A Woman to Know: Constance Georgine Markievicz

Dress suitably in short skirts and sitting boots, leave your jewels and gold wands in the bank, and buy a revolver. — Constance's advice to lady rebels

(image via National Library of Ireland)


Constance was born into a world of aristocratic galas, ballgowns and champagne — but one century ago, in the Easter Rising of 1916, she traded her tiara for the trenches. As a prominent member of Sinn Fein, the Irish Republican party, Constance led hundreds of women in the fight for Irish independence. She inspired loyalty and devotion with her legendary fierceness — and her stubbornness. "While Ireland is not free, I remain a rebel, unconverted and uncontrovertible," she told her lady friends. "There is no word strong enough for it."

Though the insurrection eventually failed, Constance remained beloved by the Irish people, and they elected her the country's first female politician — even though she was imprisoned in England at the time. Historians today estimate as many as 77 other Irish women were imprisoned alongside Constance, though many of their contributions to contemporary politics have since been forgotten (or erased). Constance herself was never awarded a medal for her work, and politicians today are calling for a memorial to her legacy, to honor the 100th anniversary of the Rising.

Constance was eventually pardoned, along with other Easter Rising rebels, but once released she didn't drop the cause — one Irish women are still fighting today. As Sadhbh Walshe wrote in The New York Times:

[The women] were not just committed nationalists willing to die for Ireland, but also longtime campaigners for social justice who had been fighting inequality on many fronts: land reform, labor battles and women's suffrage. These women wanted a fairer society in which they would have an equal say ... So, it is not surprising that just as Ireland is reckoning with the erasure of its first wave of feminism, a new one is surging, propelled by the [100th anniversary] commemorations.

Sadhb is on the money — just last year, Irish women led a new protest, calling for greater representation in Irish culture and politics. They called it "The Estrogen Rising."


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