‘A voice in directing the affairs of Ireland’: L’Irlande libre, The Shan Van Vocht and Bean na h-Eireann
In an early number of Bean na h-Eireann, the journal of the Inghinidhe na h-Eireann (Daughters of Erin), the editorial proclaims, ‘Our desire to have a voice in directing the affairs of Ireland is not based on the failure of men to do so properly, but is the inherent right of women as loyal citizens and intelligent human souls.’1 Published monthly, though not always regularly, between 1908 and 1912, the Bean, edited by Helena Moloney, proudly declared itself in a later issue (no. 18) ‘the first and only Nationalist Woman’s paper’. It had, however, been preceded and in part made possible by two journals which, although not declaring themselves to be ‘Nationalist Women’s papers’, were edited by nationalist women. These were L’Irlande libre, edited, and often largely written, by Maud Gonne in France between 1896 and 1897; and The Shan Van Vocht (The Poor Old Woman), edited by Alice Milligan and Anna Johnson in Belfast between 1896 and 1898. All three journals were products of the desire of Irish women ‘to have a voice in directing the affairs of Ireland’, at a time when women were excluded from the vote and hence from parliamentary debate, and also from most of the nationalist organisations, both political and cultural, which sought to subvert English dominance. In varying degrees, all three carry the double-edged implication of that Bean editorial which both denies distrust of men and asserts it with a typographical emphasis which brings their failure into prominence.
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