How an Irish Woman Challenged The Status Quo
Written by: Jordan Bowles
Edited by: My Identity Mag Team
It is the month of March, and in accordance with My Identity Mag’s mission to shed light on the various cultures that occupy our world, this month we celebrate Irish Heritage Month. In the American-commercialized tradition, on March 17th, this cultural group is typically commemorated by an explosion of Shamrock-green party favors at St. Patrick-Day parties. While this is a “fun way” to celebrate some of the aspects of Irish Heritage Month, it is important for us to provide a more diverse perspective in order to establish why Irish Heritage Month deserves to be celebrated and the strong history that accompanies it (including some incredible historical figures). Therefore, this article, in dedication to Irish Heritage Month and the fact that March is also Women’s History Month, will highlight an important and strong female historical Irish figure who had a profound impact on the way Irish culture has been shaped throughout history.
Today, we recognize a powerful Irish woman who was ahead of her time, Countess Constance Georgine Markievicz. By the time this woman was in her 40's, she had become a renowned political activist that was not afraid to challenge the hegemonic male ideals of the Irish government and she willingly served jail sentences for aligning herself with women suffrage movements. It is important to realize the kind of groundbreaking actions she took that allowed Irish women to thrive and succeed in Irish-political positions to this very day. In the 1900s, Markievicz joined what was called the “Daughters of Ireland,” which was a group specifically designed to empower women to retaliate against the Irish-governing institutions of that time period that incorporated legislation that disparately oppressed Irish women.
As mentioned before, Markievicz was repeatedly jailed throughout her time as a political activist and Irish nationalist for her bold and idealistic stance against those in governing power. Notably, she was jailed for plotting against the British Government's involvement in Ireland. In 1919, Markievicz was elected as the "Minister of Labour" of the of the House of Commons. However, it is important to note that Markievicz remained true to her convictions as she rejected the position for its requirements to align herself under the ruling monarch of the United Kingdom of that time, which was King George V.
Countess Markievicz was a force to be reckoned with, and the sacrifices she made in her lifetime created a pathway for Irish women to continue the kind of legacy that she built. Markievicz came from a wealthy family, but she committed herself to assist families who suffered from food insecurity (an unfortunate consequence of those who protested against joining a union membership). She also invested herself in establishing training programs that would galvanize and prepare young men to be soldiers on behalf of the country of Ireland.
Markievicz clearly had a strong vision of change for Ireland, especially for the positions that Irish women held.
In recent years, that vision is continuing to come to fruition as women in Ireland are now holding the very position that Markievicz refused to take during her lifetime. From 1919 to 2018, out of 200 senior minister positions available, only 19 women have held these high level positions. While this number is quite staggering, it is still a reflection of slow and sure progress.
We must celebrate how Countess Markievicz quite literally risked her life on numerous occasions to change the “status quo” of her present Irish culture that catered to the hegemonic needs of male domination in the political sphere over women. Markievicz demonstrated how important it is to practice inclusion, unification, diversity, and difference of perspective in terms of gender, class and even nationalism. The Irish culture has many proud historical figures that have contributed to their rich heritage, and I believe it is safe to say that Irish women everywhere are thankful to Countess Markievicz for making sure women had a strong hand in cultivating that rich heritage. Happy Irish Heritage Month Everyone!
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