Renowned historian gives talk on gender, rebellion

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Dr. Lucy McDiarmid gives a lecture on the Easter Uprising of 1916 and the gender spaces women created for themselves during the rebellion in the Nott Memorial. (Andrew Cassarino | Concordiensis)
Dr. Lucy McDiarmid gives a lecture on the Easter Uprising of 1916 and the gender spaces women created for themselves during the rebellion in the Nott Memorial. (Andrew Cassarino | Concordiensis)

On Tuesday, April 12, Dr. Lucy McDiarmid lectured a full house on gender identity during the Easter Uprising of 1916 in Ireland.

McDiarmid was a part of the “History for U” initiative that is being led by the History Department. The English Department and the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program co-sponsored the event.

Lecturer of History Denis Brennan opened the event by saying History for U is more than just about history. He said that history tell us about today and the future.

“The increased globalization expands the range of topics we cover,” Brennan added.

Brennan was followed by English Professor Claire Bracken, who met Dr. McDiarmid in the early 2000s at a poetry reading festival. She said from that day, the two have been good friends.

Professor Bracken proceeded to go over the accomplishments of Dr. McDiarmid. She said Dr. McDiarmid is one of the most important and critical voices in Irish studies.

McDiarmid is currently Marie Frazee-Baldassarre Professor of English at Montclair State University. Along with her position, Dr. McDiarmid penned seven books with her most recent one entitled, “At Home In The Revolution: what women said and did in 1916.”

This book was the topic of her lecture. Before McDiarmid began, Professor Bracken said every Dublin family has a story about the Easter Rising of 1916.

She added it was said her great-grandmother smuggled guns to Irishmen under her dress. She concluded by saying, “with the 100 year anniversary, the celebration seeks to include the women who were ignored by history books.”

McDiarmid began her talk by saying she was about to do 800 years of Irish history in two minutes, which received a good chuckle from the crowd.

She noted that Irish history is a mix of British dominance and Irish resistance. To her, dominance and resistance are the two words that need to be known to understand the history of Ireland.

Fast-forward to 1914 and the start of the First World War, Irish leaders agreed that “British difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity.” With that notion in mind, the Irish Republican Army launched an armed insurrection to end British rule in Ireland and establish the country as an independent nation.

Up until the past few years, women were left out of the story of the uprising. McDiarmid sought to tell their story by looking at the detailed accounts these women left behind. McDiarmid noted her story was rooted upon the small behaviors of the women and not on the macroscale history of the military.

The talk focused on three aspects of women and the rebellion; negotiation and thresholds with Irish men, reaction to raids on homes, and the imprisonment of the women. McDiarmid included the stories of Kate Byrne, Lillie Connolly, Kathleen Clark, and others. In all of the stories, the women created gendered spaces to formulate their own identity within the uprising.

McDiarmid concluded the talk by saying, “there was a claiming of space over male authority through having their own personal space for women in the rising.”

These issues, to her, remain vibrant in the makeup of Irish political and social issues of the 21st century.

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