columbariumA columbarium is a place for the respectful and usually public storage of cinerary urns (i.e. urns holding a deceased’s cremated remains). The term comes from the Latin columba (dove) and originally referred to compartmentalized housing for doves and pigeons (see dovecote). The Columbarium of Pomponius Hylas is a particularly fine ancient Roman example, rich in frescoes, decorations and precious mosaics. Roman columbaria were built underground.[1]

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  • Why Didn’t The Crusades Succeed?


  • The First Japanese Man in America

    The First Japanese Man in America

    Adam Stanley

    A teenager shipwrecked on a Pacific atoll helped transform relations between Japan and the United States.
    A Japanese teenager named Manjirō, from an impoverished family in a tiny fishing village, found himself thrust into a struggle for survival after being shipwrecked on a Pacific atoll in 1841. Following a dramatic maritime rescue, Manjirō was catapulted into a decade-long series of adventures in which he became the first Japanese known to have lived in the United States, circumnavigated the globe and then participated in the California Gold Rush. Yet Manjirō never lost his desire to return home to ‘closed’, isolationist Japan. After a daring effort at repatriation, his knowledge of the United States made him a valuable resource for his native government at the moment that Japan faced the dilemma of ‘opening’ to the West. His story and its significance have been overlooked, but Manjirō (Japanese commoners at that time rarely had surnames) played an integral role in Japan’s relations with the West and its transformation into a ‘modernised’ state in the second half of the 19th century.Manjirō’s odyssey began in January 1841, when, concerned about supporting his impoverished widowed mother and siblings, he journeyed from his village of Nakanohama, on Shikoku, smallest of Japan’s four main islands, to the larger fishing village of Usa (Nishihama) searching for work. He was taken on as a crewman on a small fishing vessel. At 14, Manjirō was the youngest of the five-man crew, which included his shipmates, the brothers Fudenojō, Jūsuke and Goemon, as well as their neighbour, Toraemon. The crew had little luck catching fish during their first couple of days at sea. Then, suddenly raking in a sizeable catch, they waited too long to move away from an oncoming storm. Hit by heavy winds and rains, the ship became disabled, drifting helplessly in the Pacific for about a week, until the crew spotted an island and rowed towards it using broken planks from their boat as makeshift oars. Attempting landfall the next morning, choppy waves made their landing hazardous as they drew close to the shore. Their boat was smashed into pieces by the rocks and rough surf and Jūsuke’s leg was badly broken.With their boat destroyed, the crew began a search of their surroundings. The small volcanic island of Torishima was uninhabited and offered little in the way of edible vegetation. They found a small cave to provide them shelter, but it was a meagre existence and, as time passed, their health deteriorated badly. On 27 June 1841, a US whaling ship, the John Howland, passed within sight of the island and its crew noticed the stranded castaways waving frantically for help. After more than five months on Torishima, the Japanese fishermen were brought on board.On pain of deathThe John Howland was in the midst of an anticipated three-year whaling expedition, having left its home port of New Bedford, Massachusetts in late October 1839 with a crew of 28 men. Its captain, William Whitfield, suspected that the five rescued men were Japanese, meaning he could not return them to their country. For more than two centuries, Japan’s ruling Tokugawa shogunate had adhered to an isolationist policy that included a prohibition against Japanese returning home after having left their native country, on pain of death, as the Japanese castaways knew. The Japanese government’s policies likewise precluded a US ship like the John Howland from entering Japan’s ports. The Japanese fishermen thus remained on board while the John Howland continued its voyage, hunting whales in order to obtain valuable oil, used as a source of illumination among other purposes. Manjirō observed the US crew at work and learned the rudiments of the English language. The Americans took a liking to him and christened him ‘John Mung’. Five months after rescuing the castaways, the John Howland arrived in Honolulu, a popular stopping point for ships in the Pacific. Ships would often remain there for several weeks before heading back out to sea.Whitfield made arrangements to help the Japanese begin new lives in Honolulu, but seeing promise in Manjirō, he offered to take him to Massachusetts. Although communication was limited by the language barrier that Manjirō was only beginning to overcome, it was clear that the childless, 36-year-old Whitfield was offering to make Manjirō something of a surrogate son. Manjirō accepted the captain’s offer, bidding farewell to his countrymen and remaining on the John Howland. After another season of whaling in the Pacific, the ship arrived in New Bedford on 7 May 1843. Manjirō made the US his country of residence, becoming the first known Japanese to do so. Still, he hoped at some future point to return home.Whitfield lived in the town of Fairhaven, just across the River Acushnet from neighbouring New Bedford. Upon returning, he married a woman named Albertina Keith, to whom he had become engaged before departing on the John Howland. Manjirō and the Whitfields subsequently lived as a family in Fairhaven. Whitfield arranged a tutor for Manjirō and, despite the fact that he had had no formal education in Japan, Manjirō’s academic skills, including his command of English, were soon proficient enough that he was enrolled in a one-room schoolhouse in Fairhaven. Early in 1844, Whitfield managed to get Manjirō admitted to the more exclusive and prestigious Bartlett School for Mathematics, Navigation and Surveying in Fairhaven. Whitfield recognised that Manjirō’s time aboard the John Howland had a given him a love of life at sea. If Manjirō’s desire to return to his homeland were to have any chance of success, he would need to serve on ships headed towards Japan. Enrolment at the Bartlett School would help prepare Manjirō for further seafaring and promised to introduce him to western methods of navigation and seamanship, especially the ability to navigate while out of sight of visible landmarks, a practice then beyond the seafaring capacity of the Japanese. Whitfield also arranged for Manjirō to be apprenticed to a cooper during the summer academic