Fantastic piece. NYtimes (emphasis added):
AROUND 12:45 p.m. on April 29, 1916, Nurse Elizabeth O’Farrell left 15 Moore Street in Dublin to deliver the surrender message that would end the Easter Rising. Inside the house, where the division of Irish rebels under the command of Padraig Pearse had retreated, her comrades in arms watched her walk away through the bullet-riddled streets, fearing she would be shot down. But as she neared the British military outpost, the firing eased and Ms. O’Farrell accomplished her mission without injury.
Ms. O’Farrell’s act of bravery has become one of the iconic moments of the Rising, not so much for the act itself, but for how it was documented. In a photo of the surrender taken later with Pearse and two British officers, only Ms. O’Farrell’s boots were visible. When the photo was first published in a British newspaper, even the boots had disappeared.
Ms. O’Farrell claimed later that she deliberately stepped out of sight. But rightly or wrongly, “that photo” has come to symbolize the airbrushing — or “Eire-brushing,” as some have said — of women out of Ireland’s history. Now, as the centenary celebrations of the Easter Rising get underway, a determined effort is being made to reinsert the lost stories of female heroism into the male-dominated narrative of the struggle for Irish independence. As these stories come into focus, the doctored image could be said to represent something more that has consequences to this day: the removal of women from a public role in the republic they helped bring into being.
Aside from a few stars like Constance Markievicz, who was second in command at the rebels’ St. Stephen’s Green outpost in Dublin, or the schoolteacher turned sniper Margaret Skinnider, most of the estimated 260 women who took part in the 1916 insurrection never found their way into the history books. In recent decades, several historians, mostly women, have worked to change that. Among them, as part of a government-funded commemorative effort, Mary McAuliffe and Liz Gillis have unearthed a wealth of information on the 77 women who were imprisoned for their role in the uprising.
The picture emerging from this research is one of women who were not just committed nationalists willing to die for Ireland, but also longtime campaigners for social justice who had been fighting inequality on many fronts: land reform, labor battles and women’s suffrage. These women wanted a fairer society in which they would have an equal say. In 1916, they had reason to believe that the republic they chose to fight for was the surest means to that end.
According to the historian Margaret Ward, Ireland “did something quite unique in 1916” to advance equality “that wouldn’t have happened without the efforts of the women before the Rising.” On a speaking tour in 1917, Ireland’s foremost suffragist, Hanna Sheehy Skeffington, told audiences that “it is the only instance I know of in history when men fighting for freedom voluntarily included women.”
The progressive leanings of the Rising’s leaders were evident in the language of the Proclamation of an Irish Republic read aloud by Pearse on the steps of the General Post Office. Addressed to “Irishmen and Irishwomen,” it guaranteed “equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens.” At a time when women in most of the world had yet to secure the right to vote, this guarantee was no trivial thing.
© and read the rest: The New York Times
Feat. image: Credit: National Library of Ireland