NPHFI 2018 Conference: Women, press & the vote

GALWAY ~ The Irish Citizen, a Dublin-based feminist newspaper published from 1912 to 1920, not only covered women’s struggle to obtain the right to vote, but also produced ground-breaking reporting about sexual assault and other abuses, especially among domestic servants. The paper was 100 years ahead of the #MeToo Movement.

As alternative media, the Citizen “privileged a journalism wedded to social responsibility rather than the ideology of objectivity” claimed by the mainstream press, Louis Ryan, professor of sociology at the University of Sheffield, told the Newspaper and Periodical History Forum of Ireland 2018 Conference, “The Press and the Vote.”

Irish suffragettes faced a more complex struggle than their British sisters, Ryan said. When Irish women sought support from the Irish Parliamentary Party, then trying to secure Home Rule, the male politicians said wait until Ireland secured domestic political autonomy. Militant Irish republicans criticized the feminists for wanting any franchise at all with the London government.

Women on both shores of the Irish Sea obtained limited voting rights in February 1918. In December 1918, Irish nationalist Constance Markeivicz, who was jailed for her role in an anti-conscription protest, became the first woman elected to the British House of Common. She refused to take the seat, instead joining the revolutionary parliament in Dublin and the ensuing Irish War of Independence.

The Citizen, which survived the turmoil of the 1916 Easter Rising and the Great War on the continent, folded before the Irish conflict was resolved a few years later. But the paper left an invaluable feminist archive, Ryan said.

For this year’s centennial, she has published an updated and revised edition of her 1996 book, Winning the Vote for Women: The Irish Citizen newspaper and the suffrage movement in Ireland, available from Four Courts Press. Listen to an April 2018 podcast on Dublin City FM’s Mediascope.

Louise Ryan

The first day of the NPHFI Conference featured nine other excellent presentations about the role of newspapers in the 1918 British elections, corrupt elections practices in 20th century Ireland, the Catholic Standard newspaper’s anti-communism campaign in the 1950s, and other topics. Nine more presentations are scheduled for 10 November.

See the full agenda.

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