break. Knowledge of cooperage held the potential for an important post on a whaling voyage, as an onboard cooper was necessary to ensure the integrity of the thousands of barrels in which the lucrative whale oil was stored.In 1846, the 19-year-old Manjirō accepted a post as a steward on a whaling ship, the Franklin. Taking a course that was not unusual, the Franklin headed east across the Atlantic and around the southern tip of Africa, then onward to the Indian Ocean and, finally, the whaling grounds of the Pacific. Once the Franklin was east of Japan, Manjirō had at that point circumnavigated the globe. During its voyage, the Franklin stopped in Honolulu, where Manjirō looked forward to seeing his former shipmates. Toraemon informed him that Jūsuke had died, having never fully recovered from the leg injury he sustained coming ashore at Torishima. Meanwhile, Fudenojō (now known as Denzō, since the people on the Hawaiian island of Oahu had struggled to pronounce his name) and Goemon had left about a year earlier aboard a US ship hoping to return to Japan. Toraemon had opted not to go, partly because he feared execution if he returned to Japan. While the Franklin was in Honolulu, Denzō and Goemon came onboard: their attempt to return to Japan had been unsuccessful. Manjirō told them that he intended to earn enough money to allow them to return to Japan together.Voyage to JapanThe Franklin arrived back in New Bedford in September 1849 and Manjirō was paid about $350 for the three-year-plus voyage. He was considering how to earn enough funds to finance a voyage home to Japan. At that time, the discovery of gold in California was the talk of the entire country. Gaining Whitfield’s approval, Manjirō decided to head for the gold fields. He secured passage on a ship bound for San Francisco, then took a steamboat to Sacramento. In just a few months in California, Manjirō made about $600 – enough, he felt, to get himself and his countrymen awaiting him in Honolulu back to Japan. Taking a ship from California, Manjirō returned to Honolulu in October 1850, ready to embark on a daring effort to return home. His plan was to come ashore on the Japanese coast in a longboat lowered from a larger ship. For that purpose he bought a used whaleboat, naming it the Adventurer. A US cargo ship docked at Honolulu, the Sarah Boyd, captained by Jacob Whitmore, was about to depart across the Pacific. He agreed to take Manjirō, Denzō and Goemon on board with their whaleboat. Toraemon again chose not to attempt to return to Japan.The seas were noticeably choppy as the Sarah Boyd approached the Ryukyu Islands, stretching south of Japan’s main islands. They had been chosen as a landing site because of the tenuous nature of Tokugawa rule there. Whitmore encouraged Manjirō to abandon his plan, fearing that the Japanese men would perish if they attempted to reach land. But Manjirō would not be deterred and Whitmore ultimately agreed to have the Adventurer lowered into the water. Rowing furiously to fight the waves, it took Manjirō, Denzō and Goemon hours to reach the shores of what turned out to be the island of Okinawa. It was now early February 1851, ten years since their ill-fated fishing voyage.The three men encountered locals, who gave them food and drink, but soon a few officials arrived, tipped off about the presence of the three strangers. Manjirō and his friends were taken into custody to be questioned and kept in what amounted to house arrest. For six months, local authorities on Okinawa questioned them about their experiences: their misadventure at sea a decade earlier, their rescue, their lives thereafter and the conditions surrounding their return to Japanese soil. Eventually, the three were summoned to Kagoshima, the castle town of the Satsuma domain (whose claims included the Ryukyu Islands) on the south-west tip of Kyushu, where they underwent six more weeks of questioning before the shogunate summoned the three to Nagasaki to be questioned by a panel of officials representing the shogun. Manjirō’s explanations of western culture and technology often confounded his interrogators, who at times dismissed Manjirō’s descriptions of the telegraph, for example, as too far-fetched to be true. Potential dangers lurked in other lines of questioning as well. Prompted to explain what he knew about the US political system and American daily life, Manjirō spoke in seemingly positive tones about US democracy and the greater spirit of social egalitarianism there. The detainees were also required to denounce Christianity, which the Tokugawa had outlawed in the 17th century. On another potentially perilous subject, Manjirō spoke frankly about his desire to see Japanese policy changed to allow foreign ships to access assistance or supplies. At the conclusion of the interrogation sessions, the three men were kept in custody in Nagasaki while the government decided their fate.Manjirō, Denzō and Goemon waited another nine months before being told that they would be taken back to Shikoku. Once there, though, their questioning continued under the leadership of Yamauchi Toyoshige, the daimyō, or lord, of the Tosa domain, a region which encompassed their villages. After more than two additional months of questioning (and more than a year and a half since their landing on Okinawa), the men were released. On 1 October 1852, they travelled to Denzō and Goemon’s home village of Usa before Manjirō set off alone on the longer journey to his village of Nakanohama. Upon reaching the village of his birth, Manjirō, now 25, realised his dream of reuniting with his mother and the rest of his family.Manjirō had been back in Nakanohama for just three days when he was ordered to report back to Lord Yamauchi. More reform-minded than some of his peers, Yamauchi appointed Manjirō as an instructor to teach the sons of local elites (young samurai, mostly) about various topics with which Manjirō was familiar from his time abroad. A lowly fisherman could not hold such an esteemed post, so Manjirō was made a retainer of the daimyō, which elevated him to the status of a samurai. Manjirō taught western technology, navigation and whaling. He introduced his students to the English alphabet, becoming Japan’s first English teacher; he would later publish the first textbook of English-language instruction in Japan. He did so, despite the fact that, since he had no formal education in Japan, Manjirō was all but illiterate in his native language.Black ShipsIn the following year, 1853, Commodore Matthew Perry arrived in Japan with his ‘Black Ships’, demanding on behalf of the US government the opening of Japanese ports. Perry promised to return the following year to receive an answer, leaving the shogunate