in addition to de Valera’s passport-linked protection, another of the leaders of the 1916 Uprising was spared execution. despite her role and the fact that she was summarily condemned with her male comrades, it was deemed inappropriate to execute a woman, and so Countess Markiewicz was merely sentenced to imprisonment. she was released in 1917 under a general amnesty, along with others whom the British locked up for their roles opposing British rule. she later was elected to the British House of Commons (first woman elected to the body, actually, though she never took her seat).
she studied art in London, and became involved in the suffrage movement there. following her marriage (to a Polish count) and return to Ireland, she also became heavily involved in nationalist politics, joining both Sinn Féin and Inghinidhe na hÉireann (‘Daughters of Ireland’) in 1908. the following year, she established a para-military organization to instruct teens in the use of firearms. during the Easter Rising, she supervised the setting up of barricades around St. Stephen’s Green. the Countess, her commanding, and their men held out for six days, until the British showed them a copy of Pearse’s surrender order. in addition to her stint in Kilmainham for her role in the Uprising, she was jailed for anti-conscription activities and was still in jail when her colleagues held the first meeting of the Dáil Éireann, which declared the Irish Republic. she served as Minister for Labour for two and a half years (April 1919-January 1922) and was, consequently, the first female cabinet minister in Europe. she was the first woman appointed to a ministerial post in Ireland, and the only one until 1979.
she left the government with Eamon de Valera and other Anti-Treaty politicians, was jailed again in 1923 and led 92 other women on hunger strike before being released (within a month). she joined Fianna Fáil and was elected again to represent the party in the Dáil Éireann but died before taking her seat.
while I was traveling, I heard a fair bit about the comparative progressiveness of Irish women, and how many fought as ardently and stubbornly for rights as other freedom fighters. there wasn’t any one figure, however, who stuck out to me until I started writing up about the Easter Rising. our tour only allowed for a few words on some of the more well-known figures involved (Pearse, de Valera, Plunkett), but there remained a sense that the Countess was something out of the ordinary. now I know why.