Higher Education

    “A learned girl is one of the most intolerable monsters of creation” - Saturday Review, 1869

    Join us on March 4th as we kick off International Women’s Week and celebrate the launch of the Women’s Museum of Ireland.

    7pm: Panel Discussion with Professor Susan Parkes, Ms Justice Catherine McGuinness, Judge and Activist and Jean Sutton, founding member of the Women’s Museum of Ireland. Chaired by Hannah McCarthy, Auditor College Historical Society

    8pm: Launch of the Women’s Museum of Ireland and “Monsters of Creation”: Snapshots of Women in Higher Education with Ms Justice Catherine McGuinness.

    Venue:
    Ui Chadhain Theatre, Trinity College (panel discussion) and Long Room Hub , Trinity College (launch).

  • 1 March '13

    Ladies Who Launch

    The Women’s Museum of Ireland is delighted to announce the launch of their campaign for Ireland’s first Museum of Women’s History this Monday 4th March in Trinity College’s Long Room Hub.

    The museum was founded in November 2012 by graduates Jean Sutton and Kate Cunningham in response to what they saw as a lack of recognition of women’s history in Ireland. The museum follows in the footsteps of similar initiatives in Washington and Australia.

    Jean Sutton said “I’m delighted that we’ve decided to this – so far the respose has been so positive, I think there is a community out there really committed to giving Irish women’s history it’s proper place in our society”

    The campaign launch will see the beginning of a move to highlight the impact of Ireland’s women writers, politicians, artists, entrepreneurs and change makers on the nation’s history. The launch will be celebrated with the museum’s inaugural exhibition titled “Monster’s of Creation”: Snapshots of Women in Higher Education with special guest Mrs Justice Catherine McGuinness.

    Taking inspiration from a quote in the 1896 Saturday Review “A learned girl is one of the most intolerable monsters of creation’ the exhibition brings together images from archives around the country of women in education from 1906 to current day, demonstrating the great strides that these “monsters of creation” have made in a century.

    The museum will also see its website go live that same day with a series of articles highlighting Irish women’s history www.womensmuseumofireland.ie.

    The launch will be preceded by a panel discussion on Women in Higher Education with Professor Susan Parkes, Mrs Justice Catherine McGuinness, Judge and Activist and Jean Sutton, founding member of the Women’s Museum of Ireland. Chaired by Hannah McCarthy, Auditor College Historical Society, this discussion will take place in the Uí Chadhain theatre, Trinity Arts Block.

    The Women’s Museum of Ireland is a project that aims to promote the formal recognition of the role of women in Irish history as well as the role of Irish women abroad. The museum hopes to educate the public about the contributions of women to cultural, political and social history in Ireland, and the role Irish women have played overseas.

    Press Enquiries:
    Kate Cunningham
    kate@womensmuseumofireland.ie or 087 2598026