Archives

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.

sc004_suffrage_geography

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.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_1b

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.

Small Changes Can Make a Big Difference

Life isn't an Emoji (1)

This feature is part of the NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network, ‘Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices’ series. Written by Deirdre Kennedy who reflects on her journey to reduce the amount of plastic waste generate in her home. Giving a number of practical examples she has adopted to reduce her plastic usage.


As a woman I feel a huge responsibility for the amount of plastic waste that we as a gender generate every month. As the mother of four girls and two boys there was a huge amount of waste leaving our house every week.

plastic-waste
Did you know the amount of plastic waste generated per person in Ireland is estimated to be 60kg [1] (132 pounds) in weight.

One of the easiest changes that we as women can make is in our personal care. On the shelf sanitary wear is almost completely made from plastic and like nappies these take hundreds of years to breakdown in landfill.

 

A great substitute for sanitary towels is cloth sanitary protection( CSP) these are  so comfortable and absorbent and come in varying  sizes and shapes and in the long term a money saving investment, most will last 10 years if you have a large bundle in rotation, or 5 years in a smaller bundle.

sanitary products
On average women and girls face and estimated cost of €132.34 [2] for sanitary products per year in Ireland. Which over the course of their lives amounts to at least €3970.

If you are a user of tampons then you may be interested in a Menstrual cup, If you have never heard of these before they are a medical grade silicone that is shaped like a small egg cup it is used in the same way as a tampon.

 

When I discovered the menstrual cup it was like an epiphany for me I truly felt like I had been freed from the shackles of my period. It is so handy and liberating not having to carry around pads and tampons. The cup can just be removed, emptied into the toilet, wiped or washed in the sink and reinserted it is really that simple. Women who have used CSP and menstrual cups for a few months have also reported less painful periods.

 

Being responsible for most of the products that come into my home and the waste management of it leaving, made me realise that there was so much more that I could do to reduce our use of plastic.

 

I started using cloth nappies and cloth baby wipes, cloth breast pads, Cloth make up removers, Re-useable cloths in the kitchen in the place of kitchen roll (cut up old towels or t-shirts), cloths for washing in the shower or bath. All these items can be rinsed in a cold wash and then washed in the washing machine at 60 °C using biological powder and they will be pristine ready for reusing.

 

There is a huge amount of other changes that can be made by humans in order to reduce our use of plastic. These, that I listed above are just small changes that anyone can make not only will you see a huge reduction in the waste that leaves your house but you will also feel that you have made a big difference to the future of our planet.

 

Deirdre practical tips to help reduce your plastic usage

Did you know it is  Plastic Free July?

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.

[1] 2018 Europa Report https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/products-eurostat-news/-/EDN-20180422-1?inheritRedirect=true

[2] Irish Times https://www.irishtimes.com/news/health/half-of-young-irish-women-struggling-to-afford-sanitary-products-study-finds-1.3534683

 

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.

The Other Side Of The Screen

4

This feature is part of the NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network, ‘Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices’ series. Written by Anne McLaughlin, who reflects on some of the pressures young women in Donegal face today. 

Most of you reading this will be wondering why I chose this title. I chose this title for one simple reason and that is to portray women’s future prospects within Irish society. Although it is a very gender biased society we live in, women are coming into equal power to men very slowly. We are progressing as the years go on and well if you think about it, it took one woman to make a change for many women, which was a major breakthrough in the more traditional society we still live in today. For example the beloved Susan B.Anthony was the first woman to revolutionise the Irish Constitution for women’s rights to vote. This created an extraordinary chain of inspiration within the Irish community.

Within the modern world we encounter more social related issues rather than demographic for the modern day women. As a young woman it is extremely difficult to become independent as we are frowned upon for being “alone”. Even to be seen alone would be considered a problem. On a more controversial note, I grew up with with siblings nearly twice my age, they taught me mannerisms that most people my age and below lack in this modern society. From a very young age I was taught respect and appreciation and I am glad to say I have carried that through and will continue to do so.

The biggest problem facing a young woman today is the influence of social media and its impact on our self-esteem, confidence and competing against one another. Social media has brought on unachievable high standards and expectations in terms of career prospects and quality of life. Social media teaches young girls that provocation is a trend and should be taken part in rather than a bad trait. If you take Instagram for example, 90% of their influencers are encouraging plastic surgery, mountains of makeup, unrealistic body transformations and the most self indulgent topic of the lot, materialism.

The saddest thing about this is most young girls don’t realise the internal damage they are doing to their young lives before it’s even begun because it’s the only way of living they have ever known. From my observations of working with young girls in a youth club, they seem to have grown up much too quickly. They are spoilt with choice and opportunity without realising how lucky they are to have some of the things they possess. Children as young as 11 are being introduced to the world of social media through Iphones or any other brand of smartphone you can think of. This brings on more issues than resolutions, as they hold the key to a world of revolutionising information but yet they also hold the key to ruin their lives over the silliest of things like “looking good”. The unfortunate reality is that this can drive a young girl to have suicidal thoughts for those irrelevant reasons.

As a young woman living in a rural Ireland, social pressure has a massive influence on the mental wellbeing of our young people in this country. Young people are taught to follow rather than lead. This creates a trend, a trend only lasts for a short space of time and something not worth noting within society and Irish culture. It must be said that the novelty of the online world is slowly declining. This will bring on new developments within education and the way people communicate. This will also introduce a higher level of social awareness. On a more positive note, the opportunities are limitless and most of the future jobs aren’t even created yet for our young people. “Your big opportunity might be where you are right now”, Napoleon Hill.

By Anne McLaughlin.

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.

 

Women’s Manifesto

Screenshot 2019-05-08 at 15.44.02Where do our Election Candidates stand on women’s rights?

Women’s Lived Experience must be heard & acknowledged by the Local Election and European Parliament candidates running in the up coming elections on 24th May.

NCCWN-Donegal Women’s Network is 1 of 17 National Collective of Community Based Women’s Networks projects in Ireland checkout our ‘Women’s Manifesto’ key issues identified as impacting women’s lives, it can be downloaded here ‘NCCWN Manifesto May 2019′. 

Why not ask your local election candidates where they stand on these issues.