Time of change


1825The book Appeal of One Half of the Human Race, Women, Against the Pretensions of the Other Half, Men, to Retain Them in Political and Thence in Civil and Domestic Slavery, by William Thompson and Anna Doyle Wheeler, is published.


The Great Reform Act reforms parliamentary representation. The words “male person” inserted in the act explicitly exclude women from the electorate.


Ladies’ Collegiate School (later Victoria College), Belfast, is founded by Margaret Byers.


Contagious Diseases Acts passed. A woman suspected of being a prostitute could be arrested and subjected to compulsory checks for venereal disease. If found to be infected she could be confined to a “lock hospital” until cured


Alexandra College in Dublin is founded by Anne Jellicoe.


Petition signed by 1,499 women, including Anna Haslam, asking for the inclusion of women in the forthcoming reform of the franchise, is presented to the House of Commons.


Reform Act extends the parliamentary vote to more categories of men. John Stuart Mill’s amendment to include votes for women is defeated. Suffrage campaigning begins.


An Irish branch of the Ladies’ National Association for the Repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts is formed. Isabella Tod and Anna Haslam are among those involved in this campaign.


Isabella Tod founds the North of Ireland Womens Suffrage Society.


Anna and Thomas Haslam found the Dublin Women’s Suffrage Association, later the Irish Women’s Suffrage and Local Government Association (IWSLGA)


Intermediate Education (Ireland) Act opens the public competitive examinations of the Intermediate Education Board to both boys’ and girls’ schools.


University Education (Ireland) Act provides for the establishment of the Royal University of Ireland as a purely examining and degree- awarding institution. Women can sit the Royal examinations and receive university degrees.


The Ladies’ National Irish Land League is founded. Anna Parnell, one of the honorary secretaries, is the effective leader.


Married Women’s Property Act gives married women in England and Ireland the right to own, acquire and dispose of property.


The Royal University of Ireland confers degrees on its first nine women graduates.


After a long campaign by British and Irish feminists, the Contagious Diseases Acts are repealed.


Foundation of the Gaelic League. Women and men are admitted on equal terms.


Poor Law Guardians (Ireland) Act makes women eligible to be elected and serve as Poor Law Guardians.


Local Government Act (Ireland) establishes county and borough councils and urban and rural district councils. Women rate payers gain the vote for all and eligibility for election to all except county and borough councils.


85 women elected as Poor Law Guardians and 31 as rural district councillors and four elected as urban district councillors.


Inghínidhe na hÉireann, the first independent women’s nationalist organisation in Ireland, is founded by Maud Gonne.


Trinity College, Dublin, opens lectures and degrees to women.


Sinn Féin is founded by Arthur Griffith. Women are admitted on equal terms with men.


Foundation of the Irishwomen’s Franchise League (IWFL) as a militant suffrage society, by a group led by Hanna Sheehy Skeffington and Margaret Cousins.


The Irish Universities Act establishes the National University of Ireland and Queen’s University Belfast. All degrees and offices in both are open to women.


Bean na hÉireann, Irelands first womens newspaper, is published by Inghínidhe na hÉireann.


Local Authorities (Ireland) Act makes women eligible for election to county and borough councils.


The Irish Women Workers’ Union (IWWU) is founded. Delia Larkin is its first secretary.


Louie Bennett forms the Irish Women’s Reform League to combine suffrage and working-class women’s concerns.


Irish Women’s Suffrage Federation (IWSF) is founded by Louie Bennett and Helen Chenevix as an umbrella organisation for non-militant suffrage organisations.


John Redmond, the Irish Party leader, refuses to propose a suffrage amendment to the Home Rule Bill. His party votes defeat a Conciliation Bill granting limited suffrage. IWFL militancy starts in Dublin by breaking windows in Government Buildings. Militancy begins in Ulster.


Foundation of the Irish Citizen newspaper in association with the IWFL. The motto of the paper reads: “For men and women equally, the rights of citizenship; from men and women equally, the duties of citizenship.”


The Dublin Lockout. Nationalist feminists from the IWFL, Cumann na mBan, the IWWU and the IWRL all give active support to the workers and their families.


Foundation of the Irish Citizen Army, which offers equal membership and training to women and men.


Carson reneges on a promise of suffrage in a provisional Ulster government. Irish and English suffragettes escalate militancy in Ulster. Between 1912 and 1914, 27 suffragettes are imprisoned in Ireland, some more than once.


Foundation of Cumann na mBan. Initially its main aim is to help fund and arm the men of the Irish Volunteers.


The first World War makes suffrage activism difficult. Some groups suspend suffrage activism and turn to war relief work. The IWFL takes a pacifist stance, opposing war.


The Easter Rising. Its Proclamation calls for the allegiance of “Irishmen and Irishwomen” and promises “equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens”.


Restatement of the aims of Cumann na mBan; now it works to “follow the policy of the Proclamation [of 1916] by seeing that women take up their proper position in the life of the nation”.


In the general election 11 women stand for election in Britain and Ireland. The only woman elected is Sinn Féin’s Countess Constance Markievicz.


Representation of the People Act gives the vote to all men over 21 and to women aged 30 and over if either the woman or her husband meet the property qualification for the local-government vote.


Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act makes women eligible to be elected to, and sit and vote in, the House of Commons.


Countess Markievicz is appointed minister for labour in the first Dáil.


War of Independence. Cumann na mBan members are active participants as scouts, gunrunners, messengers and keepers of safe houses during the conflict.


Government of Ireland Act partitions Ireland


The Anglo-Irish Treaty is signed. All six female members of the second Dáil vote against it. Nationalist feminists, although divided on the Treaty, continue to press for women’s full suffrage.


Article 3 of the Constitution of the Irish Free State gives full citizenship to all women and men over the age of 21.