desperate to determine how to respond. At that moment, Manjirō was the only Japanese with expertise about the US. A matter of days after Perry’s departure, the shogunate summoned Manjirō to Edo (now Tokyo) to advise the authorities. Although Manjirō could provide information about the Americans that no other Japanese possessed, some Tokugawa elites viewed him with suspicion, feeling that Manjirō’s lengthy time abroad and favourable disposition towards the US made him untrustworthy in representing Japanese interests. Because powerful figures in the government objected to Manjirō having any official role in meetings or negotiations with the Americans, he was not allowed to participate directly in subsequent talks between US and Japanese representatives upon Perry’s return. Nonetheless, the shogunate did reward and retain Manjirō for the information he provided and, eventually, the work he would be assigned on the regime’s behalf. He was elevated to a samurai of the shogun, with a high enough rank to take on a surname – he chose Nakahama, in homage to his home village of Nakanohama.Manjirō gave great service to the Tokugawa regime over the following years. He assisted in the design and construction of ships that were larger than those used previously by the Japanese. He completed a Japanese translation (with assistance, since his own knowledge of written Japanese was still developing) of The New American Practical Navigator by Nathaniel Bowditch. Manjirō had studied this important book, from which he had learned the secrets and methods of western navigation, at the Bartlett School in Fairhaven and he had acquired a copy shortly before returning to Japan. As his country’s foremost expert on navigation and seafaring, he was appointed to teach at a newly established naval institution created by the Tokugawa regime. Later, he taught whaling at another school and led Japan’s first commercial whaling expedition.Following Perry’s mission and subsequent negotiations, Japan and the US reached a treaty agreement. A Japanese delegation was sent to the US in 1860 to ratify it. Manjirō was chosen to be part of this first Japanese mission to the US as an interpreter. The principal delegation would travel aboard one ship, with other members on a second, escort ship, the Kanrin-maru, on which Manjirō would travel. For much of the crossing, the ship met with violent storms and rough seas. As his fellow Japanese fell ill from seasickness, overwhelmed by the rough conditions, Manjirō helped to get the ship across the Pacific. A US naval officer on board, John Brooke, wrote glowingly in his journal about Manjirō and noted that he ‘had more to do with the opening of Japan than any other man living’.Once the US had secured a trade agreement with Japan, other nations demanded their privileges as well. Japan’s struggles with western encroachment led to unrest and the emergence of a movement to depose the shogun and replace him as head of state with the emperor of Japan. After the events of the Meiji Restoration made this a reality from 1867, Manjirō’s services continued to be in demand under the new regime: for instance, as an instructor at a school that was the forerunner of the University of Tokyo. The Meiji embarked on a programme of industrialisation and modernisation, including the creation of a mechanised, westernised military. Pursuing knowledge of western military affairs, the Meiji organised an expedition to Europe during the Franco-Prussian War, observing the conflict first hand; Manjirō was part of the delegation. The mission journeyed across the Pacific to the US before going on to Europe. The itinerary included a five-day stay in New York, where Manjirō was granted permission to depart from the delegation for two days to travel to Fairhaven. On an autumn afternoon in October 1870, Whitfield answered a knock at his door and was stunned and elated to see Manjirō for the first time in more than 20 years.Withdrawal from public lifeAfter the mission returned to Japan, Manjirō was reprimanded for venturing away from the delegation. He withdrew from public life, in part due to this censure, but also as a result of health problems. Thereafter, he was not sought out as much for his knowledge of the West; the Meiji government’s greater engagement with the rest of the world meant that Manjirō’s experience and knowledge were no longer unique. Over time, his contributions to Japan’s ‘opening’ to the West and its modernisation in the second half of the 19th century faded from memory. While the descendants of Manjirō and Whitfield maintain a relationship that continues into the 21st century, by the time of Manjirō’s death aged 71 in 1898, his story had been largely forgotten outside of the places he called home on Shikoku and in Massachusetts.Manjirō’s obscurity is vexing not only because of the singular nature of his experience, but also because of the continued influence of his actions, ideas and teaching. His pioneering text on the teaching of English for Japanese speakers continues to influence the instruction of English in Japan to the present day. In addition, a number of Manjirō’s students became influential figures. Fukuzawa Yukichi, who learned English from Manjirō, became a leading figure in Japan’s modernisation and founded Keio University, considered the oldest institution of higher education in Japan – he is featured on Japan’s 10,000-yen bill. Another of Manjirō’s students was Iwasaki Yatarō, who used the knowledge he gained about ships and navigation from Manjirō to start his own shipping company, which blossomed into Mitsubishi. Similarly, Manjirō’s descriptions of US democracy and its constitutional political system influenced some of the leading figures behind the Meiji Restoration and, subsequently, the Meiji Constitution of 1889.When Perry pressed the shogunate for a treaty agreement in the 1850s, Manjirō’s credibility in subverting the long-disseminated stereotypes of westerners as barbarians was considerable, as was his ability to offer first- hand observation and informed knowledge about the West. In part due to Manjirō’s lobbying, Japan embarked on a path of international engagement and modernisation after its centuries-long isolation. From that perspective, it is ironic that the policies that Manjirō advocated in an effort to foster harmonious relations with the US and the West led, decades after his death, to a vicious war between the two nations that Manjirō had worked so hard to bring together.Adam Stanley is Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.
  • The Enigma of Emily Bronte

    The Enigma of Emily Bronte

    Claire O’Callaghan

    Since the moment Emily Brontë died we have tried – and failed – to understand who she was. 
