War of Independence Centenary Series: The Role of Women

Their role has often been minimized, but women activists were involved in procuring and smuggling arms, visiting prisons (bringing in messages) and the dangerous work of espionage, which in the report of the Cumann an mBan convention (1921) members were complimented as being “the eyes and ears” of the conflict. Women alsp provided safe houses, distributed the “dependents’ fund” and monies from the White Cross. Fifty women were arrested during this period, but beyond this, it has been difficult to ascertain the extent of the contribution of women without complete contemporary or retrospective statistics of numbers of women active 1919-1921. Recent opening of the pension records allow for the first time a more complete survey of women’s role. Furthermore, women were targeted by all sides and in all parts of the country for acts of sexual violence. The attacks reveal a pattern which was opportunistic rather than pre-meditated and are not uncommon. Women in their homes were targeted by armed bands of men from all sides of the conflicts, who took their anger and their frustration out on them when they could not find their brothers, husbands and fathers who were on the run or in hiding.

This is the fifth lecture in our War of Independence Centenary Series with Executive Director Dr. Elizabeth Stack.