Read all about it: Research on Irish feminism often concentrates on the pursuit of votes, but there were other issues and many debates within the movement which can be better understood by reading its ‘Irish Citizen’ newspaper
Some young women grew frustrated with the slow progress of suffrage agitation in Ireland after many decades of constitutional lobbying led by the Irish Women’s Suffrage and Local Government Association. Influenced by the militant strategies of the British Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), two university graduates, Hanna Sheehy Skeffington and Margaret Cousins set up a new suffrage group in Dublin in 1908. Named the Irish Women’s Franchise League (IWFL) it was impatient for change and ready to challenge social conventions. Although women-only, men could be associate members and two of the early male recruits were the husbands of the founding members – Francis Sheehy Skeffington and James Cousins.
Aiming to win the vote for women, on the same terms as men, the IWFL, whose leaders were nationalist in their political sympathies, vociferously lobbied to have female enfranchisement included in the Home Rule Bill. Although the IWFL described itself as militant, members did not engage in militant activity during its early years. It was frustration caused by the failure of the Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP) to support votes for women in the Home Rule Bill of 1912 that finally sparked the outbreak of militant agitation in Ireland.
The opposition to female enfranchisement by the IPP and its leader John Redmond had a wider political cause. The IPP had forged an alliance in the British parliament with the ruling Liberal Party under prime minister Herbert Asquith. It was feared that if women were given the vote, Asquith, a vehement opponent of women’s suffrage, would resign. In any ensuing general election it was thought the Conservative Party would sweep to power, thus delaying any chance of Home Rule. This gave the IPP a vested interest in supporting the Liberal government and keeping Asquith in power.
The IWFL decided that militant action was the only way to get the attention of the Irish Party and the British government. On June 13th 1912 eight women were arrested for throwing stones at Government Buildings in Dublin. When Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington, Marguerite Palmer, and sisters Jane and Margaret Murphy, came to trial, 200 women, including the other arrested suffragettes, Kathleen Houston, Marjorie Hasler, Maud Lloyd and Hilda Webb, packed the court room. The women were each sentenced to either a fine or two months’ imprisonment. All refused to pay and opted for prison, where they were soon followed by the other four.