1916, Womens Equality and the Irish Easter Rising

Countess Constance Markievicz, c1900, feminist, socialist, first female Irish elected politician, involved in 1916 Easter Rising

Irish women were promised equality with their menfolk in the Proclamation of the Irish Republic on Easter Monday 1916.

Olivia O’Leary gives us a personal look at the public aspects of equality over the last hundred years in Ireland in  a well written article that deserves to be read by our husbands and sons as well as our daughters – be they Irish or no.

Why, 100 years after the Easter Rising, are Irish women still fighting?

Countess Constance Markievicz, pictured above around 1900 in a ballgown and below in uniform for the 1916 Easter Rising,  was a woman of great energy, who became considered a geat threat to the British government of the day.

Markievicz was a feminist and socialist who played a prominent role in the 1916 rising went on to become the first woman elected as an MP, although she refused to take up her seat as it would have involved swearing allegiance to King George, against whom she had been fighting for Ireland’s independence. Markievicz was actually in  prison when she was elected! She was subsequently elected to the Dail, the Irish Parliament.

More about the Easter Rising and the centenary celebrations this weekend in Dublin can be found on the Trinity College Dublin website. A total of  52 weekly blogs there give  some fascinating insights to to the Trinity College Library’s collection relating to the 1916 events.The Easter Rising  became a turning point for political change in Ireland, although set as it was amongst the battlefields of the First World War, the effects of change were not always as the scholars and idealists had hoped.

Which brings us back to the topic of gender equality.

The British Government extended the franchise (the right to vote) in the Representation of the People Act 1918. This followed on from a conference on electoral reform which had taken place 1916-17, where women’s suffrage was considered. however it is lauded, the 1918 Act only gave certain women the right to vote if they were over the age of 30 and met certain property criteria. More to the point, and possibly more important to many of the men who were to pass the Act as law, it gave universal suffrage to all men over the age of 21, and to the armed forces from the age of 19.

It took a further 10 years to the Equal Franchise Act 1928 for women to have parity with men in regard to voting rights. Equal pay we’re still fighting for…

Hand printed versions of the original Proclamation of the Irish Republic are available, as are many facsimile poster versions, so you can read the political parity statement yourself…

If you’re not able to make it to Dublin, there is also an exhibition in London at the Photographers’ Gallery  where you can see the original photograph of  Constance Markievicz reproduced below.

Countess Constance Markievicz, c1915, ©Sean Sexton Collection

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