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April 25, 2016
Growing up in England you don't get to learn about the Easter Uprising in your history classes but somehow in your childhood, probably though your parents, you get to know about what happened at the GPO and about people like Michael Collins and Eamon De Valera. Like so many historical events what I didn't get to hear about is the role that women played. Names, such as Kathleen Lynn from Killala who was chief medical officer during the Easter Rising or Kathleen Clarke who was a founder member of Cumann na mBan, and one of very few privy to the plans, never came up. So when we had to think of a St Patrick's day window on the theme of 1916 I dedicated it to the women of 1916. There are some books for sale in our shop that are compelling reading. 'At home in the Revolution' tells fascinating stories of Catherine Byrne who, on Monday morning 24 April 1916, jumped through a window on the side of the GPO on O’Connell Street to join the Irish revolution. And Mairead Ní Cheallaigh who served breakfast to Patrick and Willie Pearse, their last home-cooked meal, and then went out to set up an emergency hospital with members of Cumann na mBan. These women not only took part in a Revolution but their involvement was in itself revolutionary. These women made a conscious decision to stand up for their rights and those of future generations at a time when society viewed a woman's role as mother and wife. What I was thinking is that this event, never likely to be surpassed as the most defining event in Irish history, is relatively recent. Molly Madden (RIP), from Ballycastle in Mayo was the oldest person living in Ireland at 109 until she passed away in January this year. She would have been 9 and lived through this revolution, and of be of an age to remember it. How extraordinary. The women from this period in history were until recently the forgotten generation.
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