|Constance Markiewicz, Co-Organizer of the 1916 Easter Rebellion, First Woman Elected to the British |
House of Commons (1918)
As Roads readers are aware, the impact and history of the Great War extends far beyond the battlefields themselves. The war spawned social upheaval and provided an opportunity for others to make their stand. One of the most famous opportunistic risings was Dublin’s Easter Rising of 1916. That rising is well chronicled in Great War literature, but Women of the Irish Rising: A People’s History approaches it from a new perspective. Author Michael Hogan has skillfully woven the women’s story into that of the overall rising and the Great War in general.
More than other authors of some tomes on the subject, Hogan delves beneath the surface of a nationalistic rising to illustrate the disparate movements that brought it to a boil. There were human rights activists; think Sir Roger Casement, Erskine and Molly Childers; socialists, remember James Connolly; the Celtic revivalists, consider Joseph Plunkett; suffragettes, Margaret Frances Skinnider; labor organizers such as Helena Molony among the multitude of militant activists. Hogan also illustrates how the Great War influenced the rising, more so than the impact the rising had on the war, probably because it was negligible.
The women played a variety of roles including gun shooting warriors in the line, messengers, commissary provisioners, medical workers and whatever needed to be done. Some names are familiar, such as Countess Constance Markiewicz, some, like Nora Connolly, daughter of commander James, were associated with leaders, while others are more obscure, Dr. Kathleen Lynn being an example. It seems that women were more involved in the rising than in many insurrections, reflecting, perhaps both their enthusiasm for the cause and the need for aid from any possible source. Even so, the contrast between James Connolly’s admission of women to his command and their exclusion by other commanders is striking.
|Margaret Skinnider (Center) Served as a Sniper and Was Wounded Three Times During the Easter Rebellion|
The book does not end with the surrender. The characters and movements that played roles in the rising are followed to the ends of their lives and into the present day. The historiography of the rising is an interesting reflection rarely found in histories. The text is supplemented by photos, maps, and a bibliography that is most helpful. One thing I really like about the footnotes is the liberal citation of websites with URLs for easy access. The appendices contain a list of known women in the rising, pictures and descriptions of rising related flags and plays, poems and songs of the rising. This work is short, 270 pages in total but, despite my extensive readings on the Easter Rising, I learned new facts about it from these pages. The documentation of the Curragh Mutiny and Sir Roger Casement’s negotiations in Germany place the rising in both local and worldwide streams of history.
I enjoyed Women of the Irish Rising and learned much from it. It encouraged me to look up some of those websites found in the footnotes and to read further. I recommend it both to those seeking an introduction to the rising and more seasoned students looking for a new perspective on this unlikely front in the Great War.
Excellent review of a very interesting book. The connection between the Uprising and the First World War is something we need to be more aware of. Thank you, Jim.ReplyDelete