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Historical Donegal Women

the power of positive thinking (2)

In this Women’s Lives Women’s Voices feature Historian Dr Angela Byrne from Donegal highlights the historical struggles faced by women here in Ireland. And she pays tribute to Rose Brogan, Ethna Carbery, Máire de Paor, Maureen Wall, née MacGeehin, Kathleen ‘Kay’ McNulty and Margaret ‘Pearl’ Dunlevy, inspiring historical women with Donegal connections. 

 


By Angela Byrne

This is a good time to reflect on women in Irish society in the past and in the present. The ‘Decade of Centenaries’ and its commemorations gave the people of Ireland an opportunity to re-examine the keystone moments in our national story. Remarkable figures emerged from the shadows as we heard new stories about the women and children of the 1913 Lockout and the Easter Rising. The volunteer-run Her story Project established a series of local and national events to provide a platform for telling Irish women’s stories. One of the great successes of the recent commemorations was the naming of Dublin’s newest bridge after the republican and labour activist, Rosie Hackett. This is the first of our capital’s twenty-one bridges to bear a woman’s name.


 

0194400c0c609b470d95a4db3335e62dIn 2018, we celebrated the centenary of what Catriona Crowe has called “the single greatest human rights achievement of the entire decade of centenaries” – the extension of voting rights to women on 6 February 1918. The Representation of the People Act enfranchised some 8.4 million women across Britain and Ireland – but only property-holders aged 30 and above. In 1922, the constitution of the Irish Free State extended the franchise to all Irish women and men aged 21 and over, but for a period of four years, younger and poorer women remained voiceless.

Women’s suffrage was won after decades of effort by campaigners like Anna and Thomas Haslam of the Women’s Suffrage Association, and the more “militant” Irish Women’s Franchise League (IWFL) established by Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington and Margaret Cousins. The IWFL brought much more public attention to the women’s movement because they refused to be confined by social expectations of women’s behaviour. Tactics ranged from petitioning to window smashing. In 1909, English suffragettes in became the first to use hunger striking as a form of protest, leading to the infamous ‘Cat and Mouse Act’ of 1913, which allowed the temporary release and recapture of hunger strikers in response to public objections to force-feeding. In 1912, the Irish Women’s Franchise League established its own weekly newspaper, The Irish Citizen, which ran until 1920. In its pages, suffragists of all political shades debated their differing interpretations of feminism.

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There was a rapid growth of women’s suffrage groups throughout Ireland. In Sligo Eva and Constance Gore Booth set up a branch of the IWSGLA. By 1914 there were 26 suffrage societies with almost 3,000 members. Although committed to the same aim, these societies often represented distinct social and political groups e.g. the Conservative and Unionist Women’s Franchise Association, Irish Catholic Women’s Suffrage Society, Unionist Women’s Franchise Association. The activities of these societies were uncoordinated. In 1911 Louie Bennett (1870 -1956) and Helen Chenevix (1880-1963) helped establish the Irish Women’s Suffrage Federation (IWSF) to link the suffrage groups together. The IWSF was non-militant and non-sectarian.


On 21 November 1918, the UK parliament voted in the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act. The act simply stated: “A woman shall not be disqualified by sex or marriage for being elected to or sitting or voting as a Member of the Commons House of Parliament.” Women aged over 21 now had the right to stand for general election. Just weeks later, on 14 December 1918, Constance Markievicz became the first woman to win a seat at Westminster. She abstained in favour of sitting in the First Dáil.

 

In her celebrated 1995 book The Prospect Before Her, the historian Olwen Hufton wrote that women’s absence from history pointed to “either a grave sin of omission or to a flagrant suppression of the evidence, and hence to a distortion of the record by historians of former times. Whether the omission was unconscious or deliberate, the result was the same: women, with a few notable exceptions, had been denied a history.” Let’s celebrate our suffrage centenary by continuing to challenge that denial, to give silenced women a voice.

