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These Irish Women – 1916

The Catholic Press 13th July, 1916 p.10

Photo: EO’D

The Central News, London, has received from a lady who acted as a Red Cross nurse the following graphic story of the part played by women in the recent revolt in Dublin.

The Irish rebellion is remarkable for one fact not so far recognised in England, namely the very prominent part taken in it by Irish women and girls.

On Easter Sunday, which was the day appointed for the Irish Volunteer manoeuvres, and for which all the men were mobilised, the women in the movement were also mobilised, and ordered to bring rations for a certain period. It was only at the last moment, and for sufficiently dramatic reasons, that the mobilisation of both men and women was cancelled. These Irish women, who did their work with a cool and reckless courage unsurpassed by any man, were in the firing line from the first to the last day of the rebellion. They were women of all ranks, from titled ladies to shop assistants, and they worked on terms of easy equality, caring nothing, apparently, but for the success of the movement.

Many of the women were snipers and both in the Post Office and in the Imperial Hotel the present writer, who was a Red Cross nurse, saw women on guard with rifles, relieving worn-out Volunteers. Cumann na mBan girls did practically all the dispatch carrying, some of them were killed, but none of them returned unsuccessful. That was a point of honour with them – to succeed or be killed. On one occasion in O’Connell Street, I heard a volunteer captain call for volunteers to take a dispatch to Commandant James Connolly, under heavy machine gun fire. Every man and woman present sprang forward, and he chose a young Dublin woman, a well-known writer, whose relations hold big Crown appointments, and whom I had last seen dancing with an aide-de-camp at a famous Dublin ball.

This girl had taken an extraordinarily daring part in the insurrection. She shook hands now with her commander, and stepped coolly out amid a perfect cross-rain of bullets from Trinity College and from the Rotunda side of O’Connell Street. She reached the Post Office in safety, and I saw Count Plunkett’s son, who was the officer on guard, and who has since been shot, come to the front door of the Post Office and wish her good luck as he shook hands with her before she made her reckless dash to take Connolly’s dispatch back to her own headquarters.

This was only one instance, but typical of a hundred that I saw of the part played by women during the fighting work. They did Red Cross work – I saw them going out under the deadliest fire to bring in wounded volunteers – they cooked, catered, and brought in supplies; they took food to men under fire at barricades; they visited every Volunteer’s home to tell his people of his progress. I never imagined that such an organisation of determined fighting women could exist in the British Isles. These women could throw hand grenades, they understood the use of bombs; in fact they seemed to understand as much of the business of warfare as their men.

Sixty girls were released from Kilmainham Prison a few days ago, but others are still imprisoned and arrests are yet taking place.