Kilmainham Gaol text Collection title

Constance Markievicz

Biography

Constance Markievicz, née Constance Gore Booth, was raised in Lisadell House, her family’s ancestral home in Co. Sligo, where she counted W.B. Yeats amongst her close acquaintances. She was presented as a debutante to Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace in 1887, before studying art in London and Paris, where she met the Polish Count Casimir Dunin-Markievicz, her future husband. On returning to Ireland, she became involved in a number of labour, women’s suffrage, and Irish nationalist organisations. As well as being made an honorary treasurer of the Irish Citizen Army and sitting on the executive committee of Sinn Féin, she was a founding member of Cumann na mBan and Fianna Éireann, the nationalist youth movement. During the Easter Rising, she was second in command of Michael Mallin’s ICA detachment at St Stephen’s Green. Under heavy fire from British troops in the Shelbourne Hotel, the rebels retreated to the Royal College of Surgeons, where they later surrendered. Originally sentenced to death, she was later transferred to Aylesbury prison and released in 1917. Standing as a Sinn Féin candidate in the St. Patrick’s constituency of Dublin, she became the first woman to be elected to the British House of Commons, but did not take her seat in accordance with her party’s policy of abstention. She was instead appointed as Minister for Labour in the First Dáil, though spent most of the ensuing years on the run or in prison. Her status as a fugitive continued following her denouncement of the Anglo-Irish Treaty. Joining Fianna Fáil in 1926, she won a seat for the party in the 1927 general election, but her health had declined severely over the previous years and she died within a month of her success.


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