2pm Saturday 12th March
Seminar Room, National Library of Ireland, Kildare St.
This is a free event ticketed event. To apply for a ticket, please write to
Refreshments afterwards in Buswell's Hotel from 3.30pm.
The Military Service Pension Collection
Women 1916-1923: engagement towards Independence
Through successive commemorative exercises, the narrative of the Easter Rising 1916 as a historical event, has been subjected to a variety of filters and revisions.
The event is a contested ground in Irish history and nothing leads to believe that it will be any different in the years to come. Nonetheless, if the centenary does not provide us with certainty about the ultimate significance of the event, it has done something very positive for the revolutionary women and this is also evident through the new publications of quality being released lately.
Due to many factors, including the lack of primary sources, the women of the Revolution have been cast aside. They were disremembered. As a result their stories also have been consistently ‘simplified’ and their actions were steadily ‘reduced’ to some bland blanket statements mentioning the wonderful credibility of their engagement.
From 2003, the Bureau of Military History Witness Statements did a good job in pushing the story of some of them in forefront. There are things that the Witness Statements cannot do though: it cannot give us a quantifiable appreciation of the women’s involvement in the revolutionary movement and it does not give us the story of the ‘ordinary’. The people interviewed back in the 40s or 50s were selected for their prominent role in their respective organisations and therefore a lot of voices were left unheard.
The Military Service Pensions Collection helps us address the work of the women differently: with a large quantity of files from the leadership to the rank and file, the collection navigates between the personal story and its wider context. It also forces us to rethink Cumann na mBan as an organisation which, from 1916 onwards did not succeed at becoming a fully functioning military influence.
The talk will cover what the collection brings to the 1916 table and how it alters the narrative regarding revolutionary women in Ireland but will also show that the pension files convey evidence that women, influenced by the Rising, and within a wider context, possibly vitalised by the suffragette movement, truly find their voice through the events that followed.