The Radical Irish Diaspora – Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, the Rebel Girl

The Radical Irish Diaspora.

The Rebel Girl.

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn

Born in 1890 in Concord, New Hampshire, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was of solid Irish roots. Indeed she claimed that all four of her great grandfathers, Gurley, Flynn, Ryan and Conneran, were United Irishmen and had helped the French Army which landed at Killalla Bay in 1798.  Her mother Anne Gurley, a native Irish speaker was brought up in Loughrea, Co Galway, while Thomas Flynn, her father had strong Mayo roots. Elizabeth refers also in her autobiography to her mother’s family connections to George Bernard Shaw and the Larkins.


The family moved to New York in 1900 to live in the South Bronx, her early youth was blighted by poverty, yet she availed of educational opportunities and her independent spirit (she was an early vegetarian) was encouraged by her socialist parents. In the radical ferment of New York City she learned of the Molly Maguires, the Haymarket Massacre, she read William Morris, Edward Bellamy, Frederick Douglass and Upton Sinclair. Her first public speech in Times Square at the age of 16 was on the rights of women.


The teenage Flynn became a sensation in New York. When approached by theatrical producer David Belasco who wanted her to star in “a labour play”……..she responded “I don’t want to be an actress. I want to speak my own words and not say over and over again what somebody else has written for me. I’m in the labour movement and I speak my own piece”. She always wrote her own speeches.


Elizabeth crossed paths with some of the seminal figures in the Irish labour struggle.  She first met James Connolly in 1907 and they became firm friends.  He was a frequent visitor to her parents’ home before eventually returning to Ireland in 1910.  Accompanied by Connolly, who was then also an IWW organizer in New York, she attended a meeting addressed by a fiery Mother Jones in the Bronx in the summer of 1908, Flynn was so overcome at the sight of Mother Jones that she collapsed.

She later saw Mother Jones passionately defending a Jewish man against deportation at a meeting in Chicago. Describing Mother Jones as “the Greatest woman agitator of our time”, she also admitted that she was afraid of “her sharp tongue” yet Elizabeth found Mother Jones to be very sympathetic and kind to her when told of how Elizabeth had lost her first child.

Later Elizabeth became well acquainted with James Larkin when he came to the United States after the Dublin lockout. He called around to her house many times. “He was very poor and while in New York he lived in a small alley in Greenwich Village.” She also commented that “he was a magnificent orator and an agitator without equal.”

Anne, her mother regularly babysat Owen Sheehy Skeffington when Hannah had to speak at meetings in New York. Among other visitors were Liam Mellows and Dr. Patrick McCarten, the then Irish envoy to the US.

While Mother Jones played a prominent role in the founding in Chicago in 1905 of the International Workers of the World (IWW), she did not conduct union organizing campaigns under its auspices.  However, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, became one of the IWW‘s most celebrated and tireless leaders, having joined in 1906.  Her efforts to organize the most oppressed workers over several decades took her from Massachusetts, to Minnesota, to Washington on the west coast.


The Rebel Girl

A few hours before he was executed in 1915, Joe Hill wrote to his friend Elizabeth to tell her that she was indeed the inspiration for his song The Rebel Girl.


Flynn spent her entire life working for the labour movement and was a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). She was dedicated to free speech and campaigned actively for women’s rights and was especially critical of the male leadership of the IWW and the unions and attacked their failure to practice equality for their female members.


Her valiant efforts to save Sacco and Vanzetti failed and they were executed in 1927. Her beloved only son Fred Flynn died in 1940 at the age of just 29. Arrested many times, and under surveillance by the FBI, she suffered bouts of illness. Eventually Elizabeth was jailed for over two years (Jan 1955-May 1957) when caught up in the red-scare campaign under the Smith Act by the American government. She became national chairperson of the Communist Party of the United States of America in 1961.

The grave of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn at Forest Home Cemetery, Cook County, Illinois

While on a visit to the Soviet Union in September 1964, she died unexpectedly at age 74. According to her wishes, a portion of her ashes was sent back to the United States, where they were buried in Chicago. Rebellious to the end she donated her papers, a few possessions and her books to Dorothy Day’s Catholic Worker house in New York City.


In a tribute in 1926, Eugene Debs, leader of the Socialist Party of America, stated that Elizabeth Gurley Flynn has “espoused and championed the cause of the weakest, lowliest, most despised and persecuted, even when she stood almost alone”

Lorraine Starsky will describe the life and significance of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn in a talk entitled: “In the footsteps of Mother Jones – the Life and legacy of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn


This will be held at the Cathedral Visitor Centre on Thursday 1st August at 11am as part of the Spirit of Mother Jones summer school 2019.


