The Road to the Vote- The Fight for Female Suffrage in Ireland.- A six part Radio Series scripted, researched and presented by Dr Finola Doyle O’Neill, a Broadcast Historian with the School of History UCC.
Introduction The centenary celebrations have finally acknowledged the involvement of the rebel women of 1916, woman such as Countess Constance Markievick, Helena Molony, Dr Kathleen Lynn- Ireland’s first female surgeon and many more who fought valiantly for Ireland, but who had been forgotten until now in Ireland’s largely male national narrative. None of them became republican martyrs , adored and commemorated like their male counterparts, yet many female rebels went on to live for Ireland, some becoming suffragists who battled for the constitutional right for the female franchise. This six part series charts their progress from 1916- 1922, when in the aftermath of the Easter Rising, women tried to attain the freedoms that were promised to them in the 1916 Proclamation- freedoms espoused by James Connolly, who had promised equality for men and woman, including the right for women to vote.
Programme 1 charts the development of the suffrage movement in Ireland and the role of the Irish Citizen newspaper, the mouthpiece of the Irish Women’s Suffrage League. The programme assesses the influence of Britain’s Emily Pankhurst and her more militant suffragette movement, the Women’s Social and Political Union, on the more pacifist Irish suffragists. Discussion points for this programme include the effects of the 1913 Lockout on the attitude of many key figures such as the poet W.B. Yeats, and the dramatist Sean O’Casey- to Irish politics and the influence of the socialist thinker, James Connolly- on the Irish suffrage movement. Also the opposition of John Redmond’s Irish Parliamentary Party to women’s suffrage, provides a challenging field of discussion.
Programme 2 focuses on the ‘genteel’ suffragist, Anna Haslam, née, Anna Fisher, a Quaker woman originally from Youghal co, Cork and her pacifist husband, Thomas Haslam- both committed to universal justice and human rights. Areas of discussion include the concept of Philanthropy, the controversial Contagious Diseases Acts in 1864 and its consequences for women, as well as the efforts of Haslam to opt for a more pacifist form of suffragism.
Programme 3 is a series of enlightening interviews with UCC Woman’s Studies lecturer, Dr Sandra McEvoy, and her pioneering research into long forgotten Cork suffragist and political activist, Suzanne Day and her role in the Munster Franchise League. Other Munster- based suffragists under discussion in this programme include Mary MacSwiney, sister of the martyred Terence MacSwiney, and the novelist and dramatist, Edith Somerville from Castletownsend in West Cork, well known for her novels The Irish RM and The Real Charlotte, co-written with her cousin, Violet Martin.
Programme 4 centres around Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington, from Kanturk, Co.Cork and her role within the Irish Women’s Suffrage Movement and the involvement of Margaret Cousins, as well as the setting up of The Irish Citizen newspaper. Other fruitful areas of discussion from this programme include Hanna’s quest for justice for the murder of her husband, Frances Sheehy-Skeffington and his role as a feminist activist. Other areas for discussion include the opposition of Cumann na mBann to the Anglo—Irish Treaty , in particular the response of Countess Markievick, the only woman elected to the first Dáil,
Programme 5 charts the role of women in the nationalist struggle from 1916 to 1918. The conflicting claims of ‘the women’s question’ and the ‘nationalist question’ will be explored along with a discussion on organizations such as Cumann na mBan, The Irish Citizen Army, Women and Sinn Féin. The opposition to female political candidates such as Kathleen Clarke and Winnie Carney will be assessed, as well as the barriers faced by women in their quest to achieve suffrage in 1918.
Programme 6 offers an overview on the period 1919 -1922, when many of the gains made by women suffragists and activists were withdrawn. This programme also forewarns against the contents of de Valera’s 1937 Constitution and its implications for women. Further discussion from this programme could also include the silence in female activism until the Womens’ Liberation Movement of 1970 and the achievements of that decade regarding the constitutional rights of women.
Primary sources for this radio series include:
Bunreacht na hÉireann, 1937 Constitution , Articles 41.1 and 41.2
House of the Oireachtas Treaty Debates 14th December 1921 to 7th January 1922
The Annual Report of the Irish Women’s Franchise League for 1918
The Irish Citizen newspaper
Sinn Féin 1918 Manifesto
Secondary sources for this radio series include the following:
Cumann ma mBan and the Women of Ireland 1913-1925, Lil Conlon, Kilkenny People
Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington- a life (cork, 1987), Maria Luddy
Smashing times: a history of Irish women’s suffrage movement, 1889-1922 (Dublin, 1984), Rosemary Cullen-Owens
The Rebel Countess: The life and Times of Constance Markieviez, (London, 1969), Anne Marreco
Cumann na mban and the Irish Revolution (Dublin, 2007), Cal McCarthy
Suxanne Bouviere Day- Sandra McEvoy, 2016
John Redmond: The National Leader (Irish Academic Press, 2013) Dermot Meleady
Under the Starry Plough, (Dublin, 1977), Frank Robbins
Unmanageable Revolutionaries: women and Irish nationalism (London, 1983), Margaret Ward
Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington: Irish Feminist (Syracuse NY, 1986), Margaret Ward
Genteel Revolutionaries- (Cork, 2001), Carmel Quinlan