Cover image for No ordinary women : Irish female activists in the revolutionary years, 1900-23
No ordinary women : Irish female activists in the revolutionary years, 1900-23
McCoole, Sinéad.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Madison, Wisconsin : University of Wisconsin Press, 2003.
Physical Description:
288 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Corporate Subject:
Format :


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Material Type
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Item Holds
HQ1600.3.Z75 M33 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Women in the fight for Ireland's independence risked loss of life and family for their cause. Here are the biographies of sixty-five women activists, along with lists of those imprisoned after the 1916 Rising and those arrested during the Irish Civil War. They came from every class in society--titled ladies, shop assistants, doctors, housewives, laundry workers, artists, and teachers. Some were married with children, others widowed, and some were mere schoolgirls. Using historical records, interviews with survivors and their families, and the women's own prison diaries, memorabilia, and writings, Sinead McCoole vividly recreates the characters, personalities, and courage of these extraordinary women, many of whom served time in Ireland's most notorious prison, Kilmainham Gaol.

Author Notes

Sinéad McCoole is the author of Hazel and Guns and Chiffon: Women Revolutionaries and Kilmainham Gaol . She has scripted a series of short films and curated historical and art exhibitions for Dúchas, (Ireland's heritage service) and for Dublin's Municipal Gallery of Modern Art. She lives in Dublin and works as a researcher and lecturer at the Kilmainham Gaol Museum.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Behind every successful revolutionary movement there are women, lots of them, as McCoole (Hazel: A Life of Lady Lavery) makes abundantly clear in this excellent look at the women who fought for Ireland's independence. She begins with the formation of Inghinidhe na heireann (Daughters of Ireland) by Maud Gonne in 1900, which evolved into the Cumann na mBan, the women's auxiliary of the IRA. More than 200 women fought in the Easter Rising of 1916; some were arrested and released, but others were exiled to prisons in England. The Countess Markievicz (nee Gore Booth) received a death sentence, which was commuted to imprisonment because of her sex. Later elected to the Irish parliament, she became the first female cabinet minister in Western Europe. Because so many families of the rebels were left destitute, Kathleen Clarke-whose husband and brother were executed by the British-ran the Volunteers Dependants Fund and gave a young rebel named Michael Collins his first important job in post-1916 Dublin. Later, Clarke became the first female lord mayor of Dublin. During the War of Independence, women carried dispatches, scouted and did intelligence work and provided safe houses for men "on the run." During the Irish Civil War of 1922-1923, many members of the Cumann na mBan went against the treaty that partitioned Ireland and were imprisoned by the new Irish Free State government. McCoole also provides 72 extraordinary biographical sketches of these patriotic women, both famous and unknown, in this absorbing and exciting look at a little-investigated part of Irish history. 192 illus. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Maud Gonne and Countess Markievicz are well known, but few can name other Irish women revolutionaries. Here, Dublin writer McCoole (Hazel: A Life of Lady Lavery) profiles nearly 75 of them, relying on information that she uncovered accidentally while researching a history of Kilmainham Gaol, where many of the women were imprisoned. She also interviewed their surviving family members; several generations later, they were still reluctant to acknowledge or to preserve evidence of what they considered the disreputable behavior of mothers and grandmothers, aunts and nieces. The book opens with an account of the times that focuses on women's roles, e.g., gunrunning, nursing, shooting, doing courier duty, cooking, keeping secrets, and going to jail; the actual profiles follow. Interspersed throughout are long-ignored photos and memorabilia. McCoole has done a superb job of excavating elusive historical sources, including prisoner lists for the Easter Uprising of 1916 and the Irish civil war of 1922-23 in appendixes. Similar titles include Margaret Ward's Unmanageable Revolutionaries, which focuses more on movements, ideas, and alliances; Ward's Irish Women and Nationalism is also forthcoming. McCoole's book is recommended for women's studies, ethnic, and history collections in both academic and public libraries.-Janice Dunham, John Jay Coll. Lib., CUNY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.