because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Monday, April 16, 2012

Constance Gore-Booth

Born in London in 1868 to a landed Irish family, Constance Gore-Booth rejected the life of the socialite and ran off to Paris to study art as soon as she was old enough and independent enough to do so. One photo of her in her twenties shows her wearing knickerbockers (men's knee-length pants) and smoking a cigarette. In her early thirties, Gore-Booth married another artist who was a wealthy widowed count with whom she had already been having an affair for some time. But by 1908, always committed to the struggle for women's rights and having read publications that promoted an Irish revolution, Gore-Booth (now Markievicz) joined Sein Finn and a women's revolutionary organization founded by Maude Gonne and she never looked back!

She started a Boy Scout type organization that taught young men, among other things, how to shoot. She set up food kitchens and supported education for the poor. And in fact, she impoverished herself caring for those who had nothing. Still, she had time to get herself arrested for attempting to set the Union Jack on fire and became an officer in the Irish Citizens Army, where she distinguished herself as fearless under fire as she fought alongside the men.

Tried and convicted for treason to the crown, Markievicz was incensed when she was not executed with her male comrades because she was a woman. Released from prison during a general amnesty in 1917 and re-imprisoned in 1918 for fear of the power of her popularity and passion for Irish autonomy, the Rebel Countess of Ireland, as she was called, was elected to Parliament anyway, though she refused to take the seat because it would have legitimated British rule over Ireland. Imprisoned once more in 1923, Markievicz went on a hunger strike and, though she was subsequently released to continue her work, she died at 59, much weakened by her ordeals. Still, unrepentent for her life or her choices, she is quoted as saying, "While Ireland is not free I remain a rebel, unconverted and inconvertible." Sounds just like all the other in-your-women, doesn't she?

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