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At home in the Revolution: what women said and did in 1916

by  Lucy McDiarmid
€ 15.00

Book Details

Published by Royal Irish Academy

November 2015

Paperback / softback

Number of pages: 300

ISBN: 9781908996749


INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award 2015 - History - USA, 2016 - Winner: Bronze

On Monday morning 24 April 1916, Catherine Byrne jumped through a window on the side of the GPO on O’Connell Street to join the Irish revolution; Mairead Ní Cheallaigh served breakfast to Patrick and Willie Pearse, their last home-cooked meal, and then went out to set up an emergency hospital with members of Cumann na mBan; Máire Nic Shiubhlaigh persuaded Thomas MacDonagh to let her into the garrison at Jacob’s Biscuit Factory; and Elsie Mahaffy, daughter of the Provost of Trinity, was in her bedroom ‘completing her toilet’ when her sister came in to tell her that ‘the Sinn Féiners had risen.’

At Home in the Revolution derives its material from women’s own accounts of the Easter Rising, interpreted broadly to include also the Howth gun-running and events that took place over the summer of 1916 in Ireland. These eye-witness narratives -- diaries, letters, memoirs, autobiographies, and official witness statements -- were written by nationalists and unionists, Catholics and Protestants, women who felt completely at home in the garrisons, cooking for the men and treating their wounds, and women who stayed at home during the Rising.

The book’s focus is on the kind of episode usually ignored by traditional historians: cooking with bayonets, arguing with priests, resisting sexual harassment, soothing a female prostitute, doing sixteen-hand reels in Kilmainham Gaol, or disagreeing with Prime Minister Asquith about the effect of the Rising on Dublin’s architecture. The women’s ‘small behaviours’, to use Erving Goffman’s term, reveal social change in process, not the official history of manifestos and legislation, but the unofficial history of access to a door or a leap through a window; they show how issues of gender were negotiated in a time of revolution.

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‘There’s a particular pleasure in the well-told anecdote. But in historical scholarship, “well-told” also involves  finding the larger meaning of the individual episode. At this, Lucy McDiarmid [...] clearly excels’. James Clyde Sellman for Colloquy, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences alumni magazine of Harvard University. 

‘This work is an exemplar of how to do and write women’s history. Although bookshelves may be groaning with the weight of 1916-themed books this is one book no one interested in the 1916 Rising can be without’. Mary McAuliffe for History Ireland.

'Few books published for the centenary of 1916 will be as original, as entertaining, as thoroughly researched or as well written as this analysis of women's words, ideas and actions during the Easter Rising'. Angela Bourke for the Irish Times. Read the full review here.

'In the torrent of history books published to mark the 1916 centenary, a small number will stand out as worthy of repeated reprint. Lucy McDiarmid’s At Home In The Revolution is one of those books. Its concept is innovative, its substance is enlightening and surprising, and its style and production are a joy to read and hold'. Eoin Ó Broin for the Sunday Business Post. Read the full review here.

'The book is at once a political study of shifting gender relations as well as a thoroughly researched, vivid, emotional, and often comic look at forgotten stories of the Rising that will entertain as much as it will enlighten'. Adam Farley for Irish America Magazine. Read the full review here.

Public Talks:

Lucy McDiarmid will be speaking about At home in the revolution at a series of public talks. Find her provisional schedule here below:


3 February, 12.15-2pm: 'Fairies, Rebels, and the Boundaries of the House in 1916', Boston College, USA


21 February, 7-8pm:  interview with Susan Cahill for ‘Talking History’, Newstalk 106-108fm

28 February, 12.30-2pm: ‘Waking the Feminists’ event at Fordham University, New York

10 March, 7pm: ‘1916 Women’ event at Farmleigh, Dublin

12 March, 3pm: 'Jumping into the GPO: women’s access to the Rising', Kilkenny Castle

14 March, 6pm: ‘Women and the Rising; Lucy McDiarmid in conversation with Patricia Coughlan', Farmgate Cafe - English Market Princes Street, Cork

19 March:  talk at County Library in Ballinamore, Leitrim 

22 March, 7.30pm: Pádraig de Brún lecture, National University of Ireland Galway

28 March, 11am: 'Jumping into the GPO: How women entered male space in 1916', DIT Aungier Street

28 March, 5pm: 'Dublin, Easter 1916: What was it like?', Trinity College Dublin

2 April, 10am-5pm: Taste of the Yeats Summer School, Glucksman Ireland House, New York University

23 April: conference on ‘The Trans-Atlantic Context of the Rising’, Glucksman Ireland House, New York University

25-29 July: International Association for the Study of Irish Literature Annual Conference, University College Cork

21 September: 'At Home in the Easter Rising: Fairies, Rebels, and 1916', Queens College CUNY, New York

1 October, 11.45am: ''the first time I saw a whole salmon cooked': Encounters with the wealthy in Gort and the GPO', Lady Gregory Autumn Gathering, Gort

3 October, 5pm: 'The Muse on the Train: 21st Century Irish Railroad Poems', Women and the Decade of Commemorations: An All-Island Perspective, Maynooth University

About the authors

Lucy McDiarmid

Lucy McDiarmid's scholarly interest in cultural politics, especially quirky, colourful, suggestive episodes, is exemplified by The Irish Art of Controversy (2005) and Poets and the Peacock Dinner: the literary history of a meal (2014). She is a past president of the American Conference for Irish Studies and a former fellow of the Guggenheim Foundation and of the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library.