    Although Wuthering Heights (1847) is now acclaimed as a classic of English literature, its author has been remembered less fondly – and rather unfairly. Across numerous Brontë biographies from the Victorian era onwards, Emily has been portrayed in a range of unflattering ways and as the weirdest of the ‘three weird sisters’ – as the poet Ted Hughes called them. She is cast as an old-fashioned, people-hating spinster who roamed alone on the Yorkshire moors with her dog, or as a socially awkward girl-woman who made herself sick – deliberately – whenever she left home. Elsewhere, she is an obstinate figure who refused medical treatment when she needed it most, or an ethereal soul too fragile for the real world. With such eccentric portrayals, it is no wonder that, as the novelist Muriel Spark said, Emily is continually perceived as ‘no normal being’.The task for anyone searching for the ‘real’ Emily, though, is not easy. Our understanding of her is limited because, unlike her elder sister Charlotte, author of Jane Eyre (1847), who left behind a wealth of letters and documents as well as her novels, there is little on which to form a detailed picture of Emily. Apart from her novel and a body of poetry (most of which was private and unpublished in her lifetime), there is a handful of perfunctory letters and documents, the odd sketch, a few ‘diary papers’ (entries she and her younger sister Anne wrote together at intervals every few years) and some essays in French that she wrote while being tutored in Brussels in 1842. With next to nothing bequeathed to us directly from Emily about Emily, scholars have had to rely on alternatives to inform us: mostly Charlotte’s reminiscences of her sister, but also the anecdotes of family, servants and acquaintances. These sources have not always been treated critically nor scrutinised objectively.Today Wuthering Heights is celebrated as a classic text, but this would have been hard to imagine from the responses of some early reviewers. A critic writing in Graham’s Magazine in July 1848 reflected that:There is an old saying that those who eat toasted cheese at night will dream of Lucifer. The author of Wuthering Heights has evidently eaten toasted cheese. How a human being could have attempted such a book as the present without committing suicide before he had finished a dozen chapters, is a mystery. It is a compound of vulgar depravity and unnatural horrors.Another, writing for Britannia (1848), simply put: ‘Read Jane Eyre is our advice, but burn Wuthering Heights.’ The issue was that, except for the damage brought about by obsessive passion, no clear moral message was apparent in a book so violent. As the anonymous critic writing for Douglas Jerrold’s Weekly Newspaper in January 1848 remarked: ‘In Wuthering Heights the reader is shocked, disgusted, almost sickened by details of cruelty, inhumanity and the most diabolical hate and vengeance, and anon come passages of powerful testimony to the supreme power of love – even over demons in human form.’ When Emily died, five reviews were found in her writing bureau; what she made of them is unknown.Charlotte was Emily’s first biographer, publishing a short ‘Biographical Notice’ for both of her sisters in the wake of their deaths from tuberculosis in December 1848 (Emily) and May 1849 (Anne). The piece was intended as a tribute to her sisters and an opportunity for her to clear up confusion about the identity of the ‘Bell brothers’, who had taken the literary world by storm in 1847. Charlotte’s approach to the task was, however, unorthodox and paved the way for all subsequent misshapen compositions of her sister.Unworldly writersIn the ‘Biographical Notice of Ellis and Acton Bell’, which appeared as a preface to a new edited volume of Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey in 1850, Charlotte tried to elicit pity from reviewers and critics who had derided the Bells’ novels as ‘coarse and loathesome’ (as the Examiner wrote in 1848). She deliberately construed Emily (‘Ellis’) and Anne (‘Acton’) as immature writers who had not fully understood what they were doing when they wrote their works. Charlotte claimed that Emily had ‘a secret power and fire that might have informed the brain and kindled the veins of a hero’. But she lamented how Emily had lacked ‘worldly wisdom’ and was, in her view, ‘unadapted to the practical business of life’. As a result, an image of Emily as impenetrable, stubborn and difficult was born. Charlotte expanded her view of Emily in 1850 through her editorial ‘Preface’ for a new edition of Wuthering Heights. In it, she described Emily as ‘not naturally gregarious’ and noted that she preferred seclusion. She also wrote that, while Emily did not think badly of the people of Haworth (where she lived in the parsonage all of her life), she rarely conversed with them.In recent years, cultural historians have begun to investigate the reliability of Charlotte’s portrayals. The manner in which her account of Emily was readily received (and repeated), because she was a familial subject, has come under scrutiny and it is slowly becoming accepted that Charlotte’s portrayal was wildly overblown. Moreover, as biographers and critics such as Juliet Barker and Lucasta Miller have shown, Charlotte’s tale was, in fact, part of her own strategy to control the authorial narrative of her sisters and herself. Indeed, as Miller persuasively details in The Brontë Myth (2002), Charlotte actively distorted the Bells’ personas in response to speculation that they were women and that, if this were the case, their fiction was inappropriate for female authors. Charlotte had long wanted to be ‘forever known’, as she put it in a letter to then Poet Laureate, Robert Southey, in 1836. This strategy led Charlotte, in the 1850s, to repeat her distorted view of Emily to her own biographer, the novelist Elizabeth Gaskell, who readily accepted this account of Emily as difficult and, in turn, amplified it for her own biography.Despite never meeting Emily in person, in The Life of Charlotte Brontë (1857) Gaskell declared a dislike of her, noting that she had not gained any pleasant view of Emily in the production of her book, while Charlotte was, in contrast, ‘genuinely good, and truly great’. Thus, in the service of a saintly portrayal of Charlotte, Gaskell criticised her reticent younger sister, describing how, although all of the siblings were shy, Emily wasn’t merely shy but rude because she was reserved. Gaskell also strengthened and distorted Charlotte’s remarks about Emily’s preference for solitude. Emily went from being a ‘solitude-loving raven’ in Charlotte’s hand to a ‘free, wild, untameable spirit’, who was also a ‘hater of strangers’, a view that was, no doubt, influenced by the critical responses to Wuthering Heights.Elsewhere in The Life, Gaskell reported an incident in which Emily is said to have violently abused her dog, Keeper. There is no historical source or evidence for this tale and Gaskell does not offer one. According to the