Liz Gillis, author and historian to speak at the 2023 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival.

She Carried Out All the Duties Given to Her in a Most Efficient Manner – Women in the Irish Revolution.”

As we approach the end of the Decade of Centenaries, Liz Gillis who is a prolific writer on the revolutionary years 1913-1923 will address the treatment of activist women during and after the period. Originally from Dublin’s Liberties, which she loves and promotes, Liz has highlighted the role of women during that era and has argued that they were fighting not just for freedom but also for real freedom with social justice at its very core.  

Liz Gillis

From Cumann Na mBan to the labour based Irish Citizen Army and onwards to the “Invisible army” of the Irish Republican Army, many of the women were often the public face of the resistance as the men risked immediate death if exposed. Conversely with the arrival of the new State, the men became more prominent and conservative in the Church dominated post Civil War politics of the era, while many of the radical women were rendered powerless and became invisible for decades. 

The 1916 Proclamation declaring an Irish Republic addressed to the people of Ireland (Ireland is described as “she”), is directed to “Irishmen and Irishwomen” and includes direct reference to Irish women in two later sections. The use of the pronoun “her” in reference to Ireland as feminine appears on ten occasions in the first two paragraphs of the Proclamation. The signatories certainly intended that Irish women should play an equal role in the Irish Republic.

Ms. Gillis’s book Women of the Irish Revolution, published in 2014, exposed the faces, achievements and sacrifices and treatment of hundreds of these invisible women  who served in the engine rooms of the revolution. The book contains a unique set of photographs which provide a human face to many of those heroes for the first time. The publication along with others which highlighted the essential work of the women made an enormous contribution to the belated, if often grudging State acknowledgement in recent years of their pivotal importance during the period. The new Free State meted out cruel and harsher treatment to them than the British forces had attempted during the War of Independence and over subsequent decades failed to provide pensions to many of the women activists. Even today there is very little recognition of the contribution made by these women in for example public space names or monuments by national or local government. 

Women of the Irish Revolution.

They were the wives, mothers, sisters and girlfriends of the men who fought and died for Irish freedom and their story is one that needs to be told”

“Women of the Irish Revolution” Published by Mercier Press Cork 2014.

Liz is the author of several books and has championed the contribution of women for many years. She previously worked as a researcher for the RTE History Show and lectures at the Champlain College, Dublin. She has appeared in many RTE documentaries in relation to the revolutionary period and has recently authored The Hales Brothers and the Irish Revolution.

Liz will speak to the topic “She Carried Out All the Duties Given to Her in a Most Efficient Manner – Women in the Irish Revolution.”

Venue: Dance Cork Firkin Crane. Thursday evening 27th July 2023.  

Feminist Walking Tour of Cork Launched at Festival

Professor Maggie O’Neill launched the walk, a printed map and website for the new feminist walking tour of Cork on Saturday  30th July at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival. 

Professor Maggie O’Neill

The launch was a collaboration with Mother Jones Festival and TVG Traveller pride. Following a brief introduction, a large number of the participants headed off to visit a number of the sites, including the Traveller Visibility Centre, the Mary Elmes Bridge, the Sexual Violence Centre and the Mother Jones Plaque.

Feminist Walking Tour at Mary Elmes Bridge

While some representations of women can be found, and some streets are named after queens and saints, there are no monuments to women in Cork City. Yet the women of Cork have made an enormous contribution to building better communities throughout the city and far beyond. 

Professor Maggie O’Neill

The Cork Mother Jones Committee wish to congratulate all associated with this venture which focuses on celebrating the contribution of women to Cork City and explores “the role of women in addressing sexual and social inequalities and building fairer, safer communities”.

Further Information in relation to Cork Street names from Cork Mother Jones Committee:

It does appear as if the only female representation used on Cork street names are indeed those of queens and saints/religious figures. The name of Queen Victoria appears on approximately eleven place name locations in Cork City; the renaming of the area around MacCurtain Street as “The Victorian Quarter” is the latest example.

Interestingly, over one hundred place names in Cork City are named after saints, representing thirty-one saints, seven of which are female. (only St Mary, St Joseph and St Patrick can match Queen Victoria in popularity). 

Dozens more place names have religious associations such as the names of popular Cork priests or Italian saints. Just two nuns, both founders of religious orders such as Mary Aikenhead and Nano Nagle are remembered on a road, places and a bridge.

Names such as Bernadette, Mary, Margaret and Geraldine appear on Cork street names and they are probably connected to saint names also.

Only Dr Mary Hearn (2011) and Mary Elmes (2020 ) who have had the honour of recently having a park and a bridge named after them in the city may be deemed to have come from a secular if somewhat privileged background.

To date it appears that no secular working class woman has been bestowed with the honour of her name being placed on any public structure or street in Cork City. When one realises that Thom’s Commercial Directory of 2004 listed some 2805 streets in Cork City and yet no street is named after an ordinary Cork woman, it is a very serious omission and represents gender and class discrimination on an epic scale in our city.