Lorraine is a long-time labor union and social justice activist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the United States. As a young adult she became involved in the campaign to end the Vietnam War, fighting against racism, and for womens’ rights, labour and union causes. Labour history is her lifelong passion and she has studied Irish women activists such as Mother Jones and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. She is a Public Health nurse and has herself Irish roots.



The Rebel Girl… Autobiography. My First Life (1906-1926) by Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. Published in 1955.

There is Power In A Union….The Epic Story of Labour in America, by Philip Dray. 2010 Doubleday.

James Connolly and the United States. Carl and Ann Barton Reeve. Humanities Press.













Miss Mary: the Quiet Heroine! – The Story of Mary Elmes

 Mary Elmes (1908-2002)


Mary Elmes was born on 5th May 1908 at Cul Greine, 120 Blackrock Road in Cork. Edward Elmes, her father was originally from Waterford and her mother was Elizabeth Waters from Cork. The family ran a pharmacy at 4 Winthrop Street, in the heart of Cork city, were prosperous and lived in Ballintemple near Blackrock. The family had military connections and several relations served in the British Army abroad.  Elizabeth Elmes was also friendly with Mary McSwiney having worked together in the Munster Women’s Franchise league. The family business premises appears to have been damaged in the burning of Cork by British soldiers on the night of 11th December 1920.

Rochelle School around 1930

Mary Elmes attended Rochelle School, on the Old Blackrock Road, now closed and incorporated into Ashton School in Cork. In 1928  she enrolled at Trinity College, Dublin where Mary had an outstanding academic career. Top of her class, she was a scholar in 1931, was awarded a gold medal and gained a first-class degree in Modern Literature (French and Spanish).

In 1935, as a result of her academic achievements, Elmes was awarded a scholarship in International Studies to study at London School of Economics. This was followed with a certificate in International Studies as well as a further scholarship to continue her education in Geneva, Switzerland.

After the completion of her studies, in February 1937, Mary was invited by Sir George Young, a former British diplomat and journalist to join the University of London Ambulance Unit and was sent to a children’s hospital in Almeria in then civil war-torn Spain.

Mary Elmes at Almeria

She ran a children’s hospital in Murcia from May 1937, and worked for a period alongside Dorothy Morris a nurse from New Zealand. January 1938 saw her appointed as administrator to a Quaker established hospital in Alicante. She was not a Quaker herself.

The Quakers looked after victims on both sides of the civil war, however Mary’s work was mainly with Republican children and civilians. The hospital in Alicante came under aerial attack from the Fascist airforce with aircraft provided by Germany and Italy and had to be evacuated. In mid-1938, Mary moved inland to the mountains near Polop where they worked from an abandoned villa for the remainder of the year, caring for over 30 children.

By early 1939, as the Fascists, with superior resources defeated the Republican government and ground out victory, millions of Spanish became refugees in their own country. During the following months, some 500,000 defeated Republicans and their families fled to France.

Spanish children in Quaker run refugee camp, France

Mary eventually left Spain over the border to France in May 1939 and returned home to Cork where she stayed for a month, before volunteering to work in the Spanish refugee camps in the South of France. She worked out of Perpignan for the Quaker led International Relief organisations, distributing aid, supplies clothes and books.

World War 2 was declared on 2nd September, placing the humanitarian effort in the South of France in jeopardy. Later on 22nd June 1940, following the invasion of northern France and the fall of Paris, France became divided into the German occupied North and the collaborationist South under the Vichy regime of Marshal Petain.

The Vichy south was flooded this time by refugees from the north of France and again back in Perpignan, Mary found herself in the middle of a new humanitarian disaster. She was increasingly critical at the actions of the Vichy government towards Jews who were being rounded up and placed in concentration camps yet was also trying to prevent the expulsion of the humanitarian agencies, such as those run by the Quakers from the area.

Mary, known as “Miss Mary” to many refugees, worked tirelessly to bring aid to the Rivesaltes camp, local schools and other nearby facilities, where hunger and malnutrition was growing.

Relief organisations, including the Quakers, fearful of their fate, began attempting to get Jewish children out of the camps to America or into local respite homes where they might escape the Vichy authorities. The summer of 1942 saw the beginning of the systematic deportation of all Jews to extermination camps in Eastern Europe.

