In my Irish Literature course, we read Dubliners by James Joyce, and in writing a paper about the novel, I began researching the Irish suffragist movement; during my research, I learned about the IWFL—the Irish Women’s Franchise League, which was established in 1908. One of the founders of this organization was Hanna Sheehy Skeffington. “Hanna Sheehy was born in 1877, in Kanturk Co. Cork. She grew up in a family with deep Republican connections, with her father being imprisoned many times for his republican activities with the Irish Republican Brotherhood. When she was ten, Hanna moved to Dublin along with her family, and later attended St. Mary’s University for Women. At the time, women were not allowed to attend the same lectures as men in UCD or Trinity College, they were however allowed to sit the same exams. This led to Hanna, after graduating from St. Mary’s, obtaining a Masters in French and German from UCD in 1902” (Collins). It was during this time that Hanna met Francis Skeffington who was a politic figure himself “who inspired controversy, having a long unkempt beard and proudly displaying a badge that said ‘Votes for Women’” (Collins).
Sheehy-Skeffington also became close friends with James Connolly (Collins). During the Dublin Lockout of 1913, Sheehy-Skeffington spearheaded leading a soup kitchen for the protesters; during the Easter Rising of 1916, Skeffington didn’t go on vacation as planned after a warning from Connolly. On Monday, Sheehy-Skeffington even went to the GPO with food and supplies despite her husband’s huge opposition to the rising—as he was a pacifist (Collins). At the conclusion of 1916, Sheehy-Skeffington went to the US (with her son in tow) to give lectures across the US and was even afforded the opportunity to interview with the US President, Woodrow Wilson.
Getting back to her ties with the feminist movement, Sheehy-Skeffington, in addition to founding the IWFL, “[o]n 13 June 1912, she and seven other women were arrested for smashing the glass windows of Dublin Castle as part of a protest. She spent a month in Mountjoy prison after being convicted, followed by another month after they refused to pay a fine” (Aoda). Recently, as in on June 13th, 2018, a plaque was unveiled by President Higgins “outside Dublin Castle to commemorate where Irish suffragette Hanna Sheehy Skeffington smashed [that] window” (Aoda). During the unveiling, President Higgins and the Lord Mayor of Dublin Micheál Mac Donncha both spoke on the impact that Sheehy-Skeffington had on “Irish political rights” and on the need to acknowledge women more. Sheehy-Skeffingotn wasn’t the only one honoured at the unveiling; her fellow suffragettes were also acknowledged: “To honour the part played by other Irish suffragettes, a list of all Irish women imprisoned for suffrage activities […] was read aloud at today’s event by members of the Galway Feminist Collective. The women held a replica of the original banner of the Irish Women’s Franchise League used by Hanna Sheehy Skeffington in 1912” (Aoda).
The monument was commissioned by Hanna’s granddaughter, Micheline earlier this year; the original desire was for it to be unveiled “6 February, the 100th year anniversary of women getting the right to vote and run in Irish elections” (Aoda).
Aoda, Gráinne Ní. “President Higgins unveils plaque at Dublin Castle where an Irish suffragette smashed a window”. The Journal.ie. 13 June 2018. http://jrnl.ie/4068805 .
Collins, Daire. “Breaking the Mould… Hanna Sheehy Skeffington”. Stories from 1916. https://www.storiesfrom1916.com/1916-easter-rising/hanna-sheehy-skeffington/
Another helpful link: http://womensmuseumofireland.ie/articles/hanna-sheehy-skeffington