 


Discover some of Donegal’s Historical Women

 

Please take the time to read further features written by Angela and discover more about Donegal’s inspiring historical women by clicking on the pictures below.


“I hope that these features will raise awareness of the richness of the lives of Donegal women in the past, shine a light on their achievements, and show how they overcame barriers to education and other obstacles. Reflecting on past lives can help us to contextualise current issues and to understand changes and continuities. With that in mind, this series will focus on past women’s struggles for equality, access to education and work, and social justice.”

Dr Angela Byrne

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


About Dr Angela Byrne

Dr. Angela ByrneAngela Byrne is a historian specialising in migration and women’s history. She is Research Associate at Ulster University and, in 2018-19, was the inaugural DFAT Historian-in-Residence at EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum. She is author of Geographies of the Romantic North (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), A Scientific, Antiquarian and Picturesque Tour: John (Fiott) Lee in Ireland, England and Wales, 1806–1807 (Routledge for Hakluyt Society, 2018), and many articles and book chapters on the histories of travel and exploration, the Irish abroad, and women in the sciences.

She has previously held lecturing and research positions in University of Toronto, University of Greenwich, Maynooth University, and the Royal Irish Academy, as well as visiting fellowships at Cambridge University, the All-Russia State Library for Foreign Literature (Moscow), and the Huntington Library (Los Angeles). Her research is concerned with cross-cultural encounters and the experiences of women and migrants in the past.

 


NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network have had the privilege of Angela giving insight into the lives of historical  Donegal women over the past few years at past events, including most recently our 2019 Balance for Better International Women’s Day Event in March, where Angela gave a talk on the political life of Letterkenny local Kate McCarry, Donegal’s first ever elected female county councillor.

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NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network have had the privilege of Angela giving insight into the lives of historical  Donegal women over the past few, including most recently our 2019 Balance for Better International Women’s Day Event in March, where Angela gave a talk on the political life of Letterkenny local Kate McCarry Donegal’s first ever elected female county councillor.


NCCWN Donegal are always looking for women to share their stories and looking for women to write features on topics of their choice which we will profile as part of our Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices’ series, so please get in touch if you would like to write a feature.

Let’s Talk About Fertility

Roses and Rainbows

New Donegal group raising awareness about the importance of providing local support for people facing fertility challenges.

This month a new Facebook group was created entitled “Roses and Rainbows” it started with a post about one Donegal couples experience of going through IVF and their recent loss through miscarriage. As part of this month’s Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices, the founder of the group shares her voice and lived experience around the issue of fertility.

 


Myself and my partner have been trying to conceive for the past three and a half years, we went through a number of tests which resulted in us being referred for In vitro fertilisation (IVF) in the form of ICSI, which we have been doing for the past few years.

 

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This month on the 6th August 2019, after our second frozen embryo transfer, we suffered a miscarriage. Our heartbreak and loss moved us to tell our story and set up the group “Rose’s and Rainbows” both as a way of helping us heal and deal with what we have been through but to also help others who may be going through similar fertility challenges and experiences.

 

The issue of infertility is still a very sensitive subject and I believe we are very under educated as a society about how to deal with fertility issues and miscarriage, it is still very much the elephant in the room. We need to change this.

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The Rose’s and Rainbows name came about as we both have a love of Rose’s and I guess we are looking for the rainbow in our storm, as are many. The page itself is a personal blog of what we have been through so far and continue to deal with, this includes our highs and lows, the financial cost of IVF, the emotional side of infertility and the heart break of a miscarriage.

 

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Followers are free to message in privately with their stories if they feel they would like to share them with us, and if they would like we can publish them in the hope of helping others. (this of course would be done privately with no names attached to the stories).

Since setting up we have received offers by some amazing professions who will be writing blogs on fitness and health tailored towards fertility and during and after IVF and miscarriage.