Clodagh Finn’s book

From August to October 1942, Mary Elmes, with assistance from some colleagues and others, rescued dozens of children from Riversaltes, taking them to safe houses or helping them flee the country altogether. Well aware that she was putting herself at risk, Elmes bravely hid many children in the boot of her car and drove them to safe destinations. She aided many others by securing documents, which allowed  them to escape through the underground Resistance networks in Vichy France.

From November 1942 onwards, the Nazi grip of terror tightened. In February 1943, Elmes was arrested on suspicion of aiding the escape of Jews and was imprisoned in Toulouse, later being moved to the notorious Fresnes Prison run by the Gestapo near Paris, where she was incarcerated .She was finally released without charge on 23rd July 1943. Her own children believe she may have been released after an intervention by Eduard Hempel, the German Ambassador in Dublin.

Paddy Butler’s book

Immediately returning to Perpignan, she continued her humanitarian work for the Quakers until June 1946. She married Roger Danjou and settled into a domestic lifestyle, raised two children, Caroline and Patrick and remained mostly silent about her extraordinary activities over the previous decade. After almost a decade of difficult relief works in two major wars and taking huge personal risks, she lived a quiet life. She refused the Legion d’ Honneur, offered by the French State. Her work still unknown and unrecognized, she died in France on 9th March 2002 at the age of 93.

Eventually recognition came for her courageous humanitarian work and her efforts to save Jewish children from the Nazi genocide. On 13th January 2013, she was recognized in the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations, at Yad Vashem in Israel. Later in February 2019, the Cork City Council voted to name the new pedestrian bridge across the River Lee as the Mary Elmes Bridge.

Anne Twomey of the Shandon Area History Group will tell the story of Mary Elmes at the Firkin Theatre, Shandon on Thursday 1st August at 7.30. All are welcome.


A Time To Risk All by Clodagh Finn. Gill Books 2017

The Extraordinary Story of Mary Elmes…The Irish Oskar Schindler by Paddy Butler. Orpen Press 2017.



John Swiney, Cork’s almost forgotten United Irishman

Spirit of Mother Jones Festival to commemorate the 175th Anniversary of the death of the United Irishman John Swiney of Shandon Street.

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is pleased to announce that Kieran Groeger will speak at the forthcoming Spirit of Mother Jones summer school on the life and times of John Swiney.

John Swiney, (also spelt Sweeny) was a leader of the United Irishmen in Cork City in the 1790s, traded from a woollen drapery shop in Shandon and on  the 175th anniversary of the year of his death, we propose to commemorate this extraordinary Cork patriot at the Spirit of Mother Jones summer school.

One of the most effective leaders of the United Irishmen during the revolutionary fervour which gripped Cork in the 1790s, unfortunately Swiney remains largely unknown in his native place even today. His name does not appear on the National Monument on the Grand Parade.

Sean O’ Coisdealbhain in a series of articles on the United Irishmen in the Cork Historical and Archaeological Journal in the late 1940s and ‘50s provided research into Swiney’s role and concluded that he deserved to be better remembered in Cork.

John Swiney was born in Cork on 7th August 1773 and as a young man along with the Sheares brothers and many others he became interested in the radical ideas and writings such as The Declaration of the Rights of Man emanating from the French Revolution. He joined the increasingly active Society of United Irishmen in Cork while still in his 20s.

Broguemakers Hill Cork in 1937, Swiney’s original shop of the 1790s would have been over to the left just out of shot at the junction with Shandon Street

A woolen draper by trade, his shop was located near the junction of Shandon Street and Blarney Street. This shop became a centre of operations, an unofficial headquarters for the United Irishmen in Cork City and witnessed many comings and goings of activists in the mid-1790s. Cork was in a ferment of civil unrest in this period with transportation for life being the regular punishment for persons administering the oath of the United Irishmen.

Some 4000 men in Cork city had joined the United Irishmen at that time and John Swiney was one of the main leaders………..indeed he had earlier joined Lord Donoughmore’s Loyal Cork Legion and militia to learn about military tactics.

He effectively operated as an intelligence officer for the United Irishmen, which was then seeking assistance from the French government for an invasion. On the ground he campaigned against tithes and linked up to the agrarian land disturbances especially in East Cork at this time.

