1912: Irish Women before the Revolution
Women’s History Association of Ireland -Annual Conference
25-26 May 2012
Mater Dei Institute of Education (a college of Dublin City University)
The WHAI invites proposals for the 2012 annual conference that will address aspects of women’s lives and activism in the years immediately before 1913. As has been noted the success of republican nationalism after 1916 has obscured the reality of the aspirations and experiences of constitutional nationalists in the early twentieth century. Yet for constitutional nationalists 1912 appeared to be the year in which expectations for a new Home Third Home Rule Bill would be realized either as individuals or in the context of their roles within family structures. Literature such as Paeseta’s, Before the Revolution, has focused on the identities of the male nationalist elite-in-waiting. This conference will provide an opportunity to explore the identities of Irish women who supported in various ways and hoped to benefit from the Home Rule solution to Ireland’s national question. Indeed, the Irish Women’s Franchise League turned to militancy in 1912 because of the refusal of Redmond to allow women to attend the National Convention in support of the Bill in April of that year. Suffrage women wanted votes for women to be included in the third Home Rule Bill. The period also saw a strong anti-suffrage lobby in Ireland, spearheaded by women, and the conference welcomes papers on this subject.
1912 was also, however, a year which saw perceived and real challenges to the success of the Home Rule campaign. While the militancy and demands of the IWFL, in the wider context of the mass WSPU demonstrations in England, was seen to have the potential to derail the Liberal/IPP alliance by forcing a general election on the issue of women’s suffrage, a more serious threat was emerging in the north of Ireland. 1912 saw the signing of the Ulster Solemn League and Covenant by which Ulster Unionists pledged to go to arms to resist the imposition of Home Rule; the UWUC signed a separate women’s covenant.
1912 was also the year of the establishment of the Labour Party and the role of women in labour activism prior to the 1913 strike deserves greater attention. For many Irish women, of course, the activist causes had little or no resonance or impact and in the spirit of a holistic investigation of female lives before the revolution papers are encouraged that address the ‘day-to-day’ concerns of Irish women, an area that has been hugely aided by the launch of the 1901 and 1911 Irish census online.
The conference themes might include, but are not limited to the following:
- Women in the Home Rule campaign
- Suffrage and anti suffrage campaigns and intersections with the Home Rule debate
- Women and unionism
- Labour and trade union activism
- The United Irishwomen
- Papers on the family, fashion, work inside and outside the home, women and popular culture, female sport and leisure activities, participation in the organisations of the cultural revival