English Blood, Irish Heart
Women of 1916
“The Irish Republic is entitled to, and hereby claims, the allegiance of every Irishman and Irishwoman.” Despite the fact that the main people who served, were executed and imprisoned after the 1916 Rising were men, women played a phenomenal role in the rebellion.
1. Countess Markievicz
Although more than 100 women served actively in the Rising, the Countess is certainly the most famous. A revolutionary, suffragette and politician, Markievicz was a member of the Irish Citizen Army which was headed up by James Connolly. The Countess served as an Officer during the Rising, making her a decision maker and legally allowed to carry weapons. Markievicz went on to be the first woman to be elected to the House of Commons, but refused to take her seat.
2. Elizabeth O’Farrell
Formerly a mid-wife in Holles Street Hospital, O’Farrell was one of the three women who were left last in the GPO. She worked as a dispatcher, delivering instructions to rebel outposts outside of Dublin. O’Farrell was picked by Pearse to deliver the order of unconditional surrender to the British and was imprisoned following the Rebellion. However, she was recommended for clemency given that she delivered the order of surrender to the other battalions. She remained active in politics until her death in 1957.
3. Rose McNamara
Rose was a member of Cumann na mBan, the women’s arm of the Irish Volunteers. She served as the Officer in charge of female battalion at the Marrowbone Lane Distillery and when the order came through to surrender, she marched, with 21 other women, to the British and confirmed they were part of the rebel contingent. McNamara went on to play an important role in the Civil War serving under Countess Markievicz.
4. Helena Moloney
Moloney is perhaps one of the most interesting of the Irish volunteers, an actress and journalist, she was responsible for smuggling guns in before the rebellion. Moloney served at City Hall during Easter Week alongside another famous revolutionary Dr. Kathleen Lynne. Molony was more of a believer in the elusive Ireland of Maebh and Cuchulainn, and not an idealist Sinn Féiner.
5. Margaret Skinnider
Serving as a dispatcher, sniper and raider, Skinnider told accounts of her time at the front line in a book about her life. She was the only female wounded in action throughout the Rising. When she was first imprisoned, she was seriously wounded and spent a long time in hospital. Writing about her time during the rebellion, she commented: “It was dark there, full of smoke and the din of firing, but it was good to be in action. I could look across the tops of the trees and see the British soldiers on the roof of the Shelbourne. I could also hear their shot hailing against the roof and wall of our fortress, for in truth this building was just that. More than once I saw the man I aimed at fall.”