seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


Leave a comment

Death of Irish Artist Sarah Henrietta Purser

sarah-purser-by-john-butler-yeatsSarah Henrietta Purser, Irish artist mainly noted for her work with stained glass, dies in Dublin on August 7, 1943.

The Purser family had come to Ireland from Gloucestershire in the eighteenth century. Purser is born in Kingstown (now Dún Laoghaire) in County Dublin on March 22, 1848. She is raised in Dungarvan, County Waterford, one of the numerous children of Benjamin Purser, a prosperous flour miller and brewer, and his wife Anne Mallet. She is related to Sir Frederic William Burton, RHA (1816-1900), who is a son of Hannah Mallet. Two of her brothers, John and Louis, become professors at Trinity College Dublin. Her niece Olive Purser, daughter of her brother Alfred, is the first woman scholar at Trinity.

At thirteen Purser attends the Moravian school, Institution Evangélique de Montmirail, Switzerland where she learns to speak fluent French and begins painting. In 1873 her father’s business fails and she decides to become a full-time painter. She attends classes at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art and joins the Dublin Sketching Club, where she is later appointed an honorary member. In 1874 she distinguishes herself in the National Competition. In 1878 she again contributes to the Royal Hibernian Academy, and for the next fifty years becomes a regular exhibitor, mainly portraits, and shows an average of three works per show.

In 1878-1879, Purser studies at the Académie Julian in Paris where she meets the German painter Louise Catherine Breslau, with whom she becomes a lifelong friend.

Purser becomes wealthy through astute investments, particularly in Guinness, for which several of her male relatives have worked over the years. She is very active in the art world in Dublin and is involved in the setting up of the Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, persuading the Irish government to provide Charlemont House in Parnell Square to house the gallery.

Purser works mostly as a portraitist. Through her talent and energy, and owing to her friendship with the Gore-Booths, she is very successful in obtaining commissions. When the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland commissions her to portray his children in 1888, his choice reflects her position as the country’s foremost portraitist. Various portraits painted by Purser are held in the National Gallery of Ireland.

Purser finances An Túr Gloine (The Tower of Glass), a stained glass cooperative, at 24 Upper Pembroke and runs it from its inauguration in 1903 until her retirement in 1940. Michael Healy is the first of a number of distinguished recruit, such as Catherine O’Brien, Evie Hone, Wilhelmina Geddes, Beatrice Elvery and Ethel Rhind. She is determined the stained glass workshop should adhere to true Arts and Crafts philosophy. An Túr Gloine archive is held in the Centre for the Study of Irish Art, National Gallery of Ireland.

Purser does not produce many items of stained glass herself. Most of the stained glass works are painted by other members of the co-operative, presumably under her direction. Two early works are St. Ita (1904) for St. Brendan’s Cathedral, Loughrea and The Good Shepard (1904) for St. Columba’s College, Dublin. Her last stained glass work is believed to be The Good Shepard and the Good Samaritan (1926) for the Church of Ireland at Killucan, County Westmeath.

Until her death Purser lives for many years in Mespil House, a Georgian mansion with beautiful plaster ceilings on Mespil Road, on the banks of the Grand Canal. Here she is “at home” every Tuesday afternoon to Dublin’s writers and artists. Her afternoon parties are a fixture of Dublin literary life.

Purser dies in Dublin on August 7, 1943 and is buried in Mount Jerome Cemetery beside her brothers John and Louis. Mespil House is demolished after her death and developed into apartments.

Purser is the second woman to sit on the Board of Governors and Guardians, National Gallery of Ireland, 1914-1943. She is made an Honorary Member of the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1890, becoming the first female Associate Member in 1923 and the first female Member in 1924. Also in 1924 she initiates the movement for the launching of the Friends of the National Collection of Ireland. Archives relating to Sarah Purser are housed in the Centre for the Study of Irish Art, National Gallery of Ireland.

(Pictured: Portrait of Sarah Purser by John Butler Yeats, c. 1880–1885)


Leave a comment

Constance Markievicz Elected to British House of Commons

constance-markieviczConstance Markievicz, while detained in Holloway Prison for her part in conscription activities, becomes the first woman to be elected to the House of Commons of the United Kingdom on December 28, 1918.

Markievicz, an Irish nationalist, who is elected for the Dublin St. Patrick’s constituency, refuses to take her seat in the House of Commons along with 72 other Sinn Féin MPs. Instead her party, which wins the majority of Irish seats in Westminster, establishes the Dáil, a breakaway Dublin assembly, and triggers the Irish War of Independence.