However the Cork United Irishmen was riven with spies, his activities and his shop was watched by the authorities. He was arrested on the 28th March 1798 while visiting Roger O’Connor in Cork Jail. On the same day, two soldiers from the Dublin County Militia were executed in the City. James Murphy and Patrick Halvey were charged with sedition, found guilty and shot at the camp field on the present day Mardyke. John Swiney had earlier distributed handbills among the militia asking them to refuse to execute their colleagues. Swiney’s importance was such that he was immediately transported to Dublin on 29th March.

One of the many plaques erected by Comorodh ’98 in 1998 to recall the bi-centenary of the 1798 rebellion. This one remembers United Irishmen James Murphy and Patrick Halvey who were executed on Cork’s Mardyke in March 1798.

Swiney was eventually sent to the bleak Fort George outside Inverness in Scotland along with 20 other leaders of the United Irishmen including Roger O’Connor (the father of Chartist leader, Feargus O’Connor) and Arthur O’Connor of West Cork, Thomas Russell (born in Dromahane, Co Cork) and Thomas Addis Emmet, whose father Dr Robert Emmet worked among the poor of Cork for many years.

Robert Emmet – leader of the abortive 1803 rebellion

His shop on Shandon Street was purchased by Cornelius Swiney of Coolroe who continued to trade in woollen goods from the premises. After more than 3 years in prison Swiney was released and banished from Ireland and sent to Hamburg in Germany. However he had not given up on his dreams of a rebellion.

A year later, Swiney slipped quietly back to Cork following an invitation from Robert Emmet to lead Cork in the 1803 uprising. Amidst the disaster and retribution which followed the brief uprising in Dublin, the authorities arrested over 40 people in and around County Cork.  Swiney found refuge in Cork city, probably with the help of Cooper Penrose at Woodhill (Sarah Curran and Lord Edward Fitzgerald both found refuge there) and fled again from Crosshaven in Cork Harbour to France where he delivered the news to Thomas Addis Emmet in Paris of his brother’s recent execution in Dublin.

Panels from the National Monument in Cork’s Grand Parade. Unfortunately it contains no mention of John Swiney.

Along with many other Irish refugees after the failed rebellions, he joined the Irish Legion established by Napoleon in 1803 and was given the rank of captain.

In 1804, Captain Swiney took part in a celebrated duel with a fellow Corkman Thomas Corbett in which Swiney was wounded but recovered while Corbett was mortally wounded.

In 1805 he married a French woman, became a property owner and made at least one visit to America on business and settled in the Bordeaux area. His naturalization papers dated December 1818 described him as a former captain and merchant of Morlaix, department of Finistere.

He died in October 1844 and is buried in the cemetery of St Martin in Morlaix.


The talk entitled “The Extraordinary Life of John Swiney, the United Irishman from Shandon” will take place on Thursday 1st August 2019 at the Cathedral Visitors Centre. (See later festival programme for further details).

Dr Groeger is the author of the Trial and Execution of James Cotter, and the Little Book of Youghal and has recently published The much-maligned Mary Pike, which takes people back to events in Cork city in the 1790s. He is a retired headmaster and writes articles on local history and “delights in stripping away the layers of a story and revealing the truth.”

If anyone has further information in relation to John Swiney, please email





Spirit of Mother Jones Festival – Timetable – Day 4 (Saturday)

Spirit of Mother Jones Festival and Summer School

 programme 2018.


Saturday 4th August.

11.00  L   Frank Connolly,

NAMA-land…the inside story of Ireland’s property sell-off and the creation of a new elite”.

Firkin Theatre

2.30    L   Dr. Micheline Sheehy Skeffington

“Hanna Sheehy Skeffington, feminist, nationalist, socialist, pacifist – her activism in Ireland                                                           and the US”

Firkin Theatre

5.00    F    PRIDE

The true story of how a group of London-based gay and lesbian activists supported the                   families of Welsh miners during the 1984 miners strike. In association with the Quay Co-op and the support of Cork LGBT + Pride Week.

Firkin Theatre.

7.30    M  Toast and songs to Mother Jones at the plaque on John Redmond Street. Followed by music and festival closing events at the Shandon Plaza.

All are welcome.

Breaking News: 2018 Cork Spirit of Mother Jones Award for Mary Manning and the Dunnes Stores Strikers.



2018 Cork Spirit of Mother Jones Award for Mary Manning and the Dunnes Stores Strikers.

Mary Manning

Mary Manning


The Cork Mother Jones Committee is proud to announce that the 2018 Spirit of Mother Jones Award has been awarded to Mary Manning and the Dunnes Stores Strikers.

