Women of the Irish Rising; a People’s History

Women of the Irish Rising;Women of the Irish Rising;a People’s History

Book Review by Herbert W. Piekow

Women of the irish

 

Most of us know Michael Hogan as a writer of history, philosophy and as a teacher; particularly we know him as the author of the bestselling, Irish Soldiers of Mexico, which was the basis of an MGM movie as well as three documentaries. He is also a scholar, teacher and author of more than 23 books.

His latest published book about women of the Irish Rising is well researched, educational and a delight to read. “Women of the Irish Rising, engages the mind, lifts the spirit and moves the heart.” These are the words of Robert Di Yanni, Professor of Humanities, New York University. After reading Hogan’s book I can only agree by encouraging you to read this book yourself. In his book the reader learns not only about the Irish fight for free determination after four hundred years of British subjugation, but we do so through the brave actions of women, not all of whom were Irish by birth. Women share the stage with men through journals, letters, interviews, newspaper reports of The Rising and photographs. Almost everyone has read about the 1916 Easter Rebellion, as we studied this in school. Hogan reminds his audience that Europe was at war and the British were stretched thin ruling a vast overseas empire and fighting a European war. He shows his readers how the Germans helped the Irish cause by supplying arms, munitions and explosives.

As a student of history I particularly appreciated Hogan’s use of the newspaper, photographs and personal stories. In Women of the Irish Rising, the reader gets intimate knowledge of some of the women who organized and fought alongside their male counterparts, even though some of the men only reluctantly acknowledged the women for their zeal, knowledge and bravery. Countess Constance Markiewicz, who at six feet two inches is a larger than life character who was not only a leader in the Irish Citizen Army, but she was an educated landowner, a sharpshooter, explosives expert, wounded veteran and elected Member of the British Parliament.

Hogan has written this not as a history book nor as a novel, but as a book about strong, mostly unknown people, in this case Irish women, who believed in an ideal and were willing to sacrifice, even their lives, to affect a change. Yes, the women in this book are not just idealists, they are also in history at the right time and they are brave, strong intelligent people. They appear at a time in history when there is better communication, expanding education opportunities and a European War to help their cause. The Women of the Irish Rising were willing to sacrifice to affect change and yes, sometimes this meant violence. This was an era of exposé, violence and social change throughout the world, in the Congo, Mexico, Russia, China and Europe. Yes, the characters in Hogan´s book are mostly women but without them there probably wouldn´t have been a successful Irish Independence Movement, instead most likely a sort of Irish-British co-existence. As it was the women who, in many instances led or at least educated the men, and certainly trained many how to fire rifles, plant and detonate explosives and to use the media. Countess Constance Markiewicz, a lieutenant in the Irish Volunteers was a wealthy noblewoman who used her position and impressive six feet two inches of height to her advantage. She not only supported the Irish movement, but she supplied arms, ammunition and, as a sharpshooter, she trained Irish boys and men.

Rosa Hachet kept a detailed account of her activities in her journal. She was co-founder of The Irish Women Workers Union and a member of the Irish Citizens Army, a trained medic and she secretly transported arms, no easy feat when British soldiers constantly stopped, searched and arrested men, boys, young girls and women. Yet, Rosa like so many were willing to risk their dignity and lives for a cause they deemed greater than themselves. Margaret Keogh, the First Martyr of The Rising, in her nurse’s uniform was shot by the British while aiding the wounded. Her death helped galvanize the millions of US people of Irish descent because she was the niece of Captain Myles Keogh of the US Seventh Cavalry who had died with General Custer at Little Big Horn. Hogan’s research includes the firsthand accounts of the Woman Warrior, Margaret Skinnider, who in her book, Doing my Bit for Ireland, describes her learning how to plant incendiary and explosive devices. She was also a commander of a sniper team which concentrated on eliminating British machine gun emplacements and she was shot three different times. Margaret Skinnider, a sharpshooter, declared in her book, “every shot we fired was a declaration to the world that Ireland, a small country but large in our hearts, was demanding her independence.” This book is more like a firsthand report on the Irish struggle and nothing like a history book.

There was not universal support from the populace as 140,000 Irishmen in British uniforms were fighting the Germans on the Continent and there was the fear that because of the Easter Rebellion more young Irish men would be conscripted to the British forces. The first radio broadcast, “in history” occurred because the British troops destroyed the telephone and telegraph lines from Dublin and at the same time this broadcast created a media conflict because it contradicted the front page of the New York Times front page story that had been supplied by officials of the British. Hogan’s book is well researched, documented with quotes, enhanced with photos, is an easy read, and at the same time it is both educational and entertaining.  Women of the Irish Rising; a People’s History is available through Amazon or, at any of his public appearances such as LCS Open Circle on December 19th and at Diane Pearl’s.

 

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