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Hanna Sheehy Skeffington presents petition to U.S. president
Hanna Sheehy Skeffington with her son Owen, both of whom are currently in the United States Photo: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USAitalLibrary@Villanova University

Hanna Sheehy Skeffington presents petition to U.S. president

Washington D.C., 1 March 1918 - Hanna Sheehy Skeffington, as part of her tour of the United States, met with U.S. President Woodrow Wilson in Washington D.C. in January.

During the meeting she petitioned the president, on behalf of Cumann na mBan, to recognise the ‘political independence of Ireland in the form of an Irish republic’.

‘Our appeal is to remind you of a cause which should not be overlooked when so many European nationalities are to be reconstructed in accordance with your declaration’, the petition begins.

‘Our country, having behind it twenty generations of repression, has, we believe, a profound claim upon those who have declared their will to make the world safe for democracy.’

Cumann na mBan are not the only organisation to have made their case to President Wilson. This is an excerpt from on written by Clan na Gael in 1917. Click image to view document in full. (Image: DigitalLibrary@Villanova University)

Highlighting the number of American states that had already granted full suffrage to women, the petition added that sympathy should be extended to the ‘women of our country in our demand before the world for the recognition of an Irish republic, virtually in existence since April, 1916 – the only republic which from its inauguration was prepared to give women their full place in the councils of their nation’.

The signatories of the petition, reports of which were carried in the New York Times, include Kathleen Clarke, Niamh Plunkett, Annie Kent and Fannie O’Rahilly.

News of this latest effort to enlist political support in America for Irish independence is in stark contrast to reports that members of a Sinn Féin club in Galway burned an American flag in Eyre Square recently, The act has been condemned by the Freeman’s Journal as an ‘outrage’ that should ‘bring the blush of bitter shame to the face of every Irishman’.

The American flag stood for human liberty, the newspaper asserted and it was up to the Sinn Féin leadership to make clear that the behaviour in Galway was ‘beyond the pale of their sympathy or even toleration’.

[Editor's note: This is an article from Century Ireland, a fortnightly online newspaper, written from the perspective of a journalist 100 years ago, based on news reports of the time.]


Century Ireland

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