biographer, Emily’s bull mastiff had a penchant for sleeping on the newly made beds upstairs in the parsonage, a space he was not meant to go. She reports (using an eyewitness account) how Tabby, the housekeeper, was upset by this and how, in reply, Emily declared that, if he was found doing this again, she would beat him ‘so severely that he would never offend again’.Despite a lack of evidence, the sensationalism of Emily apparently abusing Keeper is one that is not only repeated periodically in sensational headlines in the present day (‘Emily Brontë beat up her dog’, states a Daily Mail headline from a 2015 article), but is reproduced uncritically in scholarly writing. This is troubling when, elsewhere, historians and scholars have not only exposed the unreliability of Gaskell’s portrayal, but repositioned it as mythology. As Miller’s The Brontë Myth (2001) has documented, Gaskell slipped regularly between fact and fiction and liberally embellished stories and ideas in order to canonise her favourite author, Charlotte.In the 35 years before the first full biography of Emily was offered by Agnes Mary Robinson in 1883, which was published to positive reviews, the biographical shreds offered by Charlotte and Gaskell were able to cement. Since then they have enabled all kinds of fanciful new yarns about Emily to be spun, which continue to find currency.Eerie EmilyIn the hands of 20th-century writers, Emily has morphed even further; now she is not only reclusive and unfriendly, but a mystic who experienced ghostly visitations, as the turn-of-the-century writer May Sinclair suggested. This was expanded on by the biographer Virginia Moore who, in The Life and Eager Death of Emily Brontë (1936), argued that Emily’s mysticism also ‘led her to commit suicide by self-neglect’. This imaginative idea about Emily’s demise from tuberculosis aged just 30 misconstrued Emily’s refusal of medical help in the final months of her life (presumably because of her first-hand experience of its fatal impact thanks to the loss of her two eldest sisters from the disease in childhood) into the unusual idea that she willed herself to death. This more speculative approach is, in part, responding to the ever-growing Brontë ‘industry’, as literary theorist Terry Eagleton termed it, in which Emily remains the most elusive of the Brontë sisters and thus the one most sought after.Consequently, in the late 20th and early 21st century, critics have begun to take a more sensationalised approach to Emily, combining the early portrayals with pseudo-scientific and medical theories. As such, there is now a burgeoning body of work by non-medical experts that has pathologised Emily, applying retrospective diagnoses of modern ailments and disability on the basis of limited evidence, supposition and conjecture.In 1990, the biographer Katherine Frank claimed in Emily Brontë: A Chainless Soul that Emily was anorexic. Frank’s biography is a generally thoughtful one, but her assertion is unfounded. As she puts it:If Emily Brontë were alive today and could be prevailed upon to submit to psychiatric treatment (a most unlikely prospect), she would most certainly be diagnosed as suffering from anorexia nervosa. Not merely her refusal to eat and her extreme slenderness and preoccupation with food and cooking, but also her obsessive need for control, her retreat into an ongoing, interior fantasy world, and her social isolation are all characteristic of the ‘anorectic personality’.Frank’s biographical spin is based on her own imaginary commentary of Emily’s mind: ‘I hate it here. I will not eat. I want to go home. I refuse to grow up, to grow big. I will make myself ill, starve even, unless I am released.’Elsewhere, critics have developed the idea that Emily was agoraphobic. In 2000, Maureen Adams wrote that, today, Emily ‘might be classified as an avoidant personality disorder or an agoraphobic’, while four years later Dana Stevens remarked that ‘Emily’s reclusiveness bordered on agoraphobia’. These assertions stem from comments made by family friends that Emily was shy and reserved and Charlotte’s assertion that her sister was ‘something of a recluse’ who, she also suggested, experienced homesickness. There is no historical evidence that Emily experienced any of the symptoms common with agoraphobia, such as panic attacks, sweating, sticky palms and hyperventilating; to the contrary, we know she did successfully leave home on several occasions, such as travelling with Charlotte to Belgium for several months in 1842. Nonetheless this image has gained a place as truth in popular Brontë writing.Disability labelsFinally, in 2015, one of the more recent Brontë biographers – Claire Harman – reported that Emily ‘was an Asperger’s-ey person’. Harman’s comments were made during the Edinburgh International Book Festival as part of the promotion of her book for Charlotte’s bicentenary. The media responded to Harman’s suggestions with uninhibited speculation. Again, we see how, because Emily (apparently) exhibited some behaviours associated with autism, this is uncritically repackaged for retrospective diagnosis. Writing in frustration at Harman’s comments, the critic Emily Willingham has reflected on the dangerous implications of such a ‘freewheeling approach to characterising what it means to be on the autistic spectrum’, perceiving it as a worrying and casual manner to apply a disability label. Like Gaskell’s biography, Harman’s book is not especially sympathetic to Emily. We have various reports that Emily was unhappy in different ways when she left home. We also have evidence to suggest that she preferred solitude. But, as Willingham points out:People seem to think that the sole features of autism involve being solitary and odd, possibly with a dash of ‘magic disabled supergenius’ thrown in and a prickly temperament. Of course, those traits also fit people who are antisocial, or have some form of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, some other personality disorder, a history of abuse and loss, unmatched talent or nothing at all.To retrospectively ‘diagnose’ Emily with autism, anorexia or Asperger’s in the light of such sparse and unreliable evidence, then, seems to stretch the evidence too far.Ironically, Emily was, by all accounts, keen to preserve her privacy. She was the Brontë sister most adamant about concealing her identity under a pseudonym. However, despite the question mark overhanging dominant accounts of her, these ideas continue to circulate widely. Biographers and historians need to approach Emily’s life story critically and more ethically. Sadly, though, the gaps in our knowledge about her and the paucity of first-hand writing by Emily about Emily, coupled with the ever-growing tourist industry surrounding the family, means that she will, no doubt, continue to inspire Brontë myth-making.Claire O’Callaghan is a lecturer in English at Loughborough University. Her book Emily Brontë Reappraised: A View from the Twenty-First Century was published by Saraband in June 2018.
