Yesterday was International Women’s Day. Among the many events worldwide was the Feminist Walking Tour of Dublin. It sounded interesting when I heard about it just the day before, but I was hesitant to go: It had been an exhausting week between my mom’s recovery from a hip fracture and my preparing a lecture on education and community for Wednesday evening. The weather forecast promised rain; there was a Six Nations rugby match (best not discussed after yesterday); and I wasn’t certain I’d be welcome on the tour, not knowing anyone else there.
Fortunately, and without any doubt in the end, I made the right decision. It turned out that there was not only an enlightening and enjoyable tour, but soup and sandwiches afterwards at the Teachers Club, short movies, a distro (books, zines, and other publications), music, and lots of good discussion.
I had the impression that the organizers expected 20-30 people to show up. But there were at least 120, maybe up to 150, not counting various people who joined in for brief times along the way. What was planned as one group turned into two with an impressing display of organization on the part of Choice Ireland and the RAG collective. One organizer pointed out that their non-hierarchical structure made it easier to respond to unexpected events.
My group was led by Carol Hunt, a history postgraduate student at Trinity and writer for the Irish Independent. She was an excellent guide, leading us from St Stephen’s Green, to the Mansion House, Trinity College, O’Connell St, the Garden of Remembrance, and other spots, each being important sites for women’s history in Ireland. At various stops, others presented on issues such as immigrant rights or women’s centers masquerading as offering full reproductive counseling while in fact proselytizing. I learned far too much to try to convey here, but you can see the tour map and background information in a beautiful and very well-designed booklet, which should still be available in hard copy or pdf.
The tour was bracketed by two precipitations. In the beginning, we were standing next to the seat honoring Louie Bennett and Helen Chenevix. Bennett, a novelist, pacisit, and labor organzer, helped found the Irish Women’s Suffrage Federation, played an active role in the Dublin lockout, helped found the Irish Women’s Reform League, and was active for years in the Irish Women Workers’ Union. As Carol began talking, we had a brief burst of hail. Someone called out that God was a male and He was not pleased!
Then, at our last stop, someone threw potatoes from an upper story window, injuring one of the people on the tour. It’s amazing how cowardly some people can be and how afraid they are of others simply trying to learn.
After the tour, there was a social event in the Teacher’s Club at Parnell Sq. We saw two short films, including The Future of Feminism, by Cara Holmes and Breaking the Silence, by Katie Gillum. There was good music from Heathers, some of which you can hear on their Myspace site. I’m still working to complete all of the exercises in the activity booklet for children designed by Aileen Curtin!
I include the video below only because it gives a taste of the time of Countess Constance Markievicz. I learned on the tour that of all the great women in Irish history, and of all the many statues in Dublin, she is the only woman to have one. All of the other statues of women are of fictional characters or the Virgin Mary.
Markievicz was second in command of the St Stephen’s Green Citizen Army force during the Easter Rising of 1916. Court-martialed afterwards, her potential execution was commuted to life imprisonment because of her gender. She famously replied: “I do wish your lot had the decency to shoot me.”