Markievicz, who inherits the title of “countess” from her noble Polish husband, and 45 other MPs are in jail when the first meeting takes place on January 21, 1919. They are described in Gaelic as being “imprisoned by the foreign enemy” when their names are read out during roll call at the Mansion House.

The 27 MPs who attend the Dáil’s first session ratify the Proclamation of the Irish Republic of Easter 1916, which had not been adopted by an elected body but merely by the Easter rebels claiming to act in the name of the Irish people. They also claim there is an “existing state of war, between Ireland and England” in a Message to the Free Nations of the World.

When Markievicz is released in April 1919, she becomes Minister for Labour. Having also been part of the suffragette movement, her deep political convictions contrast deeply with Nancy Astor, Viscountess Astor, the first woman to sit in the House of Commons. She believes Astor, a Tory who is elected in a 1919 Plymouth by-election after her husband is forced to give up the seat when he becomes a peer, is “out of touch.”

Her political views are also influenced by Irish poet William Butler Yeats, who is a regular visitor to the family home, Lissadell House in County Sligo. She becomes involved in the women’s suffrage movement after studying art in London, where she meets and marries Count Casimir Markievicz. In 1903, the couple, who has one son, settles in Dublin, where she becomes involved in nationalist politics. She joins both Sinn Féin and Inghinidhe na hÉireann.

Like Astor, Markievicz has an irrepressible personality and is in no mood to play coy and simply blend in. She comes to her first Sinn Féin meeting wearing a satin ball-gown and a diamond tiara after attending a function at Dublin Castle, the seat of British rule in Ireland.

Markievicz spends a year in the Dáil before walking out along with Éamon de Valera, the future domininant figure in Irish polics, after opposing the Anglo-Irish Treaty. The document, which grants southern Ireland independence but keeps the north as part of the U.K., splits Sinn Féin and triggers the Irish War of Independence.

Following the conflict, which the Pro-Treaty forces win, Markievicz is elected again to the Dáil, but does not take her seat in protest. In 1927, she is elected for a third time as part of de Valera’s new party Fianna Fáil, which pledges to return to the Irish parliament. But before she can take her seat, she dies at age 59 on July 15, 1927, of complications related to appendicitis.


Leave a comment

Birth of Eva Gore-Booth, Suffragist & Sister of Countess Markievicz

Eva Selina Laura Gore-Booth, poet and dramatist, and a committed suffragist, social worker and labour activist, is born at Lissadell House, County Sligo, on May 22, 1870. She is the younger sister of Constance Gore-Booth, later known as the Countess Markievicz.

The work of Gore-Booth, alongside that of Esther Roper, the English woman who would become her lifelong companion, is responsible for the close link between the struggle for women’s rights in industry and the struggle for women’s right to vote. As a middle class suffragist representing Manchester, the work of Gore-Booth is mainly recognized in the Lancashire cotton towns from 1899 to 1913. Her struggle begins when she becomes a member of the executive committee of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies. Carrying out work at the Ancoats settlement, Eva becomes co-secretary of the Manchester and Salford Women’s Trade Union Council.

In 1902 Gore-Booth campaigns at the Clitheroe by-election on behalf of David Shackleton, a Labour candidate who promises her that he would show support for the women’s enfranchisement. Shackleton is elected but does not act upon his promise. This leads to the founding of the Lancashire and Cheshire Women Textile and Other Worker’s Representation Committee by Gore-Booth, Esther Roper and Sarah Reddish. When the Women’s Trade Union Council refuses to make women’s suffrage one of its aims, Gore-Booth resigns from the council.

After resigning from the Women’s Trade Union Council, Gore-Booth and Sarah Dickenson, who had also resigned, set up the Manchester and Salford Women’s Trade and Labour Council. As part of this council, Gore-Booth and other suffragists use constitutional methods of campaigning. In the general election of 1906, they put forward their own candidate, Thorley Smith, but he is defeated.

In 1907 Gore-Booth, reluctant to give up hope, contributes an essay “The Women’s Suffrage Movement Among Trade Unionists” to The Case for Women’s Suffrage. In this essay Eva gives a summary of reasons for the methods of the LCWTOW campaign to gain a vote for working women.

As World War I breaks out, Gore-Booth and Esther Roper take up welfare work among German women and children in England. Gore-Booth becomes a member of the Women’s Peace Crusade in 1915 and the No-Conscription Fellowship in 1916.

