Grace Gifford was one of twelve children born to a Catholic father and Protestant mother in Rathmines, Co. Dublin. Despite her family’s unionist background, Gifford, along with her sisters, including Muriel, Nellie and Sydney, sympathised with Irish nationalism and became a member of Inghinidhe na hÉireann. She was also known as an artist whose illustrations appeared in the Irish Review and Irish Life, amongst other publications. After a brief courtship, she became engaged to Joseph Plunkett. Their wedding had been planned for Easter Sunday, 1916, but was curtailed by the Rising. Instead, the pair married in Kilmainham Gaol hours before Joseph’s execution. She later recalled being “brought in and was put in front of the altar; and he was brought down the steps; and the cuffs were taken off him; and the chaplain went on with the ceremony; then the cuffs were put on him again. I was not alone with him- not for a minute.” She joined the Sinn Féin executive in the aftermath of the Rising and produced illustrations for various nationalist causes. She opposed the Treaty and was arrested in 1923 after taking part in a Women’s Prisoners Defence League demonstration. Whilst imprisoned in Kilmainham Gaol, she drew a picture on the wall of her cell which became known as the ‘Kilmainham Madonna’, a copy of which can be seen in the Gaol today. She largely retired from public life following her release, though continued to draw and had illustrations published in several newspapers and magazines until her death in 1955.
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