Women Prisoners: Initial Findings

Total number of names (autograph books and graffiti) located:

 

English            419

Irish                 154

TOTAL            563

 

Geographical Spread (Name in English)

Individual names (discounting repetition of same name occurring in various autograph books or in graffiti. This does not include the exclusion of names that may have been nicknames / alternative names for an individual woman. There has been no attempt to isolate and exclude Irish versions of names).

 

Dublin

116
Kerry 25
Cork 17
Tipperary 13
Mayo 12
Galway 12
Donegal 10
Wexford 9
Limerick 7
Carlow 7
Sligo 7
Louth 6
Kildare 5
Glasgow 4
Liverpool 4
Cavan 2
Kilkenny 2
London 2
Longford 2
Tyrone 2
Antrim 1
Armagh 1
Clare 1
Laois 1
Meath 1
Waterford 1
Wicklow 2
Total 242
Unstated / unidentified 161

Geographical Spread (Name in Irish)

Individual names (discounting repetition of same name occurring in various autograph books or in graffiti. This does not include the exclusion of names that may have been nicknames / alternative names for an individual woman. There has been no attempt to isolate and exclude English versions of names).

Dublin 21
London 13
Glasgow 7
Cork 6
Kerry 6
Galway 4
Limerick 4
Tipperary 4
Donegal 3
Louth 2
Mayo 2
Carlow 1
Clare 1
Leitrim 1
Sligo 1
Wexford 1
Total 77
Unstated / unidentified 77

Initial Interpretation

  1. The women were more likely to provide information on home address if writing in English (It is probable that many women knew only how to write their name in Irish. Although some could write their complete address, or at least town name, this is less typically located in the autograph books and graffiti). Whilst Irish language was used as a means of articulating their political status many of the women were not schooled in Irish and could only do so by writing their name in Irish.
  2. Dublin was the largest places of origin for women in both sections. However this is only significantly more when signing in English. There is a greater spread in those who wished to write their names in Irish.
  3. Dublin dominance in numbers of women to be expected as Dublin was the capital city with largest population and an area where anti-Treaty forces were active. There is evidence from the autograph books that some women originated from elsewhere and had moved to Dublin at some stage in the time before their incarceration therefore a number of women may have been born elsewhere.
  4. Ulster counties were largely unrepresented – those from Northern Ireland held in jails in North after partition? The largest number from Donegal – 12 in total – and the only Ulster county that appeared to have communalized aspects whilst imprisoned (see autograph book). Louth had the second largest number with eight in total. There were two from Cavan and one each from Antrim, Armagh and Tyrone, all signed in English. Had they relocated to Dublin by time of their arrest or been transferred from Northern Ireland?
  5. Donegal has a significant number of prisoners for its size and distance from Dublin. From examining the examples even if rest of the message / graffiti was in English those from Donegal nearly often wrote the county in Irish. Nearly always used ‘Tir Connaill’ rather then ‘Dun na nGall’. Why?
  6. Significant number of women deported from UK on both lists – overrepresented in lists with Irish. Evidence that some women were members of the same Irish associations including reference to the ‘Anne Devlin Cumann na mBan’ in Glasgow (for more information please see report of recent talk in Glasgow). Nearly always write their names together on the same page. This held true for all deportees not just those from the same city. Often write entire address in Irish, including translations for London, Glasgow (x1) and Liverpool (x1) in autograph books.

Initial questions

How representative are these two lists of the names and locations of the women (1) active and (2) imprisoned during the civil war? Do we need to reexamine our estimations of the numbers held (nevermind the numbers involved)? Current estimations of numbers imprisoned during the civil war are between 400-500 (Ward 1983, Coleman 2014) but these figures relate to all the women we can identify from these two sources, how many more more who have left no trace?

Many of the well known figures are not represented in these figures – including Countess Markievicz. These were often ‘elite’ women who where either kept separate from the women or did not circulate extensively amongst them. Where their names to appear – for examples Maud Gonne MacBride does occur in a number of autograph books – they tended to sign autograph with no further information. What does this represent? Was there a leader / class divide? How many women chose not to advertise their imprisonment or share their autograph amongst the other women? How many women were excluded from autograph books (intentional or otherwise)?

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