Our experience over these past few years has highlighted that there is a lack of a local support network here in Letterkenny and Donegal on infertility, IVF journeys and miscarriage.

As Roses and Rainbows we are delighted to say we have now set up a monthly met-up, the first one on Sunday 25th August with a meditation session also taking place on Monday 7th October, 7-8.30pm. We believe in respecting the privacy of individuals who are going through this sensitive matter and recognise that some people would like to keep their private life’s private, as such all locations for these meetings will be given by private message)

Our motto is “you are not alone even if you decide to go through any of these journeys without telling your family or friends, because there is a local network of support in place to listen and help”.

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Supports Going Forward

We would love to see annual information events held here in the North West from the likes of the miscarriage association of Ireland etc. While it would also be amazing if a fertility clinic and counselling service that were linked were based here in the North West.

It is hugely important that the promised funding from government is soon put into places, because at the moment all couples receive is tax back. The financial struggles going through treatment is very stressful added on top of everything else.

 


A Human Rights Issue

The right to a family life is a Human Right, yet in Ireland the right to this basic human right comes at a high price if you are a person experiencing fertility issues.

The cost of fertility treatment is high, IVF treats cost from around €4,600 upwards and this does not include other related treatments and medical supports  involved in the process. People do not receive funding supports, their only opinions is to claim tax back. Which is the last thing the State should except a person/s going through this experience in the hope of building their family to have to do. In 2018 the government announced that €1m would go to IVF treatment for couples unable to conceive, yet a year on this funding has not been released.[1]

 


National Support Advise

For more information on IVF Treatments and the process please visit here. National support advise services can also be found with the following organisations

We thank the founder of the Roses and Rainbow group for sharing with us her story and ongoing journey. You can find and LIKE the group on Facebook here.

 

[1] Reported in the Irish Examiner, https://amp.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/ireland/concern-as-ivf-funding-still-not-in-place-922418.html


NCCWN Donegal are always looking for women to share their stories and looking for women to write features on topics of their choice which we will profile as part of our Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices’ series.

Getting to Zero Waste

Cloth Sanitary Protection (CSP) is a return to what our grandmother's and great grandmother's used. These are colourful and comfortable and above all reliable. (1)

This feature is part of the NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network, ‘Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices’ series. Written by Mary Lane to highlight the need for us all to play a role in reducing our waste. This is the second in a two part feature by Mary who reflects on her experience of becoming aware of the concept of Zero Waste and how she has managed to bring a zero waste lifestyle into her family home.


I first became aware of the concept of Zero Waste in 2016, when I was expecting my first child and was researching breastfeeding and cloth nappies online. I’ve always been pretty frugal and I didn’t want to waste money week after week on disposable nappies or formula and contraptions associated with infant feeding which had always seemed so gimmicky to me.

I had decided that I’d breastfeed to cut down on the costs, but naturally as I researched further, I became so aware of the health risks associated with not breastfeeding for both me and my child, as well as the environmental impact of opting out of breastfeeding. To me, these simple decisions to use natural or reusable resources for my baby would not only save us a fortune, be kinder to our baby, but they would also have a substantial environmental benefit.

My digging online lead me to more and more stories about people living a Zero Waste lifestyle. Bloggers and Instagram accounts proudly showing their home made almond milk and their entire years rubbish fitting into a mason jar. I was in awe of their dedication, but disheartened that is never be able to obtain that level of environmental perfection. It seemed pointless to even try, but try I did! Just a few small changes were actually easy to implement.


Here’s a few examples of my initial changes

Cloth Sanitary Protection (CSP) is a return to what our grandmother's and great grandmother's used. These are colourful and comfortable and above all reliable. (2)

I stopped using face wipes and swapped back to good old face cloths, water and cleansing soap.

We used cloth nappies 80% of the time for our son until he was a year old.

