This body of work that I have been working on is inspired by the fact that over the past 100 years the contribution that Irish women made in securing our independence has not been fully acknowledged. The 1916 proclamation begins by invoking "Irishmen and Irish Women". The Irishmen who led the Easter Rising have found their place amongst the pantheon of Irish heroes. Sadly, no such recognition has been given to the many women who played pivotal roles in Ireland's struggle for independence. Indeed the number who took part in the Easter Rising has been greatly disputed. It wasn't until recently on the 8th March 2016, on Women's International Day in Dublin where President Michael D. Higgins paid tribute to them that I became aware that in actual fact there were over 300 women who took part.
Quote: President Michael D. Higgins on Women's International Day Royal Hospital Dublin.
"It is my very great pleasure to have this opportunity to acknowledge publicly the great contribution of Irish women to the Easter Rising of 1916 and to the revolutionary movement at large.
May I start by paying tribute to those historians who have so diligently documented the vital part that women played in the struggle for Irish freedom, thus ensuring that those who were long described as "forgotten women of 1916" are not forgotten any more.
We now know the names of the 300 women who were "out" in the Rising, and we should never miss an opportunity to say those names. We know that those women had different political convictions and ideas about the future of Ireland. We know that they came from all over Ireland - a few had even been born and raised abroad - and from all social classes. Some of them had university degrees, others were teenagers from working class families; some were born into Fenian families, others were of unionist stock. There were shop assistants, nurses, factory workers, artists, trade unionists, teachers, mothers and a doctor among them.”
I have always been passionate about our heritage and culture and felt driven to create this body of work mainly because of the lack of information in relation to how many women were involved. Having sourced the list of over 300 names from the Minister for Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht, prior to them being made public, I wanted to celebrate their role collectively, in that whatever form the work would take, it would not put someone’s contribution before another's.
I had applied to the ER Program at Emmanuel College Boston, MA., USA where there is a Social Justice Participant selected each year. I felt that my proposal would slot very well into the program and also that there is such a strong cultural connection between Ireland and America, particularly Boston, and also because of the facilities available to me there.
Having worked tirelessly on the installation it was realized and the installation was exhibited at Emmanuel College, Boston and the Irish Cultural Center in Canton, New England, MA. and the Maine Irish Heritage Centre, Portland, Maine.
The installation is called “Nir neart gur cur le cheile” and includes 300 handmade ceramic bowls, each of the bowls has a name inscribed onto its base. These bowls have been arranged in a circle on the floor and lit with candles. The second piece in the installation is a green wall hanging approx. 7 feet x 7 feet with 300 white ladies handkerchiefs loosely attached to green buttons, each embroidered with a ladies initials in orange and finally the third piece in the installation a video piece, where the names in white script of the 300 women are floating over a sea of tears to the music The Celtic Sunset.
At each location I have invited a musician to play Mna na hEireann alongside the work.
Beth Newman Maguire