Women & the 1916 Proclamation

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Issue 4 (Winter 2001), Letters, Letters, Volume 9

Sir,—I have recently done a course of reading on women and Irish nationalism. In two separate accounts—Kathleen Clarke’s autobiography, Revolutionary Woman (1991), and R.M. Fox’s Rebel Irishwomen (1935)—it is said that the clause in the 1916 Proclamation concerning the equality of women was opposed by one of the seven signatories. The source for Fox is Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington and is her account of a conversation with Connolly ‘just before the Rising’ (p.140). Kathleen Clarke’s evidence is a reported conversation between herself and her husband about the discussions that had taken place when the Proclamation was placed before the seven signatories: ‘When it was signed that night, it represented the views of all except one, who thought equal opportunities should not be given to women. Except to say that Tom was not that one, my lips are sealed’ (p.69). It ought to be said in passing here that her view that the Proclamation was ‘signed’, is not now accepted, the evidence for which is conveniently set out in John O’Connor, The 1916 Proclamation (1999).
As to who the ‘one’ was, I think we can attempt an answer by saying who we know it was not. The two sources above are positive evidence that Clarke and Connolly can be ruled out. Pearse can also be acquitted in that he drew up the Proclamation with its commitment to women’s equality. This leaves Ceannt, MacDiarmada, MacDonagh and Plunkett. At this point my own desultory reading betrays me and I am down to guesswork. I think the last two can probably be absolved. Of the remaining two my guess is MacDiarmada. I would gladly be corrected if any reader of History Ireland knows of any positive evidence which could clear up this mystery.

—Yours etc.,
STUART WALSH
51 Lower Sutherland Street
Swinton
Manchester M27 0NF

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