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Irish Women of the South

My long-time, cherished friend, Mollie Hoben, the co-founder of BookWomenCenter for Feminist Reading, Minnesota Women’s Press, organizes and leads  stimulating, life-enhancing book trips,  “Reading on the Road,”  in the U.S. and abroad from Iceland to Oaxaca, Mexico, to Sedona, AZ, and Coastal Maine.  Recently during a scouting trip to Ireland, Mollie viewed a display in the English Market in Cork featuring key women from the struggle for independence.  “Everywhere around the country,” she wrote in an email to me, “there were lots of public displays about 1916, and of course most (almost all) were about the men of the time.” (2016 is the centennial year of the “Easter Rising, an event that reignited the fight for an independent Ireland.)  Mollie sent me these two photos of the display titled: “women of the south: radicals and revolutionaries.”  The top part of the poster is in Gael

ic, which is translated to read: “This exhibition document the hidden stories of women who played a part in both Cumann Na mBan and the Franchise movement in Munster.

We grew up without fully understanding the motivation of these women, or why politics and history downplayed and censored their contributions. This installation documents a portion of these women’s lives.  It hopefully marks the beginning of a public conversation honouring the everyday stories of ‘Women of the South'”.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (ECS) recalled in her autobiography that in 1840 she was in Dublin, Ireland, in the “midst of the excitement” that Parliament would pass the “Repeal of the Union,” severing the relationship between Great Britain and Ireland.  One day she dined with an Irish leader, known as the “Great Liberator,” Daniel O’Connell. “I asked him,” she wrote, “if he hoped to carry that measure. “No,” he said, “but it is always good policy to claim the uttermost and then you will be sure to get something,” advice she would recall throughout her long fight for women’s rights, including woman suffrage.   In 1882 during a visit to England, where her daughter Harriot lived, ECS heard Charles Stewart Parnell, the great Irish advocate for Home Rule, speak in the English Parliament.  In 1890, in a speech to the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association, ECS cited Parnell, as a model for keeping an issue alive in a unresponsive governing body.  That same year, she wrote an article defending Parnell who was under attack for an alleged affair. (In 1921 the British Parliament passed an act partitioned Ireland into Northern and Southern Ireland.  In 1948 the last ties were severed between Southern Ireland, now known as Ireland, and Great Britain.  Northern Ireland remains part of the United Kingdom.)

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