On July 19th 1984, Mary, while working on the cash registers at the Dunnes Stores branch on Henry Street in Dublin refused to register the sale of two grapefruit for a customer in accordance with the stated policy of her trade union (IDATU… Mandate Trade Union).

Mary was immediately suspended by the Dunnes Stores management, and thus a simple action initiated the strike…..eight women and one man joined Mary on the picket lines, and the strike continued for 2 years and nine months. Their actions on that day led eventually to world-wide interest and forced a change in Irish Government policy.

Dunnes Strike

Dunnes Stores strikers Karen Gearon and Mary Manning with the late Nimrod Sejake of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and ANC.

According to James Nolan, spokesperson for the Cork Mother Jones Committee,

which presents this annual award

“Mary Manning and her colleagues were willing to act in accordance with the stated policy of their trade union motions and do what was right to make a determined stand to raise awareness of the brutal apartheid regime which existed in South Africa. Mary’s stand on that day in July 1984 triggered the subsequent events.

In spite of all obstacles and harassment and silence from those who should have supported them, these workers refused to be silenced and bravely stood up for the human rights of South Africans who were suffering under the apartheid regime.”



“At extraordinary personal cost, Mary Manning and her colleagues walked the picket lines month after month for over 30 months. Their actions resonated around the world and gave inspiration and hope to the oppressed people suffering under the apartheid regime.”

James Nolan continued,

“None other than the future President of South Africa, Mr. Nelson Mandela himself who was in prison at the time, has stated that the Dunnes Stores Strikers gave him   great hope and inspiration. Their actions forced the Irish Government to eventually ban the import of South African products to Ireland and triggered the wider boycott of these products elsewhere. Mary Manning and the Dunnes Stores Strikers are worthy recipients of the 2018 Cork Spirit of Mother Jones Award.”


Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela

 Mary Manning is a native of Dublin. She emigrated to Australia for a number of years following the ending of the strike in 1987. Mary has two daughters Siobhan and Niamh and lives with her partner Dave in Dublin. She is the author with Sinead O’Brien of the recent book Striking Back – The Untold Story of an Anti-Apartheid Striker, published by Collins Press

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is honoured that Mary has come to speak at the 2018 Spirit of Mother Jones Summer School and has accepted this award on behalf of herself and her brave colleagues. The award is presented annually to people who act and work in the spirit of Mother Jones and Mary Manning and her colleagues join a worthy list of past recipients.

 The 2018 Award will be presented to Ms. Manning by Mr. James Nolan of the Cork Mother Jones Committee on Friday evening August 3rd at the Firkin Crane Theatre, in the Shandon Historic Quarter in Cork.


The Dunnes Stores Strikers:

Mary Manning, Cathyrn O’Reilly, Sandra Griffin, Alma Russell, Theresa Mooney, Vonnie Malone, Karen Gearon, Tommy Davis, Michelle Glavin and Liz Deasy,




The Cork Spirit of Mother Jones Awards to date have been,


2013,     Margaret Aspinall and Sue Roberts. (Hillsborough Family Support Group)


2014,    Gareth Peirce. Solicitor.


2015      Fr Peter McVerry. Campaigner for the homeless.


2016     Dave Hopper (RIP) General Secretary, Durham Miners’ Association.


2017     Ken Fleming. (International Transport Workers Federation.)                  .


For further details contact

Ger O’Mahony 0863196063

James Nolan 0861651356

Ann Piggott 087 9031282


Date: Friday 3rd August 2018.



Spirit of Mother Jones Festival – Timetable Friday 3rd August

Spirit of Mother Jones Festival and Summer School

programme 2018.


Friday 3rd August


11.00.    Dr Emily E. LB. Twarog

The Female Vote: Why gender matters in American politics!”

Cathedral Visitor Centre

1.00.     Music at the Maldron. Jimmy Crowley.

2.30.    Professor Louise Ryan

              “Votes for All Women? The tricky issue of class politics in the Irish suffrage movement” 


              Cathedral Visitor Centre.


7.30       Mary Manning.

Striking Back……..The story of the Dunnes Stores Workers strike”

Firkin Theatre

9.30      John Nyhan and Mick Treacy present the songs of Ewan McColl at the Maldron Bar

“Understanding the Rise of Trumpism among the ‘Great-Grand Children of Mother Jones”

Dr John Barimo will speak at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival and summer school on Wednesday evening 1st August at 4pm at the Cathedral Visitor Centre, Roman Street, Cork.

