Inghinidhe na hÉireann/Daughters of Ireland Clan na nGaedheal/Girl Scouts of Ireland

Published in 18th–19th - Century History, 20th-century / Contemporary History, General, Issue 5 (Sept/Oct 2011), Reviews, Volume 19

Studio portrait of Maud Gonne as a young woman. (National Library of Ireland)

Studio portrait of Maud Gonne as a young woman. (National Library of Ireland)

Inghinidhe na hÉireann/Daughters of Ireland was founded by Maud Gonne MacBride in 1900. Ironically, in view of later events, the organisational meeting took place at Easter 1900.The organisation was solely for women and adopted St Brigid as patron. Its agenda was political, social and feminist: it opposed the Irish Parliamentary Party and Home Rule, opting instead for full independence, but supported the Irish-Ireland movement, the concepts of self-reliance later preached by Sinn Féin, free meals in schools and women’s suffrage. It organised programmes of distinctively Irish cultural activities and promoted national self-awareness.The stated objectives of Inghinidhe na hÉireann were: to re-establish the complete independence of Ireland; to encourage the study of Gaelic, of Irish literature, history, music and art, especially among the young (by organising and teaching classes dedicated to the above aims); to support and popularise Irish manufacture; to discourage the reading and circulation of ‘low’ English literature, the singing of English songs and the attending of ‘vulgar’ English entertainments at the theatres and music halls; to combat in every way English influence, which was seen to be doing so much injury to the artistic taste and refinement of the Irish people; and to form a fund called the ‘National Purposes Fund’.MacBride became the first president, with Jennie Wyse-Power, Anna Johnston (better known by her pen-name Ethna Carberry), Annie Egan and Alice Furlong elected vice-presidents, and Maire T. Quinn as hon. secretary. The attendees at the first meeting decided to give Arthur Griffith a new blackthorn stick for the one he supposedly broke over the head of the editor of the society paper Figaro because the editor claimed that Maud Gonne was an English spy. It was also decided to give sweets to all children who did not go to the Phoenix Park to see Queen Victoria. Consequently, in July 1900 it organised a treat for 30,000 schoolchildren as a counter-attraction to the official celebration of Queen Victoria’s visit.In 1908 the organisation initiated Bean na hÉireann, the first nationalist-feminist journal to be produced in Ireland. Promoted as ‘the women’s paper that men buy’, Bean na hÉireann was edited by Helena Molony. The staff comprised Madeline ffrench-Mullen, Sydney Gifford, Bulmer Hobson, Maud Gonne MacBride, Dr Pat MacCartan, Seán McGarry and Countess Markievicz. Contributors included Sir Roger Casement, Maeve Cavanagh, Padraic Colum, Madeline ffrench-Mullen (writing as ‘M. O’Callaghan’ or ‘Dectora’), Sydney Gifford (as ‘John Brennan’ or ‘Sorcha Ni Hanlon’), Arthur Griffith, Maude Gonne MacBride (as ‘Maidbh’), Terence MacSwiney, Helena Malony (as ‘Emer’, ‘E’ or ‘A Worker’), Count Markievicz, Countess Markievicz (as ‘Armid’ or ‘Macha’), Susan Mitchell, Padraic Ó Conaire, Seámus O’Sullivan, Joseph Plunkett, George Russell (Æ), James Stephens and Katherine Tynan.Clan na nGaedheal/Girl Scouts of Ireland was founded by Countess Markievicz and sisters Liz and May Kelly in 1910 as an independent national organisation for girls. The aims were to organise the girls of Ireland and train them mentally and physically so that their services ‘may be utilised in the best interests of the Republic’. Membership was ‘open to all girls of good character’. Later it pledged to uphold the republic ‘proclaimed in 1916’. Paradoxically, members were not allowed to be ‘a member of any political organisation’.Inghinidhe na hÉireann and Clan na nGaedheal helped to politicise a generation of Irish women and prepared them for larger roles during the period. Many members of these organisations became leaders of Cumann na mBan, participated in the Rising and contributed greatly to the independence, labour and franchise movements of the time.  HI

Joseph E.A. Connell is the author of Dublin in rebellion: a directory, 1913–1923 (Lilliput Press, 2006).

Further reading:

M. Gonne MacBride, Bureau of Military History, witness statement 317.F. McKay, ‘Clann na nGaedheal Girl Scouts’, Irish Press (3 May 1966).

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