Home grown hero remembered
IRD Duhallow Women's forum remember Hanna Sheehy Skeffington
With International Women's Day marked throughout the country, the IRD Duhallow Women's Forum were not going to let the day pass without remembering its great suffrage leader and home grown hero, Hanna Skeehy Skeffington.
Hanna Sheehy Skeffington was the outspoken Irish and International suffragette, who was born Hannah Sheehy in Millhouse, Kanturk in 1877. As one of our most accomplished Duhallow born women, she was allocated a page in the Mná Duhallow Calendar of 2002. Later on in 2005 a life sized monument, depicting Hannah with a Ballot Box, was erected in her honour by IRD Duhallow's Women's Forum in Kanturk Town Park around the site of the old Mill Wheel beside where the Sheehy home stood. The unveiling was followed by a Conference ,'The Role of Women in Politics and Decision making,' which attracted a large attendance with a range of high profile speakers including her Granddaughter Michelline Sheehy Skeffington of UCG and Margaret Ward from UCC, who has written a fantastic book on Hannah's life.
Hanna was an outspoken suffragette, born into a highly political family. Her father, David Sheehy, was an Irish party MP and her uncle Eugene, a priest, was a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood. From a very early age in her life Hanna believed in women's rights, even to the detriment of her relationship with her conservative father, who always worked against her.
In 1900, Hanna met the republican pacifist, Francis Skeffington. He integrated Hanna's surname with his own when they married in 1903 and their son Owen was born in 1909. The union of two, radical, progressive thinkers was a touching one as they were completely devoted to each other. In 1908, Hanna and Francis and their friends Gretta and James Cousins founded the militant "Irish Women's Franchise League" to fight for Women's right to vote and for Women's Citizenship to be included in the Home Rule Bill. Hanna went to prison in 1912 after a window smashing protest against the refusal of the Irish party, to support votes for women and was imprisoned again in 1914. Ironically, her father was an Irish Party MP.
In 1916, her husband Francis, was brutally murdered by Captain Bowen Colthurst because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. This left Hanna even more determined, during the Easter Rising she carried supplies and messages between outposts.
Hanna was an energetic public speaker with remarkable integrity. She was an astute militant and radical intellectual who hoped for a "generation of new, strong Sheehy Skeffington women". She was one of the most remarkable of all the activists produced by revolutionary Ireland. A speaker of extraordinary acumen and discernment, she was well versed in international as well as Irish national affairs and was influential in literary, political, and feminist movements. In the end Hanna was simply worn out by her lifestyle. She died in April of 1946. While still a young mother Hannah travelled across the United States promoting the Vote for Women as well as other women's rights.
If anyone is in the Kanturk region over the next few weeks, please take the time to drop into Kanturk Park (entrance beside Centra) and visit the monument hounouring one of Duhallow's greatest women.
Duhallow Women's Forum, Chaired by Judy O Leary of Millstreet, focuses on enhancing the participation of women in community development and local decision making. The Duhallow Women's Forum is recognised as playing a significant role in promoting the role of women in society. The Duhallow Women's Forum has played a substantial role in the lives of local women for the past 18 years. Offering the opportunity for women's groups from Duhallow to collaborate and network with each other has allowed for the sharing of information and ideas and has succeeded in building the confidence levels of women in the region. Through encouraging their participation in a wide range of training courses, workshops, seminars and conferences and promoting gender balance on Boards and Committees.