Dr. John Barimo

Dr. John Barimo

He will address the following topic:

“Understanding the Rise of Trumpism among the ‘Great-Grand Children of Mother Jones”

This lecture will focus the role played by many of Mother Jones “Progeny” in Appalachian coal country that became staunch supporters of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign even though it appeared in many ways to work against their own self interests.  These so-called great-grandchildren are current miners or other manual workers and their extended families, many of whom are still bound by the cycle of poverty.  There will be a background brief on a few quarks of the US electoral process and an examination of the socioeconomic profile of the people of Appalachia.

We will also explore effects, influences and scope of social media and misinformation campaigns, and the use of effective branding and marketing campaigns.  Lastly, we will look at the shifts in public sentiments during the campaign and voter sentiment in Pennsylvania which was the key swing state with struggling coal and steel industries.  A few film clips will be embedded in the presentation which will highlight public sentiments in Appalachia along with the struggles encountered by these individuals.

Dr Barimo is an educator, coastal ecologist, writer, advocate of social justice and adventurer. He earned a doctorate in Marine Biology and subsequently lectured at socially disadvantaged third level institutions in the US Virgin Islands and Miami. He has recently come to Cork and lives in the Shandon Historic Quarter.

John will speak at 4pm at the Cathedral Visitor Centre on Wednesday 1st August.

All welcome.


Continue reading

“The Female Vote: Why Gender Matters in American Politics” – Emily Twarog

Emily E.LB Twarog will appear at the Spirit of Mother Jones summer school on Friday morning 11am at the Cathedral Visitor Centre.

 For many people in Ireland, American politics remain a mystery, we do not understand how Donald J Trump could be elected President of America. Dr Twarog will examine one aspect of the election, why more white women vote Republican and voted for President Donald J Trump.

 Emily will address the topic:  “The Female Vote: Why Gender Matters in American Politics”

 “You don’t need the vote to raise hell”

Mother Jones


Emily Twarog

Emily Twarog

“Throughout the twentieth century, working and middle-class women struggled to collaborate. For many working-class women, Mother Jones’ declaration that “you don’t need the vote to raise hell” rang true far more than Alice Paul’s persistent call for equality through the vote.  This division continues into the twenty-first century as they deepen along multiple identities – racial, class, gender, and educational.


White women repeatedly voted against their own self-interest. Let us run some numbers. In 2004, Republican George W. Bush got 55 percent of the white female vote and Democrat John Kerry got 44 percent in what analysts call a “reverse gender gap” (one working in the GOP’s favor) of 11 points. In 2008, Republican John McCain got 53 percent of the white female vote and Democrat Barack Obama got 46 percent—a gap of 7 points.


Compared with four years earlier, the reverse gender gap remains but decreased by 4 points. Progress? No. In 2012, Republican Mitt Romney got 56 percent of the white female vote compared with President Obama who got just 42 percent. Far from narrowing, the reverse gender gap among white women widened to 14 points.


In 2016, despite the presence of a white woman on the ballot, the gap persisted among white women with a staggering 10-point split. Republican Donald Trump got 53 percent of the white female vote and Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton got 43 percent of the white female vote. As a whole, white women still opted to vote for someone who not only did not look like them, but was also heard by the entire nation (and beyond) admitting to sexually harassing women.


In my talk, I will examine the complexities of American electoral politics in more depth”.


Emily E. LB. Twarog, PhD is Associate Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign School of Labor and Employment Relations Labor Education Program


Affiliate faculty, European Union Center

Affiliate faculty, Women & Gender in Global Perspectives 


Emily is the author of a recent Politics of the Pantry: Housewives, Food, and Consumer Protest in Twentieth Century America (Oxford University Press) in hardback and e-book. Available IndieboundAmazon and Powell’s (a union shop).

“Mary, Annie and Muriel MacSwiney – Extraordinary Women in Extraordinary Times.”

Anne Twomey of the Shandon Area History Croup will speak on Thursday evening 2nd August in the Firkin Crane Theatre at 8pm.

Her topic is “Mary, Annie and Muriel MacSwiney – Extraordinary Women in Extraordinary Times.”


MacSwineys Muriel, Mary and Annie MacSwiney

Background general profiles of the MacSwineys.

