Remembering Lá na mBan


Sir, – It was inspiring to read Margaret Ward’s timely piece on Lá na mBan (Women’s Day) in Kilkenny city in 1918; in it, she captures the moment that thousands of women, in rural and urban contexts, mobilised to take their place in Irish political life (An Irishwoman’s Diary, June 5th).

While Cumann na mBan successfully co-ordinated the occasion, the idea for Lá na mBan emerged from a meeting of the pacifist Irishwomen’s International League.

Women’s Day was conceived of as non-partisan, bringing together women’s organisations and groups that were not necessarily in agreement about issues such as the trade union movement, feminism, and nationalism, but who were united against conscription. Tens of thousands of women signed their names, symbolically rejecting the war.

The organising committee, chaired by Alice Stopford Green, issued a statement suggesting that “the signing of the pledge might be marked, where possible, by a floral demonstration, every individual woman bringing a flower and every organisation carrying wreaths or crosses or other symbols, to decorate the place of signing or of prayer. A Floral Committee could in each place arrange the details of a demonstration such as never before has taken place in Ireland”.

Might this be considered an early instance of flower power? – Yours, etc,