I stopped buying unnecessary cosmetics. I had been so guilty of impulse buying the latest products and only using them a few times before they became resigned to a box or a cabinet somewhere. Now not only do I not have the product and plastic waste, I also didn’t waste money, and I don’t have box loads of stuff I’ll never use clogging up my bathroom or bedroom. 

I also started skipping unnecessary paper bags where possible. For example in a pharmacy where they pop a pack of paracetamol into a paper bag, or a single book in a bookshop, or when buying something small like a pack of socks when I know I’m going straight to the car.


  • I bought shampoo and conditioner in 4 litre bottles from the hairdresser suppliers shop for about €33 in total. I used pretty soap dispenser bottles in the shower and refilled from the big bottles as they ran out. 3 years later, I’ve just finished my last top up from these bottles and I’ve estimated that I’ve saved over €200 in hair products, and over 70 plastic bottles!

  • We used cloth baby wipes and water, which I made myself from two unused baby blankets.

  • I swapped the use of kitchen paper towels to kitchen cloths which are used for spills, sticky hands and faces, wiping counters, you name it. While we still have kitchen paper for some things, In the past 3 years, we have used approximately only around 15 rolls of paper towels, rather than a full roll almost every week.

  • I opted for a minimal wardrobe. When I was pregnant, I realised I was surviving perfectly well with a dozen maternity tops and three pairs of trousers. I loved not having to think too much about combining outfits and what was or wasn’t fashionable. I began to realise that I didn’t really care about what other people wore, so I realised probably nobody really cared about what I was wearing either. That realisation was very liberating. I now keep a very limited number of clothes – using only three drawers in a small chest of drawers, and a handful of hangers in the wardrobe. I have four pairs of shoes! My husband also keeps a small amount of clothes, and we don’t go overboard with our son’s clothes either.

  • We swapped to a 2 in 1 washing powder to cut out all the extra plastic bottles of fabric conditioner, or the use of capsules in plastic boxes.

  • I made a much better effort at bringing reusable bags to the supermarket or finding a cardboard box if I’d forgotten to bring the bags.

  • I stopped taking the special offers leaflets or catalogues home from the shops, and rejecting handouts and flyers.

  • My husband started using shaving soap with a brush instead of a foam from an aerosol can.

I felt that these changes have actually made a difference to our home and our lives.


NCCWN Donegal are always looking for women to share their stories and looking for women to write features on topics of their choice which we will profile as part of our Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices’ series.

How to Introduce Eco-Friendly Changes

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This feature is part of the NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network, ‘Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices’ series. Written by Mary Lane to raise awareness to the global movement and campaign ‘Plastic Free July’. This is the first in a two part feature by Mary who reflects on her experience of becoming aware of the concept of Zero Waste and how she has managed to bring a zero waste lifestyle into her family home.


This month, July 2019, we have decided to try Plastic Free July. We knew from the get go that we would never achieve 100% plastic free but we definitely knew we could use it as an incentive to at least make conscious decisions about what plastic we did use, and where we could actually skip it.

It has been a very eye opening experience. Food is definitely a hurdle to get the head around. Shopping at supermarkets has its challenges, especially when it comes to fruits and vegetables. While there are plastic free options, the cost is often more expensive.

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For example, a twin pack of courgettes can be bought pre packed in a plastic tray and wrapper for around 90c for 500g weight. Loose courgettes are €3.29 per kilo, meaning a single courgettes set me back €1.14. Apples and oranges can be bought in a multipack plastic bag for less than a euro, yet the loose ones are 40-60c each, or 5 for €2. A 1kg bag of carrots containing at least a dozen pieces can cost under one euro, yet opting for 4 loose carrots cost over 50c.

On a friend’s suggestion however, I visited a vegetable market that’s less than 5 minutes from my house. I bought a whole stack of food – sweet potatoes, mushrooms, carrots, broccoli, oranges, and a bottle of lemonade in a returnable glass bottle, all for only €6.