Annie (left) and Mary MacSwiney

Mary MacSwiney was born in Surrey, England in 1872.  She received her early education at St Angela’s school on St. Patrick’s Hill in Cork city. Later she attended Cambridge University in the UK where she obtained her Higher Diploma and worked as a teacher in Farnborough. Following her mother’s death she returned to Cork around 1904 and looked after her younger siblings. Her father had emigrated to Australia and died there in 1895. Initially she took an active interest in the Suffragist movement and later gradually drifted away and as nationalist fervour grew in Cork, she was one of the founders of a Cork branch of Cumann Na mBan, the founding meeting itself taking place in her parlour.

Following the 1916 Rising, she was sacked from St. Angela’s due to her political activities and proceeded to establish St. Ita’s (Scoil ĺte) which was located at 4 Belgrave Place, off Wellington Road in Cork city. The school opened on 4th September 1916, Mary was the principal of the school and taught there for almost three decades. Following the death of her brother Lord Mayor Terence MacSwiney on hunger strike in October 1920, she was elected to the Second Dáil for Cork City in May 1921. Later she was elected to the Third Dáil as an anti-treaty candidate and remained an abstentionist TD until 1927 when she was unseated.

Cumann na mBann Members of Cumann na mBan, Cork

She refused to join De Valera’s Fianna Fáil party and never accepted the authority of the Irish government post 1921. She remained a devout Catholic all her life, and had been a member of Third Order of St Benedict from early on in her life after she had decided not to become a nun.  Mary continued teaching until her death on 8th March 1942. She lies in the family grave in St Joseph’s cemetery, Ballyphehane in Cork city.

Her personality was described by Charlotte H. Fallon in a biography of Mary MacSwiney (Soul of Fire, Mercier Press 1986), as “complex and sometimes even contradictory. To those who knew her personally, she was a warm loving woman full of good humour and intelligence”.  Yet Ms Fallon also states the Mary’s “actions and responses were comparatively easy and predictable as she saw things in terms of black and white, right and wrong, with no possibility for various shades of colour or interpretation.”

Her niece Maire MacSwiney Brugha in “History’s Daughter”, (O’Brien Press 2006) described her thus “She had a brilliant intellect, absolute integrity and never wavered in her political principles, no matter at what cost to herself”


Annie MacSwiney (Eithne) was younger than Mary, taught English and Maths and had graduated with a degree in Science from Newman College, later University College Dublin (UCD) where she was friendly with Hanna Sheehy Skeffington who also attended the college.  She proceeded to teach in Ventnor on the Isle of Wight prior to 1914. Having taught English to mainly German and Dutch students she remained in contact with many of them throughout her life. Annie returned to Ireland and taught at St Ita’s where she was a highly respected teacher and worked there for her entire life.

The MacSwiney family around 1900

Annie stayed away from public engagements preferring to concentrate on her teaching however she displayed courage when she went on hunger strike for several days in November 1922 outside the gates of Mountjoy Jail while Mary was on hunger strike inside.

She spoke with an “Oxford accent” (as indeed did Mary), was also a devout Catholic and spent much of her time in and around her home at Belgrave Place on the north side of Cork city. She suffered a heart attack in 1953 and died in 1954. Sadly the school to which she had devoted her life, finally closed in June 1954 with many of the junior pupils going to Scoil Mhuire at nearby 2 Sidney Place.



Muriel MacSwiney Muriel MacSwiney (née Murphy)

Muriel Murphy was born on 7th June 1892 at Carrigmore, in Montenotte, Cork city. She was born into the wealthy Catholic Murphy family, owners of Cork Distillery and Brewery which produced Paddy whiskey and Murphy’s Stout. The youngest in the family, she was educated in an English convent in Sussex where she claimed “she learned literally nothing except how to be a lady”.

Described as a rebellious young woman, there appears to have been much internal Murphy family conflict over her growing new nationalist politics. While visiting Tilly Fleischmann’s home in Cork after Christmas 1915 for a recital, she played the piano to the gathering which included Terence MacSwiney. The latter recited some poems he had composed. Thus began their relationship, which experienced significant opposition from the Murphy family.

Muriel and Terence were married on 9th June 1917 at Bromyard, Herefordshire in the UK where Terence had been sent following the post 1916 roundups by the British authorities. Muriel gave birth to a daughter Máire who was born on 23rd June 1918, while Terence was in Belfast Gaol. Nearly one half of the four years of Terence’s life subsequent to 1916 was spent in prison, he was arrested six times between 1916 and 1920 and he was never at home for more than a few days at a time. (Enduring The Most – The Life and Death of Terence MacSwiney by Francis J. Costello, Brandon Press 1995)

MacSwiney family 1920 Terence and Muriel MacSwiney with their daughter Maire shortly after Terence’s election as Lord Mayor of Cork in 1920.

