Women’s experiences in the revolutionary period & beyond

June 19, 2022

Festival contributor Linda Connolly wrote in the Irish Times recently about sexual violence against women in the revolutionary period, a subject she also discussed at the Festival. Linda focused particularly in her article on the experiences of Eileen Mary Warburton Biggs from Co Tipperary. In June 1922, Biggs was assaulted and raped by a number of IRA men who broke into the house she shared with her husband near Dromineer, Nenagh. The article is shocking reading. The illustration above is taken from the article and is by Stephen Rhatigan.

Also on the subject of women's experiences in the revolutionary period, Lindsay Earner-Byrne wrote on the UCC website about the role and representation of women in the civil war. At the end, her piece looked forward to what women would experience in the Free State: "While the 1922 Constitution of the Irish Free State honoured the commitment to equal suffrage, it did not prove effective at preventing the enactment of legislation in the 1920s and '30s which openly discriminated against women and reduced the horizon of their citizenship. So many women, disaffected by the new state, disappeared from sight, submerged by the struggle to survive or dispatched on emigrant ships."

Fionnula Walsh wrote an article in the Examiner recently covering some of the same ground, but also focusing on the trauma endured by families and the lasting impact of the Civil War violence on the wives and children left behind.

Finally, moving to a different period of violent upheaval on the island - the beginning of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Epidemic Ireland featured an article entitled 'Feminist Activism, Rona Fields and the History of Trauma during the Troubles' by Ian Miller. It explored the work of the at times controversial American psychologist Rona Fields in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, who particularly focused on the experiences of women and children in nationalist communities.