Other swaps we have made this month are:

  • Bringing my own containers to the butchers rather than using their plastic bags.

  • Choosing a toothpaste in a recyclable metal tube.

  • I’ve ordered bamboo toothbrushes online, so we will be swapping out our plastic ones. These are fully biodegradable and can just go in the household compost.

  • I bought some glass storage jars to keep my homemade cookies, popcorn and other snacks in.

  • I stopped buying hummus and falafel – foods we love – and I made them myself at home from tinned chickpeas and they were delicious.

  • We often bought a lot of tortilla wraps, but I tried my hand at making an easy alternative – Indian chapatis. While they’re not a direct comparison, they did the job perfectly well and were very tasty. And no nasty extra ingredients!

  • I’ve been taking a stainless steel water bottle everywhere and actually using it! I’d previously been guilty of buying reusable bottles and not using them more than two or three times, and also buying plastic bottles of drinks when out and about. With an exception on one very hot day, I’ve gone without these extra purchases.

  • I picked up a set of stainless steel straws for us to use when out and about so we can skip the plastic ones as much as possible.

 

Plastic Free Swaps

 I’ve baked instead of buying biscuits and treats. 

I’ve switched as much as possible to jars, glass bottles and tins. So ketchup, mayonnaise, relish, etc in plastic bottles are all being replaced by glass contained alternatives as they finish. 

We have replaced some of our bread consumption with package free bread from the bakery, or French sticks bought in a paper wrapper. 

I’ve popped our own popcorn for snacks, instead of individual portion bags or crisps. While the kernels come in a plastic bag, the amount of plastic is much smaller than the alternative.

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 We had been buying eggs in plastic cartons, but have switched to traditional cardboard ones.

We needed new food storage as most of our plastic Tupperware had gone walkies along the way. I chose a set of glass tubs with plastic and silicone lids. Again, not totally plastic free but certainly less plastic. Also, the glass containers can be used to reheat food in the oven and microwave, and don’t pose any risk of leaking harmful BPAs into the food. 

My son loves ice lollies. And many days it almost the only hydration I can get into him. I’ve been making them just with water or juice in a mould at home and he loves them. Where possible, we have chosen ice cream in cones when out and about rather than in tubs or pops in plastic wrappers. 

I’ve brought cloth bags when buying loose fruit, vegetables, baked goods, etc. I made these myself from old T-shirts that were going to be donated.


Realistically, I think that for my family Zero Waste and Plastic Free isn’t achievable, BUT I think we have definitely benefited and will continue to benefit from having these “extreme” concepts to the front of our minds when buying things, or making decisions that might have unnecessary wasteful impacts.

 

Given that pretty much all plastic products and disposable resources have only been around for the past 60 years or so, and increasing at a disastrous rate over the last couple of decades, it’s really awful to see the impact on our environment and more worryingly is the thought that it is irreversible. But now really is the time to get a handle on it and it does start in each of our homes. Small changes mount up and each waste reduction does matter.

 

In our home, we are really making changed with the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle mantra, but also adding into it the ideas of repair, rebuild, refurbish, refinish, resell and rot (compost). Anything after that should be restricted, redesigned or removed from production.

 

We need to be showing our children that consumerism and the need for everything to come in its own wrapper is not actually the best thing for our world, and that disposable is not always good. We need to set examples to our friends, family, co-workers, etc. that introducing small eco-friendly changes are not to be feared or ridiculed.

I’m pretty sure many people just want a “simple life”. Why not start by making life simple?


Plastic Free July is a global movement that helps millions of people be part of the solution to plastic pollution – so we can have cleaner streets, oceans, and beautiful communities. Will you be part of Plastic Free July by choosing to refuse single-use plastics? To find out more about this global movement check out the https://www.plasticfreejuly.org/ website

 

NCCWN Donegal are always looking for women to share their stories and looking for women to write features on topics of their choice which we will profile as part of our Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices’ series.