Women's roles remembered in 100 years since Easter Rising

Woman have played many roles, from armed rebels to nurses, while serving the Irish republican cause in the 100 years since the Easter Rising, says UPEI professor Susan Brown.

UPEI's Susan Brown is speaking Monday night Charlottetown as part of the Irish Lecture Series

Irish Volunteers barricade Townsend Street, Dublin, to slow down the advance of troops, during the Easter Rising. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The role of women rebels in Ireland's battle for independence from British rule is one that needs to be commemorated, says Susan Brown, who teaches Irish history at the University of Prince Edward Island.

This year marked the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising, a pivotal event in Irish political history, and one in which women were deeply involved, Brown told CBC's Mainstreet PEI.

"There were women in [nearly] all of the garrisons in all of Dublin," said Brown, who is speaking Monday night at the Benevolent Irish Society in Charlottetown.

"One of the most dangerous things that they undertook was to act as couriers and scouts, going out under gunfire, into the city, travelling between the different garrisons. There, they really did put their lives at risk."

Women trained as soldiers

Women were as passionate about the rebellion as men, she said.

"They were very important in it. They came to nationalist politics through a number of routes, through involvement in trade union activity, involvement in the campaign for votes for women [and] involvement in the revival of Irish cultural nationalism."

A horse and cart is driven past a mural marking the 100 year anniversary of the Irish Easter Rising in Dublin, Ireland. (REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne - RTSCEYV)

Constance Markievicz was one of the estimated 300 women who took part in the Rising and one of the best known, Brown said.

"She quickly became a revolutionary. She was trained in arms, she trained other women in arms. She was second in command in one of the garrisons. She was also the only woman who was sentenced to death with the other rebels," Brown said.

Dedication and heroism

Markievicz's sentence was eventually commuted and she went on to a career in politics and was the first woman elected to the House of Commons in the 1918 election.

Brown said Rosie Hackett, who had a Dublin bridge named after her in 2014, is example of the dedication and heroism exhibited by women involved in the Irish republican cause.

"She was a young woman who worked in Jacobs Biscuit Factory and organized strike among the 3,000 women working there to improve working conditions. She served in the Irish Citizens Army and was one of the printers of the Irish Proclamation."

After the failed rebellion, many of the women continued with the cause, standing as candidates in the Sinn Fein party and becoming active in the Irish Civil War of 1921-1923, Brown said.

With files from Mainstreet PEI