  • Who Should Have The Vote?

    Who Should Have The Vote?

    Philip Salmon and Kathryn Rix

    What electoral rights did Britons have in the century before 1918?
    Large numbers of British people were once deliberately excluded from voting in parliamentary elections, because they were considered unfit to exercise the franchise. Some restrictions still apply in modern elections – foreign citizens, convicted prisoners and members of the House of Lords cannot vote – but the idea that all adults should have an equal right to elect their MPs, regardless of gender or wealth, has become so ingrained in the UK’s modern democratic culture that it barely seems to warrant comment. That is, at least, until recently, when mutterings emerged following the surprise decision in 2016 to leave the European Union. The fact that an entirely different approach was in operation for many centuries in Britain before 1918 and that its last vestiges remained in place until relatively recently is often overlooked.As we recall the centenary of the 1918 Act, which enfranchised a limited number of women (those under 30 would have to wait another decade) and the 40 per cent of adult men who had previously been unable to vote, it seems timely to remind ourselves of the grounds on which people used to be excluded from going to the polls. The rationale – if that is the right word – underpinning the discrimination against women in earlier electoral systems has received considerable scholarly attention in recent years, but the hurdles facing men who aspired to become electors remain less well documented.Voting before 1832One of the great merits of Britain’s unreformed electoral system was its diversity. For every English ‘pocket’ or ‘rotten’ borough, where the franchise had become so obsolete or restricted that the right of election had effectively been transferred to a local patron or ‘borough-monger’, there was another constituency with a surprisingly wide and sometimes completely open voting system. Studies by the historians John A. Phillips and Frank O’Gorman, as well as the History of Parliament volumes on the period between 1820 and 1832, all testify to the genuinely participatory nature of many borough polls before the major reforms of 1832, despite the bizarre plethora of voting qualifications that were on offer.In Preston, for example, all householders were entitled to vote, provided they had been resident for six months and their family had not received any alms or poor relief (the equivalent of modern social benefits). Similarly broad electorates existed in the dozen or so towns operating a ‘potwalloper’ franchise, meaning people who boiled their own pots. This restricted the vote to those occupying dwellings with their own fireplaces and cooking facilities, disenfranchising lodgers, occupiers of shared houses or multi-tenancy buildings and, of course, vast numbers of servants. The guiding principle with all these ‘householder’ franchises was that electors had to be ‘respectable’ enough to occupy separate properties, rather than be socially or financially dependent on others, and be connected with their community as a resident of some duration. Itinerant workers and groups who moved around a lot – at a time when residential mobility was fast becoming the norm in urban areas – often found themselves excluded.Another 36 English boroughs operated a ‘scot and lot’ franchise, where it was the payment of local rates, assessed on occupied premises such as houses and shops, that conferred the vote. Again this implied both residence and some degree of respectability, as the humblest dwellings were usually not assessed for rates. An additional obstacle here, however, was that getting into arrears with your rates, or having your landlord pay the rate payment as part of your rent (a practice known as ‘compounding’), would prevent the elector appearing on the rate books used to identify voters at election time.By far the most numerically significant pre-1832 franchises were the ancient freeholder and freeman qualifications, which operated on rather different lines. In the rural county constituencies it was ownership, as opposed to occupation, of property that conferred the vote. All men owning freehold property worth 40 shillings (£2) in terms of its annual rental value or income were entitled to vote, regardless of whether or not they were actually resident and irrespective of the type of property owned. Besides land, houses and buildings, a vast range of other forms of freehold property could qualify, such as steam engines, tithes, grave plots, shares in things such as mines, rivers, gasworks, turnpikes and tolls and even loans provided by mortgagees. An 1846 parliamentary report on this county franchise, which remained in full operation until 1918, identified over 500 distinct types of freehold qualification. A number of boroughs also operated a freeholder franchise, usually in tandem with other qualifications.Of all the pre-1832 franchises, it was the freeman vote that was the most arbitrary and liable to abuse. Used in almost half the English borough constituencies, this qualification was based on acquiring the ‘freedom’ of a borough or city in four distinct ways: by inheritance from father to son; by serving a trade apprenticeship to a freeman in a local guild; by marriage with a freeman’s daughter; or by being granted or ‘gifted’ an honorary freedom by the local corporation. Although the freeman franchise was by far the most socially inclusive, often enfranchising large numbers of tradesmen and workers regardless of their wealth or property status, it was also by far the most corrupt. Wholesale bribery of poorer working-class freemen with money and free alcohol (‘treating’) and mass creations of honorary freemen (or ‘towheads’ as they were known in Stafford) for purely electoral purposes had by 1832 become so endemic that any redeeming features of what had once been a skilled artisan franchise had all but disappeared. That so many honorary freemen tended to be non-resident, available for hire by rival candidates on polling day, also distorted the historic connection with local communities that had once underpinned this civic franchise.Different principles were clearly at work with these pre-1832 voting qualifications. Legal ownership of property was the litmus test in the counties, disenfranchising people who only rented their farms and estates along with armies of poor agricultural labourers and tradesmen. In some boroughs, however, the labouring classes formed a substantial chunk of the electorate, either as freemen or as tenants occupying separate households. Respectability, or what politicians often termed ‘responsibility’, was less about wealth than moral standing and independence. Those in regular employment, who routinely paid their rents and local taxes as long-term residents, were the ideal type of ‘respectable’ householder. The challenge for the architects of the 1832 