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Women of the Revolution: Untold Stories

Women of the Revolution: Untold Stories

Prof. Lucy McDiarmid discusses the 1916 Rising and how it both revealed and shaped the emotional lives of the women involved

Lucy McDiarmid is Professor of English at Montclair State University in the United States and the author of At Home in the Revolution: What Women said and did in 1916, which was published by the Royal Irish Academy in 2015. Making innovative use of the first person accounts of women participants and relatives, set out in diaries and in the witness statements of 1916 survivors to the Bureau of Military History, McDiarmid brings a fresh and perceptive eye to the events of 1916 and to roles played by women in it. What she does, observed The Irish Times reviewer Angela Bourke, is ‘make the stiff figures of history breathe and laugh and cry’. Here, in an interview with Century Ireland she discusses some of the themes which are developed in the course of her book.

In this first excerpt, Prof. McDiarmid discusses the way in which the experiences of women in 1916 have been traditionally understood through its most iconic figures and how, by exploring the personal accounts of women from across the class spectrum, different perspectives can be brought to bear on the 1916 Rising and how it was experienced.

Romance & Rebellion 
In this excerpt, Prof. McDiarmid uses the accounts of the widows of the 1916 leaders and others to challenge the idea that the revolution was instigated by single-minded men whose hearts had, to paraphrase W. B. Yeats, one purpose only. Rather than viewing them as ascetic individuals, McDiarmid here talks about how the witness statements of the Bureau of Military History shine a fresh, revealing light on the romantic lives of the men and women of the Rising.

Kilmainham Farewell
In the aftermath of the Rising, 14 of the rebel leaders were taken to Kilmainham Gaol where they were executed in the Stonebreakers Yard between 3 - 12 May, 1916. The last days and hours of the rebel leaders saw them meet and part with the women with whom they had shared their lives. In this final excerpt from her interview with Century Ireland, Prof. Lucy McDiarmid reflects on emotional and physical impact on those women whose husbands, sons and brothers were executed for their role in the 1916 Rising.


Century Ireland

The Century Ireland project is an online historical newspaper that tells the story of the events of Irish life a century ago.