To mark the opening of the Rosie Hackett bridge, two tours on May 20th & 25th were commissioned by the Irish Women Workers Union commemorative committee and the Rosie Hackett Bridge campaign. The tours were researched and held by Ingenious Ireland.
And with a name like “Obstreperous Lassies walking tour: the rebellious women of 1913-1916”, how could you not be tempted?
I was lucky enough to make it to the second tour,on the 25th, and it opened my eyes as to how much women’s history in Dublin there actually is. As we trundled from the remains of the Jacob’s Biscuit factory (now DIT on Aungier Street) all the way to Liberty Hall, we stopped and delved into the stories of everyday extraordinary women along the way.
The sheer number of women discussed took my breath awayand lead to much frantic note taking on my behalf so I could research them all later. Everyone got a mention, from politicos who everybody will know (or at least should recognise) like Constance Markievicz who has a yearly day school held in her honour, Rosie Hackett who is renowned for her union work, to those literally airbrushed out of history like Elizabeth O’Farrell and her partner Julia Grenan. These women were actresses, activists, business women, declared martyrs and union heads. Their struggles were innumerable but each one is deserving of the recognition they got. It makes you wonder how many others have been forgotten.
Topics covered included: the early fight for sex workers’ rights through the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts; the 1913 lockout where Rosie cut her teeth in unionised struggle; the role of women in the 1916 Rising which ranges from nurse and dispatcher to bomb maker and sniper; Suffrage and the political firsts of women in positions of mayor, councillor, MP and TD, with special tribute paid to the women of the IWWU involved in the 1945 laundry strikes.
Some photos from the tour
I refuse to give the whole tour away so if you’re intrigued at all, Ingenious Ireland tend to hold it on relevant dates such as International Women’s Day. Outside of that, the tour is no longer available except for group bookings, so if you really need to go now get some friends together and make an afternoon of it.
At the final stop of the tour I was rather lucky to be part of a little singalong of the laundry workers song as displayed on the Liberty Hall plaque to the IWWU. Which I think is as good a place as any for me to round up, as well.
To be sung to the tune of Lilli Marlene
Outside the laundry we put up a fight
For a Fortnight’s Holiday.
They said we would have to strike,
So we keep marching up and down,
As we nearly did for half a crown.
We are a fighting people,
Who can’t be kept down.
Then they gave us one week,
But we wanted two,
And we well deserved it
For the work we had to do.
There for a long nine hours a day.
In heat and steam we have to stay.
Then they gave us one week out of fifty-two.
The employers put a statement in the “Irish Press”,
It was all untrue. But how could people guess?
So now that they have heard our story true,
We leave it all to you,
To help us in our battle,
To gain what we are due.
Note: The tour was supported by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), whose support allowed for discounted ticket prices.
For more information:
Read “These Obstreperous Lassies: a history of the Irish women’s workers union” by Mary Jones