There’s a great opportunity to discover Ireland’s herstory carved in stone at Glasnevin Cemetery this year, as the Museum hosts a series of walking tours which focus on the lives of the legendary women buried in the grounds of the cemetery.
The Walking Tours take place at 2:00pm on the last Sunday of every month from June until November. Each features the stories of some of the inspirational women who played a pivotal role in shaping Irish history and culture, and to whet your appetite, we’ve compiled seven brief bios of some of the incredible women involved.
1. Maud Gonne MacBride
Maud Gonne MacBride devoted her considerable energies to the Irish cause from a very early stage, when she was involved in raising funds to alleviate the poverty of tenants in the West. Having joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) she subsequently founded a women’s republican organisation – Inghindhe na hÉireann (Daughters of Ireland). She worked with the Red Cross in France during the first World War and on her return to Ireland organised relief during the War of Independence and assisted republican prisoners and their dependents during the Civil War. She was imprisoned in 1923 and released after going on hunger strike. In 1938, she published an account of her early life, A Servant of the Queen. She died in Dublin in 1953.
2. Delia Larkin
Delia Larkin played a pivotal role in the development of the Irish Women’s Workers’ Union, and worked hard during her lifetime to earn equal pay and the right to vote for women. During the 1913 lockout she took charge of Liberty Hall and arranged for 3,000 children to be fed every morning. After the lockout, many women were not reinstated in their jobs, and Larkin recruited some of them into a theatrical troupe and travelled with them on a tour around Europe. Her older brother was the famed Trade Union leader, James Larkin.
3. Charlotte Despard
Born in Kent in 1844, Charlotte Despard moved to Ireland in 1910. She founded the Women’s Franchise League with Hanna Sheehy Skeffington, where her activities included encouraging suffragettes to boycott the 1911 census. She supported the workers during the lockout of 1913 and when WW1 broke out in 1914, she refused to become involved in the army recruitment campaign. This no doubt caused difficulties within her family, given that her brother was Chief of Staff of the British Army at the time. She subsequently joined Sinn Féin during the 1920s when her brother was Lord Lieutenant and in 1930 she joined Hanna Sheehy Skeffington on a tour of the Soviet Union. Her visit inspired to become a communist. She died in 1939.
4. Jennie Wyse Power
A life-long political activist and campaigner, Wicklow born Jennie Wyse Power joined the Ladies Land League in the early 1880s, and quickly found herself immersed in their activities during the Land War. She helped set up the Irish Women’s Franchise League and was also a founding member of Inghinidhe na hÉireann and Sinn Féin, becoming Vice-President of both organisations. She was later on the Provisional Committee that set up Cumann na mBan and was elected the first President of that organisation in October 1914. The 1916 Proclamation was signed in her home at 21 Henry Street, Dublin and she was subsequently elected as one of five women members onto Dublin Corporation in 1920 for the Inns Quay – Rotunda District. She helped found the pro-Treaty women’s organisation, Cumann na Saoirse (The League of Freedom) and became its Vice President. She was a Free State Senator from 1922 until 1936 and was also a member of Cumann na nGaedheal.
5. Madeline ffrench Mullen
A member of Inghinidhe na hÉireann (Daughters of Ireland), Madeline ffrench Mullen was born in Malta and came to Ireland after her father retired from his occupation as a Fleet surgeon in the Royal Navy. She wrote for the organisation’s newspapers Bean na hÉireann and played an active part in the campaign to provide school dinners for children. During the lockout of 1913, she worked at the soup kitchen in Liberty Hall. She also joined Cumann na mBan and the Irish Citizen Army. During the Easter Rising, she was part of the St Stephen’s Green/Royal College of Surgeons Garrison.
6. Elizabeth O’Farrell
A member of both Inghinidhe na hÉireann and Cumann na mBan, Elizabeth O’Farrell played a key role in the Easter Rising. She had the difficult task of delivering the news to British forces that the rebels were surrendering, and was famously airbrushed out of history in the photograph commemorating the surrender, where her feet are just visible below the coat of Pádraig Pearse.
After a short period of imprisonment after the Rising, O’Farrell was released. She subsequently worked as a midwife in the National Maternity Hospital and remained an ardent republican for the rest of her life.
7. Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington
A tireless campaigner for women’s rights amongst many other things, Hanna Sheehy Skeffington lived an incredible and fascinating life by anyone’s standards. One of the first women to graduate from an Irish university, she was well-versed in domestic and international affairs as well as being as very talented orator. Her efforts to advance the rights of women saw her incarcerated a number of times throughout her life. She was also an avid supporter of Irish independence, raising awareness and funding for the cause. She initially rejected the Anglo-Irish treaty, and in 1937 objected to the place ascribed to Irish women in de Valera’s constitution. She continued to actively stand up for workers and women’s rights until her death in 1946.
The Walking Tours take place at 2:00pm on the following Sundays: June 30th, July 28th, August 25th, September 29th, October 27th, November 24th 2019
Tickets are available here: https://www.glasnevinmuseum.ie/_shop/women-s-tours.cfm
Glasnevin Cemetery Museum, Finglas Road, Dublin 11
(01) 882 6550