The lesbian fighters of 1916
There’s a very interesting article by Louise McGrath in Wednesday’s Dublin Inquirer about lesbians who fought in the 1916 Rising: http://dublininquirer.com/2015/11/25/remembering-the-lesbians-who-fought-in-the-easter-rising/
The article is based on information provided to McGrath by Mary McAuliffe, a lecturer in women’s studies at UCD and former president of the Women’s Historical Association, along with Workers Party Dublin city councillor Eilis Ryan and Brian Merriman, the founder of the International Dublin Gay Theatre festival.
The article identifies not only a few well-known cases of gay women and men from that era – Eva Gore-Booth and Esther Roper (although they weren’t participants in the Rising) and Roger Casement – but also talks about several lesbian couples who were: Kathleen Lynn and Madeleine ffrench-Mullen (both of whom took part in the Rising and held rank in the Irish Citizen Army) and Elizabeth Farrell and Julia Grennan (Farrell being the person who accompanied Pearse to surrender to the Brits). It also notes the bisexuality of Helena Molony, a prominent figure in the Citizen Army and subsequently a leading left-republican and union leader; Molony and Lynn took over leadership of the rebel force attacking Dublin Castle after Sean Connolly was mortally wounded.
O’Farrell and Grennan and Lynn and ffrench-Mullen lived as lesbian couples for most of their adult lives.
This is yet another indication of how ludicrous the claim is of virulently anti-republican (and especially anti-republican women) writer Ann Matthews that republican women of the early 1900s were socially conservative. Apart from the simple historical fact that they were in the political vanguard of their era, it seems difficult to believe that these life-long relationships were not recognised by friends and comrades. Lesbian relationships were certainly no barrier to women like Lynn, ffrench-Mullen and Molony playing leading roles in the republican movement, including in the armed wing of the working class (the ICA).
Anyway, do read this fascinating article.
Today, as we approach the 100th anniversary of the Rising, the south of Ireland is one of the most progressive countries in the world when it comes to gay rights. It is the first, and so far the only, where the people themselves have spoken on gay marriage and voted, in a referendum, for equal marriage rights for same-sex couples. And done so overwhelmingly, especially in working class areas. I examine the changes in Irish society which ensured a powerful endorsement of marriage equality, see here.
Posted on November 27, 2015, in 1913 lockout, British state repression (general), Civil War period, General revolutionary history, Historiography and historical texts, Irish Citizen Army, Political education and theory, Prisoners - past, Republicanism post-1900, Revolutionary figures, The road to the Easter Rising, Trade unions, War for Independence period, Women, Women in republican history, Women prisoners, Women's rights. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.