'The Female Dregs of Dublin': Political Repression, Socioeconomic Deprivation and the Separation Women of Easter 1916 Open Access

Kretschmer, Narianna Berg (2015)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/6969z1648?locale=en


On the morning of April 24, 1916, fifteen hundred dedicated Irish nationalists began a militarized campaign to overtake Dublin from the British colonial agents who controlled the city. The rebellion, which came to be known as the Easter Rising, was a complete failure--after just five days, rebel leaders surrendered to British troops, and Dublin remained subordinate to English authority. Yet, in the hundred years since the events of 1916, the Rising has been widely remembered as a fundamental moment in the quest for Irish self-determination, and in the history of Ireland as a whole. Despite the Rebellion's prominence in Irish memory, very few Dubliners actively partook in the events of April 1916. Less than two percent of the city's residents participated in the violent clashes that transpired throughout the week. Civilians were simultaneously threatened by wayward gunfire and deprived of essential resources. Many Dubliners expressed negative reactions to the Easter Rising. This thesis investigates the responses of one particular group--the Separation Women, who received that label because they were dependent on the allowances their husbands earned for serving with the British Army in World War I. The Separation Women are nearly always present in accounts of the Rebellion, either because of the looting of abandoned storefronts in which they participated, or, more frequently, because of the insults, and in some cases bricks and bottles, they hurled at the surrendered nationalists. Historians of the Rising have usually treated contemporary accounts of these women, which couch them either as callously greedy or emotionally unstable, as fully elucidatory. This thesis argues that those explanations deny the unique context of life as a mother in Dublin's notoriously perilous tenements. Separation Wives had little access to political expression, even within women's organizations, and, as slum residents, they struggled daily to provide basic resources to their large families, for whom they were often the only providers. Ultimately, The decision to participate in looting or attacks on retreating rebels was informed by Separation Women's experiences of political repression and socioeconomic deprivation as members of Dublin's most disadvantaged communities.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Chapter 1: Causes of the Rising 9

Chapter 2: The Rising and its Participants 22

Chapter 3: Dublin's Separation Wives 40

Conclusion 75

Bibliography 78

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