Legacy: The Women of 2016

Countess Markievicz. Elizabeth O’Farrell. Nellie Gifford. Margaret Skinnider. Mary Childers. Dr Kathleen Lynn. Mary Spring Rice. Rose McNamara. Hanna Sheehy Skeffington.

These are just some of the women that we have come to celebrate, remember and discuss in the commemoration of Ireland’s political freedom. They created a legacy.

On April 29th 1916, Elizabeth O’Farrell walked from Moore Street to Parnell Street, dodging bullets to deliver the surrender. She completed her journey safely but in the photograph documenting the surrender, only Padraig Pearse and two British soldiers feature. O’Farrell’s role in that historic moment is diminished to just a depiction of her boots, which was completely erased when the image was printed in a British newspaper.

Ireland’s history is brimming with moments where women were silenced and erased from our public records. The New York Times calls it ‘Eire-brushing’.

Reading these women’s stories in Mary McAuliffe and Liz Gillis’, ‘We Were There’, you can’t help but feel that by being an Irish woman or a woman in Ireland, you are quite unique. Our ancestors were shaped by political injustices and a Constitution which still legally states that ‘by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved’. Thank you, De Valera.

Yet, we are resilient, bold, optimistic, powerful, educated, angry, kind and ready for change.

The legacy of the women of 1916 continues to impact on quotidian life but whilst it is essential that we celebrate the successes of the past, we must too congratulate the women who are making a difference and creating conversations in 2016. Their legacy is yet to unfold but it is a very promising start.


Below are sixteen declarations of legacy from many of the women who inspire me most. I posed the question – What do you want your legacy to be? The word count was limitless and whilst common themes have arisen, what’s commissioned here is very special indeed.

Aoiph wishes to be a platform to celebrate the work and legacies of others. Fiona wants to feel safe walking on her own at night. Elaine describes legacy as a group effort and wants to be a strong foothold for other women. I want my legacy to not be narrated by story of triumph over adversity, I want it to be filled with stories of how I loved and was loved.

Anna wishes to make young people life and to help them realise that whatever their challenge, they’ll be ok. Tara wants to live in an Ireland we deserve – one that questions everything and doesn’t impose beliefs on others. Sarah wants to leave behind work that offers a sense of belonging and provides bravery to those who invest in it. Patricia wishes to advocate, support and encourage the voices of others – particularly those who traditionally could not speak for themselves.

Belinda desires to create a culture that allows young girls to freedom to dress and be how they choose, despite their gender. At just 17, Jodie’s not sure about what her legacy might be but she wants it to be positive, strong and to benefit others. Siún aspires to ask challenging questions – bilingually. Niamh wants autonomy for her body and for all Irish women.

Shawna seeks to create a haven where people can learn about, question and challenge sex. Sarah hopes that her existence has a positive impact on those she loves and that her actions and words have made their lives better – even just a little. Jeanne wants to give more compliments – even if she doesn’t truly believe them. Clara Rose critiques on Ireland’s experience of oppression and how it should, but doesn’t, make us more receptive to others’ injustices and humanity.

With political unrest, economic uncertainty and it being ten years since ‘Spiceworld’ was released, one could be concerned but I am encouraged and excited for the next generation of Irish women. They are being given a tremendous legacy.


Aoiph recommends that you become familiar with ‘Hamilton’‘Valerie Molay’, ‘Eileen Flynn’ and ‘Vanessa Lacey’. Oh, and the host of this newsletter too.

Elaine recommends that you find opportunities to use this GIF all day, every day. I agree.

Written by

Sinéad Burke is an academic and a writer with an obsessive interest in fashion, education and 'Extraordinary Women'. She is an ambassador for the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and the National Women's Council of Ireland.

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