Random Ramblings from a Republican
Friday, February 04, 2005
Celebrating the Countess' Birthday!
The Countess

Constance Gore-Booth was born into an Ascendancy family on Feb. 4, 1868 at Buckingham Gate in London. Her father, Sir Henry Gore-Booth was a philanthropist and a traveler with an estate in Co. Sligo. The Gore-Booths were known as fair and understanding landlords. It was probably being raised in the atmosphere of fairness concerning the welfare of the common man that would shape both Constance and her sister Eva's future as helpers of the people.

During her early life, Constance was exposed to the usual circles of the upper echelon of both Irish and English society. She became interested in the budding literary society in Ireland and was introduced to the young and talented poet, William Butler Yeats.

In 1893, she left Ireland for London, where she attended Slade School to fulfill her ambition as an artist. Five years later, she left London for Paris, where she attended the Julian School. It was here that she met her future husband, Count Casimir Dunin Markievicz, an artist from a wealthy Polish family. At the time of their introduction, the Count was still married, but not long after his wife became ill and died. Constance and Casimir were married in September of 1901.

Before Christmas of 1901, the Countess gave birth to her only child with Casimir. The girl's name was Maeve and she was to be raised by her grandparents at Lissadel. It was only two years after Maeve's birth that Constance and Casimir moved to Dublin. Constance set out to make herself a name as a landscape artist as well as in the city's social scene.

1906 was a year that saw a great revelation in the Countess' life. She and the Count moved into a cottage outside of Dublin; a cottage that was previously inhabited by the poet and nationalistic minded Padraic Colum. The poet left behind stacks of copies of Sinn Fein and the Peasant magazines, which the Countess read with great interest.

These magazines and the thoughts they expressed helped to form the nationalist feelings of the Countess and bring them to the forefront of her life. In 1908, she joined Sinn Fein, founded only three years earlier by Arthur Griffith, as well as Maude Gonne's Inghinidhe na hEireann. She joined her sister Eva in Manchester at the end of that year, to stand for public office on a social reform platform. There was no chance for success, considering the attitude towards women in politics at the time.

1909 saw the founding of Na Fianna Eireann by the Countess. They were a scouting organisation teaching young people military drill and involving them in outdoor activities. Her legacy in that organisation carries on to this day.

By 1911, Constance was a part of the Sinn Fein executive and was deeply involved in the growing labour unrest in Dublin. It was around this time that she was first arrested for her labour protest activities. During the lockout of 1913, she ran a soup kitchen for the union workers as well as actively protesting in support of leaders such as Larkin, Skeffington and Connolly.

By the time the First World War broke out, Casimir had become unsatisfied with married life and left for the Balkans to fight for the Czar in the Imperial Cavalry. The Countess tried not to let this personal heartbreak affect her work; she joined and led anti-war protests in Dublin as thousands of young Irishmen died in the trenches of the Somme and Ypres.

(Continued tomorrow...)  
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Ta ar la anois.

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