When Gore-Booth embarks on her writing career she is visited by William Butler Yeats who is very much taken with her work. Yeats hopes that she will take up his cause of writing Irish tales to enchant and amuse. Instead Eva takes Irish folklore and put emphasis on the females in the story. Her widely discussed sexuality in later years is never declared but her poetry reflects it quite overtly. Gore-Booth is also one of a group of editors of the magazine Urania that publishes three issues per year from 1916 to 1940. It is a feminist magazine that reprints stories and poems from all over the world with editorial comment.

After years of playing a lead role in the Women’s Suffrage Movement and fighting for equality of women’s rights in the UK as well as staying true to her literary roots, Gore-Booth and Roper relocate to London from Manchester in 1913 due to Gore-Booth’s deteriorating respiratory health.

Just weeks after the 1916 Easter Rising, Gore-Booth travels to Dublin accompanied by Roper and is pivotal in the efforts to reprieve the death sentence of her sister Constance Markievicz awarded for her instrumental role in the rising, which is successfully converted to a life sentence. She further campaigns to abolish the death sentence overall and to reform prison standards. She attends the trial of Irish nationalist and fellow poet Roger Casement thus showing solidarity and support for the overturning of his death sentence.

During the remaining years of her life, which is claimed by cancer on June 30, 1926, Gore-Booth remains devoted to her poetry, dedicates time to her artistic talents as a painter, studies the Greek language and is known as a supporter of animal rights. She dies in her home in Hampstead, London, which she shares with Roper until her passing. She is buried alongside Roper in St. John’s churchyard, Hampstead.


Leave a comment

Death of Countess Constance Georgine Markievicz

markievicz-funeral-processionCountess Constance Georgine Markievicz, née Gore-Booth, Irish politician, revolutionary nationalist, and suffragette, dies on July 15, 1927 in Sir Patrick Dun’s Hospital, Dublin, of complications related to appendicitis.

Constance Gore-Booth is born into the Anglo-Irish aristocracy and grows up at her family’s estate, Lissadell House, in County Sligo. Constance enrolls at London’s Slade School of Art in 1893. In the late 1890s she travels to Paris, where she meets Count Casimir Dunin-Markievicz of Poland. They are married in 1900.

In 1903 the Markieviczes move to Dublin, where Constance’s interests soon turn from art to Irish politics. At age 40, in 1908, she embraces Irish nationalism, joining the revolutionary women’s group Inghinidhe na hÉireann (Daughters of Ireland) and the Sinn Féin political party. The following year she forms Na Fianna Éireann (Soldiers of Ireland), a republican organization loosely based on the Boy Scouts, in which young boys are trained to be nationalist soldiers.

In 1911 she is arrested for demonstrating against King George V’s visit to Ireland. This is just the first of several arrests and imprisonments for Markievicz, whose political activism results in jail time intermittently for the remainder of her life. In 1913–14 she provides food for workers and their families during a labour dispute in which thousands of people are locked out of their workplaces for refusing to reject union membership.

In April 1916 Markievicz takes part in the Easter Rising, the republican insurrection in Dublin against British government in Ireland. After the general surrender, she is arrested and imprisoned. Though many women participate in the uprising, Markievicz is the only one to be court-martialed. She is sentenced to death, but the sentence is commuted to a lifetime of penal servitude on account of her gender. The following year, under a general amnesty, Markievicz is released, but soon finds herself back in jail for supposed participation in a plot against the British government. In December 1918, while still carrying out a prison sentence, Markievicz is elected to the House of Commons as the representative for Dublin’s St. Patrick’s division. Along with the other members of Sinn Féin, she refuses to swear an oath of allegiance to the king and, thus, does not take her seat. Instead, under the leadership of Éamon de Valera, the Irish republicans set up their own provisional government, Dáil Éireann.

After her release from prison, Markievicz serves in the first Dáil Éireann as the minister of labour, a post she holds from 1919 until she is defeated in the 1922 elections. That same year the Irish Free State is established, and Dáil Éireann is incorporated as the lower house of the Oireachtas (Irish parliament). Markievicz is elected to the Dáil in the 1923 general election but, along with the other members of Sinn Féin, she again refuses to swear allegiance to the king and does not take her seat. Instead, she devotes herself to charity work. Markievicz joins de Valera’s Fianna Fáil party on its founding in 1926 and is again elected to the Dáil in 1927, but dies a month later without having taken her seat.

Refused a state funeral by the Free State government, Markievicz is buried at Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin, and de Valera gives the funeral oration.