Upcoming suffrage centennial in Ireland

On May 25, 2014 it’s the centennial observance of the passing of the Government of Ireland Act that not only addressed the so-called “Irish Question,” but it also made women’s suffrage possible. The public record of women voting in Ireland can be traced back to the 1860s, and an article published in “Woman and her Sphere” by Elizabeth Crawford (researcher, writer, dealer in books and ephemera) is worth linking to directly because it’s a wonderful way to touch into everything you ever wanted to know and then some.

Elizabeth Crawford publishes a list of books available for sale that has suff buffs (and others) drooling. And when it comes to certain suffrage history, her articles contain a mountain of information that makes all the time spent reading worth reading it. Her article “We Believe That The Rousing of the Irish People Had Best Be Left to Irish Women” is one such example.

The article is lengthy and detailed, though it can be summed up in one of Crawford’s sentences: “The conflict between nationalism and suffragism haunted the Irish suffrage campaign.” But this sentence leaves out many fascinating facts. Did you know that  Hanna Sheey Skeffington and others broke windows of government buildings in Dublin? I didn’t. Four received prison sentences and they went on a hunger strike. The story includes the background of how the English militant suffragettes spread their organizing efforts to Ireland. There are some hair-raising tales, including a hatchet with a suffrage message that one suffrage activist threw into the coach of the English prime minister on his visit to Ireland. Winning the vote in both Ireland and England required more than ladies’ tea receptions. It was uphill all the way, and a suffrage centennial is a perfect time to appreciate what may appear today to be a simple victory. Thank you, Elizabeth Crawford, for the persistence that’s involved in some of your history gems.

“In 1922, six years before women in Britain, Irish women over 21 were granted the vote, albeit reluctantly, by the Irish parliament. In the final stage of the Irish suffrage campaign it was most certainly the effort of Irishwomen, still led by Hanna Sheey Skeffington, that achieved the final victory.” Further reading: E. Crawford, The Women’s Suffrage Movement in Britain and Ireland: a regional survey, Routledge, 2008 (paperback).

Photo: Hanna Sheehy Skeffington, from Crawford’s article, a must read!

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