Wednesday 26 March 2014

Cumann na mBan Centenary commemorations

Handbill issued to advertise an anti-conscription
meeting held in Dublin’s Mansion House.
Image courtesy of the National Library of Ireland
As part of the Decade of Centenaries programme, a series of events will take place next week to mark the centenary of the foundation of Cumann na mBan.

Cumann na mBan was formed in Dublin on 2 April 1914 as a women's nationalist organisation which would work alongside the Irish Volunteers formed in 1913. The aims of Cumann na mBan (the Irish Women's Council), as set out at the time in membership booklets, were:
  • To advance the cause of Irish liberty
  • To organise Irishwomen in furtherance of this object
  • To assist in arming and equipping a body of Irishmen for the defence of Ireland
  • To form a fund for these purposes to be called "The Defence of Ireland Funds"
The organisation, which within six months had 60 branches across Ireland, is associated with many of the leading female figures of the time.

During the Rising, members of Cumann na mBan – who were drawn from all walks of life – risked life and limb to travel throughout Dublin delivering messages, food, and medical supplies. A number of members also took an active part in the fighting.

A range of events will take place over a four-day period from 2 April to mark the Centenary of the Foundation of Cumann na mBan.

Underpinning the commemorative programme is a commemoration ceremony at Glasnevin Cemetery, led by President Micheal D. Higgins accompanied by Minister Jimmy Deenihan.

 Here's the schedule:

Wednesday 2 April
10.30am - A wreath will be laid at the grave of prominent Cumann na mBan member, Elizabeth O'Farrell, at Glasnevin Cemetery, Glasnevin, Dublin 11, by Minister Jimmy Deenihan.

11.30am - A Commemoration ceremony to mark the Centenary of the Foundation of Cumann na mBan will then take place at Glasnevin Cemetery. The ceremony, which will be led by the President, Michael D. Higgins accompanied by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan TD, will include the laying of a wreath by the President as well as selected readings and music resonant of the historical period.

Members of the public are welcome to attend the ceremony and should be in position in the public viewing areas at Glasnevin Cemetery no later than 11am.

Following the State Commemoration - When the Presidential commemoration ceremony has concluded, invited guests will proceed to the Glasnevin Milestone Gallery at Glasnevin Museum for a brief address from President Higgins, followed by a Memorial Lecture in honour of the foundation of Cumann na mBan, delivered by Dr. Mary McAuliffe, President of the Women's History Association of Ireland (WHAI). Owing to space constraints at the venue, these proceedings will be relayed by public address system.

Thursday 3 April
7pm - A plaque will be unveiled by Minister Deenihan at Wynn’s Hotel, Lower Abbey Street, Dublin 1. Wynn’s Hotel was the venue for the inaugural meeting of Cumann na mBan.  

Friday 4 April and Saturday 5 April
12.00 - A major conference exploring the foundation, work and legacy of Cumann na mBan will be held by the Women’s History Association of Ireland at the National Museum, Collins Barracks, Dublin. Supported by the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht, in association with University College Dublin and the Mater Dei Institute of Education (DCU), the conference is free to attend but a place must be reserved in advance. Further details.