Reform Act – among many others – was how to reconfigure these voting rights in a way that preserved their best features, while removing their worst; and how to make the system far more uniform and properly regulated.Voting rights from 1832 to 1867The expansion of the electorate that resulted from the ‘Great’ Reform Act of 1832 is well documented. The table overleaf shows how this measure – traditionally viewed as a first step on the road to democracy – compared with the increases associated with the subsequent reforms of 1867, 1884 and 1918. What is less well understood about 1832 is that, unlike later reforms, it also restricted many people’s electoral rights, as part of a cleaning-up process designed to improve the ‘incorruptibility and intelligence’ of the electorate, as the Liberal election agent Joseph Parkes put it. In some places the impact of these changes was dramatic. In the Essex town of Maldon, for example, the number of electors dropped from over 3,000 in 1831 to just 700 in 1832, mainly owing to the abolition of non-resident voting rights that had been acquired by marriage with a freeman’s daughter. Taken as a whole, for every three £10 householders enfranchised by the 1832 Reform Act, at least one former elector effectively lost his right to vote. The Act also formally restricted the suffrage to ‘male persons’ for the first time.As well as abolishing specific ‘rotten’ franchises, such as honorary freemen and freemen by marriage created after March 1831, the Reform Act limited most of the old borough franchises to existing voters only, allowing ‘ancient rights’ qualifications to die out over time. One notable exception here was the freeman qualification acquired either by birth or by serving an apprenticeship. Contrary to what is often stated in many textbooks, this franchise continued to be available to new entrants right up until 1918, subject to local enrolment customs and the conditions that applied to all borough electors after 1832.The expansion of the UK's enfranchised population, 1801-1928Chief among these was residence. After 1832 all borough voters had to have been resident in the constituency for six months, with £10 householder voters having occupied their premises for at least one year. Residence and renting criteria were also extended to the counties for the first time in 1832, with new voting rights granted to tenants occupying property worth £50 a year as well as certain types of leaseholder. Another restrictive condition introduced in all boroughs after 1832 was the payment of local rates. In order to ensure the respectability of the new £10 household qualification, which enfranchised occupiers of property worth £10 or more per year in rental value, all voters had to have paid their rates. As was mentioned earlier with the ‘scot and lot’ franchise, this potentially disenfranchised large numbers of householders who ‘compounded’ their rates by including them in the rent paid to their landlords. Estimates vary, but one parliamentary report reckoned that this excluded one sixth of the potential household electorate.As if the ownership of property, or the occupation of premises of a certain value combined with residence and the payment of rates, were not enough, all electors after 1832 had one more hurdle to cross before they could actually vote. Instead of being able to claim their rights at the poll itself, as was the case in all election contests before 1832, voters now had to ensure that they appeared on a register compiled every year, be prepared to defend their legal entitlement in annual registration courts and pay a registration fee of one shilling. For some this was simply too much. ‘To the poor man who reckons his earnings in pence’, complained the Preston Chronicle, ‘a shilling is a serious and important amount.’ In the counties, noted the Edinburgh Review, many ‘yeomanry doggedly refused to register, saying “they had always voted without being registered, and did not see why they should have anything of the kind done now”’.It was this registration system, more than anything else, that helped accentuate the disparity between the privileged few who were qualified to vote and those who were not. Before the Reform Act, an electorate as such simply did not exist, independently of an actual poll taking place. There was no permanent public distinction between electors and non-electors. After 1832 the lines drawn between these two groups became far more marked and began to attract ever increasing public commentary and political debate.Voting rights from 1867 to 1918Despite the Chartists’ campaigns of the 1830s and 1840s for universal adult male suffrage and the introduction of various reform bills in 1852, 1854, 1859, 1860 and 1866, the next extension of voting rights did not take place until 1867. The Second Reform Act, Disraeli’s ‘leap in the dark’, made little change to county voting, focusing mainly on the boroughs. Reflecting in 1864 on ‘the qualities which fit a man for the exercise of the franchise’, the future Liberal prime minister William Gladstone identified:self-command, self-control, respect for order, patience under suffering, confidence in the law [and] regard for superiors.These, he believed, only applied to ‘a limited portion of the working class’. The question of how to distinguish between respectable, sober, prudent working men, who were considered morally entitled to the vote, and the undeserving ‘residuum’, prompted Gladstone to propose a £7 household franchise for the boroughs, as part of his failed Liberal reform bill of 1866.The Conservative ministry’s follow-up measure of 1867 sought to outmanoeuvre the Liberals by abandoning any attempt to draw a fixed line on the basis of yearly property values, opting instead to enfranchise all male borough householders. Crucially, however, this was limited – and complicated – by including various safeguards regarding the payment of rates and a one-year residence. The impact of the apparently obscure issue of rate-paying was shown by the fact that one successful backbench amendment – Hodgkinson’s amendment – added as many as half a million men to the electorate by altering the rules relating to ‘compound’ ratepayers.