On the Night
The first event in ‘The Women of the South’: Revolutionaries and Radicals Series, at the Farmgate Café on Monday 14th of March, saw Patricia Coughlan, Professor of English at UCC, in conversation with Lucy McDiarmid, author of At home in the Revolution: what women said and did in 1916.
Lucy McDiarmid in conversation with Patricia Coughlan, at the Farmgate Café
(with thanks to Maurice Supple, blue shed productions for this recording).
Lucy McDiarmid is Marie Frazee-Baldassarre Professor of English at Montclair State University. Her scholarly interest in cultural politics, especially quirky, colourful, suggestive episodes, is exemplified by The Irish Art of Controversy (2005) and Poets and the Peacock Dinner: the literary history of a meal (2014). She is a past president of the American Conference for Irish Studies and a former fellow of the Guggenheim Foundation and of the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library.
Professor Patricia Coughlan is Professor of English at UCC. Her research interests include 20th-century Irish poetry and fiction from 1960, especially representations of gender in work by both female and male writers (Heaney, Edna O’Brien, Banville, Ní Chuilleanáin, Anne Enright, Ronan Bennett); feminist approaches to Irish literature and culture; Irish modernist poetry in the 1930s, especially Beckett; Irish women writers, 1920s-50s (Bowen, Kate O’Brien); 16th- and 17th-century writing, especially English writing on Ireland, focusing on Spenser’s work and colonial discourse (Petty, the Boate brothers, Vincent Gookin). She has published in several fields within Irish literature including on the autobiographical writings of Peig Sayers considered as social history and life-writing.
About the Book
On Monday morning 24 April 1916, Catherine Byrne jumped through a window on the side of the GPO on O’Connell Street to join the Irish revolution; Mairead Ní Cheallaigh served breakfast to Patrick and Willie Pearse, their last home-cooked meal, and then went out to set up an emergency hospital with members of Cumann na mBan; Máire Nic Shiubhlaigh persuaded Thomas MacDonagh to let her into the garrison at Jacob’s Biscuit Factory; and Elsie Mahaffy, daughter of the Provost of Trinity, was in her bedroom ‘completing her toilet’ when her sister came in to tell her that ‘the Sinn Féiners had risen.’
At Home in the Revolution derives its material from women’s own accounts of the Easter Rising, interpreted broadly to include also the Howth gun-running and events that took place over the summer of 1916 in Ireland. These eye-witness narratives — diaries, letters, memoirs, autobiographies, and official witness statements — were written by nationalists and unionists, Catholics and Protestants, women who felt completely at home in the garrisons, cooking for the men and treating their wounds, and women who stayed at home during the Rising.
The book’s focus is on the kind of episode usually ignored by traditional historians: cooking with bayonets, arguing with priests, resisting sexual harassment, soothing a female prostitute, doing sixteen-hand reels in Kilmainham Gaol, or disagreeing with Prime Minister Asquith about the effect of the Rising on Dublin’s architecture. The women’s ‘small behaviours’, to use Erving Goffman’s term, reveal social change in process, not the official history of manifestos and legislation, but the unofficial history of access to a door or a leap through a window; they show how issues of gender were negotiated in a time of revolution.