Revolutionary Woman: Kathleen Clarke
Kathleen Daly Clarke was born in Co. Limerick in 1878 into a family with strong Republican tradition. Her uncle was John Daly, of Fenian fame and her brother Edward
who was a key player in the Easter Rising.
She was politically active in republican circles and was soon acquainted with long time Republican Thomas Clarke.
Married in 1901, they left Ireland soon after for America. They returned to Ireland in 1907, when Kathleen became an active participant in the Cumann na mBan.
It was not long before she was a key figure in that organisation which helped to raise funds for the Volunteers. She also played a big part in the planning of O'Donovan Rossa's famous funeral.
As a guard against the arrest of the members of the Army Council of the IRB, Kathleen was given access to the information discussed at Council meanings. In the unlikely case that all members of the Council were arrested, the rebellion could go on without them because she was privy to all the going-ons of the leadership.
After both her husband and her brother were executed by British firing squads, she was interred in Dublin Castle. Shortly after being released she suffered a miscarriage. Her support for an independent Irish Republic never faltered amid tragedy and she continued her activism. She was again arrested in 1918 in the mass arrests regarding the sham "German Plot."
As a member of the Dail in 1922, she voted against the Treaty of Surrender, walking out with the rest of the Fianna Failers. She believed 26 counties was not what her husband and brother were dedicated to and gave their lives for. She is quoted as saying: "Great God! Did I ever think I would live to see it; to see men who were the bravest, now fooled that this 'Treaty' means a realisation of our highest ideals?" I believe it is safe to say that the most recent treaty of surrender (1998) would be just as despicable to this dedicated Republican woman.
It was not long before Kathleen was at odds with the De Valera regime, as he and his cronies seemed to have no respect for women in his government.
In 1939, Kathleen Clarke was the first woman elected Lord Mayor of Dublin City. Her first act as Mayor was to deny the William III mayoral chain and demand a new chain that was not linked to British Royalty. Her second act was to remove a painting of the dead Queen Victoria from the Mayoral Mansion. She claimed she could not get a wink of sleep while that painting hung in her place of residence.
Kathleen Clarke died in 1972 in Liverpool. She was given a deserved "state" (too bad it was the "Free" State) funeral and was buried in Dean's Grange Cemetery. She is a shining example of the wonderful women who are often neglected in the wide scope of Republican history.