Countess Constance Markievicz

Constance Markievicz was born in London. Her Protestant ascendancy family, the Gore-Booths, owned Lissadell, an extensive estate in Co. Sligo.

She married a Polish Count, Casimir Markievicz; whom she met while studying art in Paris. In 1909, she first became known to British intelligence for her role in helping found Na Fianna Éireann. She was also active in the Irish suffragette movement and focussed much energy into Inghinidhe na hÉireann, a militant women’s organisation founded by Maud Gonne.

She co-operated closely with the labour leaders, James Larkin and James Connolly. Her compassion for the poor was evident during the 1913 Dublin Lockout when she worked tirelessly to provide food for the workers’ families. Two years later she helped organise and train the Irish Citizen Army.

She took an active role in the 1916 Rising, and was second-in-command to Michael Mallin at St. Stephen’s Green/College of Surgeons. Afterwards, she was the only woman to be court-martialed (4 May 1916). She was sentenced to death, but because of her gender, the sentence was commuted to penal servitude for life she served 13 months and was released in 1917.

In the General Election, December 1918, she became the first woman ever returned to the Commons at Westminster but as a member for Sinn Féin she did not take her seat. Instead she served as Minister of Labour (April 1919-21) in the first Dail. As the then leader of Cumann na mBan, she bitterly opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty (December 1921) and supported the anti-Treaty forces in the civil war. She later joined de Valera`s party, Fianna Fail. She died in a Dublin hospital in 1927; the working class people of the city lined the streets for her funeral.