The events before, during and following the death from hunger strike after 74 days of Lord Mayor Terence MacSwiney on 25th October 1920 were traumatic for Muriel. The international impact of MacSwineys death was enormous and Muriel toured America with Mary MacSwiney soon afterwards where both addressed vast crowds. Muriel received the Freedom of New York City in 1922, the first woman to be honoured. However she returned severely exhausted and began to suffer from bouts of depression.

She left Ireland for Europe with her daughter Máire in 1923. Máire spent much of her childhood in Heidelberg in Germany, where she learned German, attended schools and spent long periods without the presence of Muriel. (See History’s Daughter) Then in 1932 she was assisted by Mary MacSwiney to return to Cork where she lived with her aunts at Belgrave Place. Muriel lost a subsequent court custody battle for Máire and in 1934 she disappeared completely from her daughter’s life. Máire later married Ruairí Brugha, son of Cathal Brugha in 1945.

According to Maire, Muriel spent much of her time in Paris where she became involved in left-wing and communist politics. She formed a relationship with a French intellectual

Pierre Kaan Pierre Kaan (1935)

Pierre Kaan and had a daughter Alix on 5th May 1926 in Germany. Pierre Kaan was a writer and a member of the French Communist Party who later played an active role in the French Resistance and was deputy to Jean Moulin. Kaan was betrayed to the Gestapo, sent to a concentration camp and died later as a result of his treatment on 18th May 1945, aged 43. (See article by Manus O’Riordan, Ballingeary & Inchigeela Historical Society 2016 Journal).

In spite of various efforts over the years to promote a reconciliation between Muriel and the MacSwiney and Murphy families, Muriel refused to reconnect with her daughter or other family relations. Muriel MacSwiney died at Oakwood Hospital, Maidstone on 26th October 1982 at the age of 90, 62 years almost to the day after Terence.

Anne Twomey Cork Historian and author Anne Twomey


Anne Twomey of the Shandon Area History Group will tell the extraordinary story of the MacSwiney sisters and their sister-in-law Muriel Murphy MacSwiney at the Firkin Crane Theatre on Thursday 2nd August at 8pm.     

NAMA-land – Frank Connolly’s latest book


NAMA-land cover

The investigative journalist, Frank Connolly will appear at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival and summer school on Saturday morning the 4th August at 11am at the Firkin Theatre.

Mr Connolly will discuss his latest book NAMA-Land: The Inside Story Of Ireland’s Property Sell-Off And The Creation Of A New Elite. (Published by Gill Books 2018).

Frank Connolly

15.7.08. Dublin. FRANK CONNOLLY Writer/Journalist. ©Photo by Derek Speirs

Following the crash of the Celtic Tiger in 2008, the Government established the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) in 2009. It was designed to manage the disastrous position of Ireland’s the “bad” banks which had huge loans outstanding from builders, developers and property speculators resulting from the dramatic fall in value in property prices and their own reckless lending practices.

What followed was the largest transfer of €31.8 billion in loans which had a book value of €74 billion in property assets from public ownership to private interests. This mechanism was designed to save banks, which had huge distressed debts on their books from the collapse by effectively providing them with liquid funds using Government borrowed money following the transfer of their bad assets to NAMA.

Frank Connolly questions why these assets were subsequently disposed of in large bundles to global hedge funds and to vulture funds which “sweat out” their acquisitions in order to maximise their returns on the assets which they have obtained from NAMA at a fraction of their true worth.

protest Dublin

Housing protest

One of the result is that many thousands of Irish people have lost homes and properties as these funds “collect” on their investments which they obtained at a substantial discount. Increasingly long established tenants are being evicted as the vulture funds claim they wish to upgrade these apartments which they acquired as “job-lots” in order to increase substantially the subsequent rents. The State is often left with the rehousing costs of the former tenants.

Nama-Land “will hopefully provide an insight into one of the most significant and far-reaching political and financial experiments in the history of the state, one which will have a profound impact on Irish society and its people for many years to come”.

“Frank Connolly’s careful and penetrating investigative research has exposed critical truths about malfeasance in high places and the often ugly workings of political power generally, actions that have caused great harm to the general population” Noam Chomsky.

Frank Connolly will speak at the Firkin Crane Theatre on Saturday morning 4th August 2018 at 11am. All are welcome.