Over the last few centuries, the paradigm of Irish culture experienced a social shift in which women continually develop themselves within the spotlight of cultural iconicism. Various women through their social commentary, written works, plays, and acts of rebellion mark stark cultural significance in regards to Irish identity. These actions combined with the context of British rule and Ireland’s fight for independence ensured women as a prominent entity towards social engagement and fighting for freedom. It is under these concepts we will explore the contributions of women in regards to Irish nationalism.
There are many women accredited for this task, as the actions vary in genre. From playwrights to military leaders, Irish women gave a voice for Ireland and enabled an external audience to experience the lives and historical events of Ireland’s citizens through culturally-driven plays and theatrical works. Lady Gregory functioned as a cornerstone during the Irish Literary Revival whose works engaged in deeply personal and documentative works that not only captured timestamps of Irish history but also embarked on exploring Irish mythology. This provision of historical and experience-based context gave outsiders and Irish-folk alike the chance to comprehend the feeling of many Irish individuals during the 20th century. When considering the impact on Irish nationalism, “Cathleen ni Houlihan” by Lady Gregory and William Butler Yeats is a primary example. It’s a metaphorical allegory remarking the plight of the Irish people and how Ireland needs soldiers to fight, speak, and hear for her. Furthering exploration in Irish nationalism, Lady Gregory’s “The Rising of the Moon” seeks to merge the world of authority and revolutionary in a well-scripted one-act play in which a Sergeant finds himself relating to a suspicious but friendly stranger that evolves into a political inquiry of Irish unity and Britain’s dominion over Ireland.
Women took serious efforts to augment movements for Ireland and engaged in high-risk activities that have taken the lives of some and the lifestyle of others. Maud Gonne MacBride was a protester who aided victims of violence, whose anti-government literature rung true with Ireland’s citizens. She was a prominent orator who spoke out against the Anglo-Irish Treaty, an action which later led her to be arrested. Her activism formed the backbone of the “Daughters of Ireland” organization in which women came together to protest British rule in support of Irish nationalism and its complete independence. The organization sought to preserve Irish culture, literature, music, art, and the Gaelic language. Eventually, this group branched into the Irishwomen’s Council and the Irish Citizen Army. Furthering radical ideals through action, Mairead Farrell sought to stifle the long-standing British rule forced upon the Irish. Regarded as a hero by some and a terrorist by others, her actions were bloody with the intent of stirring trouble and was responsible for aiding in a wave of IRA bombings across Northern Ireland. A controversial figure, her actions aimed to kill in the name of Irish nationalism.
During Ireland’s battle for independence, women found themselves at the forefront of military leadership. Constance Markievicz was a military leader who functioned as one of the highest-ranking officials during the Easter Rising Rebellion. During battles Markievicz was known for sniping, delivering messages, nursing, and aiding Irish citizens. In her early life she lived comfortably as a wealthy bourgeoisie who attended art school. However British rule left Ireland in a state of disrepair, this in-turn inspired Markievicz to participate in giving speeches, teaching youths to fire guns, and successfully out-gunning British officers through her expertise in firearms. Upon her release from imprisonment after the Easter Rising Rebellion she became the first women elected into the British House of Commons, however her nationalist ideals influenced her to be appointed as Minister for Labour in a Dublin-based parliament.
Betwixt the realm of political activism, Bernadette Devlin McAliskey was another Irish woman who perpetuated nationalist ideals and was a blunt speaker who spoke against British dominion and incited riots in defense of Ireland’s cultural sanctity. She helped formulate the Irish Republican Socialist Party and consistently engaged in public speeches in support of furthering Irish independence. She participated in peace protest marches and her politically charged persona maintained her status as a fierce proponent of Irish rights.
All of these women, and their actions, left a mark on the face of Ireland and the people within it. The activities and efforts put forth by women render 20th century Ireland as an era that had stark feminist ideals and further emphasized the worth of women and their ability to instigate social reform, fight, and perpetuate large-scale change and action. Each of these women were fighting for a universal cause: Ireland’s independence and ending the plight of the Irish people.