Women's Suffrage in Letters 1916-1923

Women’s Suffrage in the Letters 1916-1923 collection

Today marks 100 years since Irish women over the age of 30 were granted the right to vote.

The Letters 1916-1923 collection contains correspondence relating to the struggle for increased women’s rights and we have chosen some interesting highlights from the collection.


Sheehy Skeffington Papers

The largest selection of Letters 1916-1923 relating to women’s suffrage is from the National Library of Ireland‘s Sheehy Skeffington Papers.

Hanna Sheehy SkeffingtonHanna Sheehy Skeffington (1877-1946), suffragette, nationalist, language teacher, was the founder of the Irish Women’s Franchise League and a founding member of the Irish Women Workers’ Union. She was active during the 1916 Rising – she brought food to the Volunteers in the G.P.O. and the College of Surgeons. She was married to Francis Sheehy-Skeffington (1878-1916) who was summarily executed on 26 April 1916. Four days passed before she found out what had happened to her husband and it wasn’t until almost two weeks later that the full details of his execution emerged.

In 1916, Hanna Sheehy Skeffington was organising a concert to raise funds for The Irish Citizen newspaper. There is a series of postcards and letters relating to the concert – just search for Hanna Sheehy Skeffington on the Letters 1916-1923 site to read them.

This special guest podcast episode was recorded by Letters 1916 interns, Emily Blackburn and Madison Ganson, from Beloit College, Wisconsin. The episode focuses on Hanna Sheehy Skeffington, the Irish Citizen newspaper, and the pursuit of Irish labour rights.


Activism

Military Archives of Ireland
© Military Archives of Ireland

Eva Gore-Booth was a poet, trade unionist, suffragist, and an active social campaigner, mostly on women’s issues. She was a contributor to the Irish literary revival from the late 1890s. She was active in the campaign for a reprieve of her sister, Constance Markievicz’s death sentence for her participation in the Easter Rising and for the improvement of her prison conditions.

In this letter to Helena Molony (1883-1967), Eva Gore-Booth enquires about Molony and the rules regarding letters and visitors and refers to her sister, Constance as well as other female prisoners, Dr Kathleen Lynn and Madeleine French-Mullen.

My sister says man never made a wall but God threw a gap in it as an old woman used to say at home


Women’s Health

The Letters 1916-1923 collection includes a large number of letters from the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland Archives. From 1910 until 1954 Thomas Percy Kirkpatrick (1869-1954) served as the registrar for the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland. He also served as the general secretary of the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland. Kirkpatrick took a particular interest in what were then termed venereal diseases (now sexually transmitted diseases). To encourage his patients to attend, he held a clinic for women at Steevens’ hospital at a discreet early morning hour to facilitate anonymity.

Read more about Thomas Kirkpatrick in this blog post by Harriet Wheelock.

RCPI Archives
© RCPI Archives

This letter from the RCPI Archives was written by Ishbel Maria Gordon (1857-1939) and is written on ‘Women’s National Health Association of Ireland’ headed paper. Gordon was a philanthropist and Marchioness of Aberdeen and Temair. In 1893 she was elected president of the nascent International Congress of Women, a federation of women’s organisations. In this role (1893–9 and 1904–36) she played a major part in building up its international network (and rebuilding it after the first world war). She was also president of the Women’s Liberal Federation, 1901–6, which eventually split over her support for women’s suffrage.

 

 

 


There are many more letters in the Letters 1916-1923 which are related to the struggle for women’s rights and women’s issues in the 1916-1923 period. Visit our website to find more.