Mother Jones Portraits Unveiled in Washington and Chicago.

On Saturday May 1st 2021, the Irish Embassy in Washington and the Irish Consulate in Chicago unveiled two beautiful portraits of Mother Jones. Commissioned by the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and painted by artist Lindsay Hand, they represent a fitting tribute to this great Cork born woman, trade union and labour activist. This was part of “If Walls Could Talk” initiative by the Irish Consulate.

Irish Ambassador to America, Daniel Mulhall unveiled the portrait at the embassy where it will hang proudly alongside the portrait of the late civil rights leader and Congressman John Lewis.

Kevin Byrne, the Irish Consul General in Chicago conducted an interesting discussion with Lindsay Hand, the artist and a series of Illinois based trade union leaders who explained what Mother Jones means to them. The trade union leaders who participated in the discussion included Sheila Gainer, UniteHere union organiser, Pat Meade of the Illinois Nurses Association and Deborah Cosey-Lane of the Amalgamated Transit Union.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vu2bRaFN2Yg
https://www.motherjonesmuseum.org/post/lindsay-hand-s-art-brings-fannie-sellins-spirit-to-life

To read the media reports of the Mother Jones portraits, click below.

Portraits of Shandon-born woman unveiled in Washington and Chicago (echolive.ie)

Irish born activist Mother Jones remains ‘an inspiration’ (irishtimes.com)

Mother Jones by Lindsay Hand
Mother Jones by Lindsay Hand

What Did the Women Do Anyway?

This was a dismissive comment originally made to a founder of Cumann na mBan In Cork, Lil Conlon. 

Years later, the comment also annoyed members of the Shandon Area History Group. 

The result was Ordinary Women in Extraordinary Times published in 2019 by the Shandon Area History Group.

This ground breaking publication reveals some of the hidden pages of the story of eleven Cork women who took part in the War of Independence and Civil War in Cork. Varying from the internationally recognised Mary MacSwiney to the almost invisible Wallace sisters, the stories of these ordinary women remained largely untold until now.

As part of the forthcoming Spirit of Mother Jones Festival, a documentary called “What did the Women do Anyway?” featuring a discussion with historian Anne Twomey of the Shandon Area History Group about these remarkable women will be shown as part of the festival’s contribution to the Cork Commemoration 1920-1923. 


Filmed by Frameworks Films one can hear of the story of the Wallace Sisters, of the opera singer Kate ‘Birdy’ Conway  the issue of violence against women,  the failure to acknowledge the womens selfless contribution to the War of Independence and the ongoing efforts to ensure the role of other women such as Muriel Murphy and Nora O’Brein are recognised.  


Back in 1949, Tom Barry in his Guerrilla Days in Ireland stated that the women “were a splendid body of young women and their value to the IRA was well appreciated by the enemy” . One may well ask were these women ever really appreciated by the IRA or the leaders of the new Irish State?  

The discussion with Anne Twomey, What Did the Women Do Anyway will be available online during the forthcoming 2020 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival (27th-30th November). Links and the full programme of events will appear on www.motherjonescork.com. and Facebook.


Our thanks to the Shandon Area History group for their assistance and for photos. Check out their Facebook page to obtain a copy of the book, Ordinary Women in Extraordinary Times.

Votes for All Women: the tricky issue of class politics in the Irish suffrage movement

Louise Ryan will speak at the Spirit of Mother Jones festival and Summer School on Friday afternoon 3rd August at 2.30 at the Cathedral Visitor Centre.

She will address the topic, “Votes for All Women: the tricky issue of class politics in the Irish suffrage movement”.

The Irish citizen

Irish Citizen newspaper

Louise Ryan, originally from Cork, is a graduate of UCC. Louise is a Professor of Sociology, and co-director of the Migration Research Group at the University of Sheffield. She is the author of Irish Feminism and the Vote(1996) and (with Margaret Ward) Irish Women and the Vote (2007) as well as numerous academic papers on suffragism in journals including Women’s History Review and Women’s Studies International Forum.

Louise Ryan

Louise Ryan

Her most recent book, Winning the Vote for Women: the Irish Citizen Newspaper and Suffrage Movement in Ireland was published by Four Courts Press in 2018. Louise has appeared on numerous radio programmes and TV documentaries. She also written recent articles about the Irish suffrage movement for the Irish Examiner, Irish Times and Sunday Business Post. Louise has participated in Vote 100 events in Leinster House, The Royal Irish Academy, the House of Commons, Westminster, and Richmond Barracks, Dublin.

The Irish Citizen newspaper was founded by Hanna and Francis Skeffington and was published from 1912 to 1920. This paper provides historians with a “vivid picture” of suffragists’ issues during that period. The newspaper clearly shows that the contributors to the newspaper were concerned not just with the franchise but with a much wider array of issues affecting women generally.

Louise Ryan originally wrote Irish feminism and the vote: an anthology of the Irish Citizen newspaper, 1912-1920 back in 1996 and she has again performed a huge contribution to a more complete understanding of this exciting and turbulent period by republishing an updated and revised edition entitled Winning the Vote for Women: The Irish Citizen Newspaper and Suffrage Movement in Ireland.

Among the many issues debated in the Irish Citizen were the suffragists’ attitudes to work, class, wages and trade unions. It is easy to dismiss the suffragists as middle-class liberals from the leafy suburbs however clearly the movement contained within it a broad spectrum of ideas and views. Suffragists such as Louie Bennett, Winifred Carney, Cissie Cahalan, Meg Connery, Marion Duggan, Mary Galway, Margaret McCoubrey and Marie Johnson raised the issues of wages, exploitation, class and workers’ rights throughout this period and their debates and lively discussions appeared regularly in the pages of the Irish Citizen.

Professor Ryan will examine these differences and contradictions within the suffragist movement and the relationship between class politics and gender politics which are perhaps as relevant today as one hundred years ago.

Mother Jones talk in Dublin’s GPO, as part of “Rebel Irish Women” series

An important series of talks is currently being held in Dublin’s General Post Office (GPO) to mark the centenary of 1918, a pivotal year in modern Irish history. Over the course of the yar 12 lectures are being delivered on the role of women key Irish woman.  On July 19th the lecture will be on Mother Jones with a talk by Profesor Rosemary Feurer of Northern Illinois University, USA.  Rosemary is an authority on Mother Jones and has spoken at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival in Cork on a number of occasions.

Dr. Feurer’s talk on Mother Jones will be held at Dublin’s historic General Post Oiffice on Thursday, 19th July 2018 at 5.45pm sharp.  Admission is by ticket only but tickets are free and can be obtained online by visiting http://www.gpowitnesshistory.ie or by telephone to (01) 872-1916.

Rosemary Feurer
Rosemary Feurer atop Shandon Steeple, Cork during the Spirit of Mother Jones festival 2014

The Rebel Women series covers the lives of 12 Irish women who were featured in a 1935 book, Rebel Irishwomen, in 1935 by the renowned author and historian R.M. Fox.

Anne Scargill & Betty Cook sing “The Women’s Song”

Anne Scargill and Betty Cook, Women Against Pit Closures at the Firkin Crane with Yorkshire Mother Jones banner.
Anne Scargill and Betty Cook, Women Against Pit Closures at the Firkin Crane with Yorkshire Mother Jones banner.

A number of people have asked if any video footage was available of Anne Scargill and Betty Cook of Women Against Pit Closures singing their anthem from the Miners Strike era – “The Women’s Song”.  The song was written by Mal Finch.  Our thanks to Frameworks Films for the video.  By popular demand here it is – performed during their session at the Firkin Crane on July 31st.