[[{"fid":"42801","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"The Supporters of the Working Man shows a worker supporting (from left) Palmerston, Russell and John Bright, Punch, 9 April 1859. ","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":"The Supporters of the Working Man shows a worker supporting (from left) Palmerston, Russell and John Bright, Punch, 9 April 1859. ","external_url":""},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"1":{"format":"default","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"The Supporters of the Working Man shows a worker supporting (from left) Palmerston, Russell and John Bright, Punch, 9 April 1859. ","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":"The Supporters of the Working Man shows a worker supporting (from left) Palmerston, Russell and John Bright, Punch, 9 April 1859. ","external_url":""}},"attributes":{"alt":"The Supporters of the Working Man shows a worker supporting (from left) Palmerston, Russell and John Bright, Punch, 9 April 1859. ","title":"The Supporters of the Working Man shows a worker supporting (from left) Palmerston, Russell and John Bright, Punch, 9 April 1859. ","class":"media-element file-default","data-delta":"1"}}]]By 1867 the dwindling number of ‘ancient rights’ voters meant that it was the occupation or ownership of property that accounted for most of the electorate’s qualifications. There were, however, various suggestions for what the Radical MP John Bright dismissively termed ‘fancy franchises’ in the reform bills of the 1850s and 1860s. These provide further insights into the qualities that Victorian politicians felt potential voters should possess: intelligence, respectability, prudence. Lord John Russell’s 1854 bill had proposed creating new franchises for those with substantial savings, professional status or a university education. A similar range of fancy franchises initially appeared in Disraeli’s 1867 proposals, which also suggested giving additional votes to those paying more than 20 shillings a year in direct taxation. The rationale behind all these proposals – none of which came to fruition – was to prevent existing electors being ‘swamped’ by an influx of working-class voters.One of the unintended consequences of the 1867 Reform Act and its substantial extension of the borough electorate was to highlight the disparity between the borough and county franchises. For many individuals, qualifying to vote now became an accident of geography. Shopkeepers and working men in unenfranchised towns had to meet the higher county rental qualifications, even though they were of similar socio-economic status to their counterparts in parliamentary boroughs where the household franchise was far more accessible. With urban growth causing enfranchised towns to spill over into the counties, these discrepancies between borough and county constituencies began to appear increasingly illogical and arcane. Sir George Trevelyan MP, who took up the question in 1874, found at least three million townspeople in England and Wales living in county seats. Yet, he argued, no one would say ‘that a man who spins wool at Barnsley would make a worse voter than a man who spins it at Bradford’. The desire to rectify this anomaly, and to enfranchise rural workers such as miners and agricultural labourers, led to the franchise reforms of 1884. These established the same household and lodger franchises in counties and boroughs across the United Kingdom and were the first occasion on which Irish and Scottish electors were treated on the same basis as English and Welsh voters.Despite this major reform, the UK’s electoral system was still far from one in which every man had a vote. More imbalance was created by the fact that some individuals possessed multiple votes. By 1910 there were around 550,000 ‘plural voters’, with property entitling them to vote in more than one constituency, or who had an additional vote for a university seat. These numbers, however, were a drop in the ocean compared with the 40 per cent of the adult male population who failed to make it on to the electoral registers. Like today, those specifically prohibited from voting included peers, criminals, lunatics, aliens and certain election officials. Voters receiving poor relief continued to be excluded from electoral participation. A far greater number, however, were not among these groups, but single men living with their parents, lodgers renting rooms worth less than £10 per year, domestic servants living with employers and soldiers living in barracks, who failed to meet any of the property qualifications. Even those who did qualify for the householder or lodger franchise still had to overcome the hurdle of the one-year residence requirement. Given the high rates of residential mobility – 20 to 30 per cent of borough populations moved annually – this remained a major cause of disenfranchisement.Underpinning the obstacles facing all potential electors was the complicated and costly yearly registration apparatus, which is estimated to have excluded around half of the five million men without the vote before 1918. Combined with the well-documented efforts of local parties to try to remove their political opponents from the electoral rolls in annual registration battles, it is easy to see why the voter registration system introduced in 1832 acted as such a barrier to enfranchisement before its replacement in 1918.The 1918 Representation of the People Act was hugely important in terms of the partial enfranchisement of women. Yet just as significant was its major overhaul of the entire electoral qualification and registration system for all electors, regardless of their sex. By establishing a franchise that was based on a simple six-months’ residence, it did away with all the complex rules and legal issues regarding property values, rate payments and tenancy status, along with the annual registration fee and registration courts, all of which were supposed to ensure voter ‘respectability’ and resulted in many men being denied the vote. Near-universal male suffrage was quickly established. However, as well as the requirement that they must be aged 30 or over, women continued to face the hurdle of a property-based franchise, with the stipulation that they or their husband must qualify as a local government elector. This meant occupying either ‘land or premises’ worth £5 a year, or a ‘dwelling house’. Only with the 1928 Equal Franchise Act did women finally receive the vote on the same terms as men.One last vestige of the old system remained in place. The retention of additional ‘plural’ votes for university graduates and occupiers of business premises provided an important reminder of earlier attitudes to representation: one in which some people were thought better qualified to vote than others and given greater electoral power. It was not until 1948 that this historic hangover from the past finally disappeared from Britain’s electoral system.Philip Salmon is editor and Kathryn Rix is assistant editor of a major research project at the History of Parliament exploring the House of Commons, 1832-1945. Details can be found at
  • Female Spies in the Irish War of Independence

    Female Spies in the Irish War of Independence

    Kate Murphy Schaefer

    Women played a minor role in the Easter Rising of 1916. But they became crucial intelligene agents in the Anglo-Irish War.
    Women struggled to find their place in the Irish revolutionary movement. Most of those who did make it into the republican garrisons during the Easter Rising of 1916 were barred from active combat. With its defeat and the execution of its leaders came the realisation that independence could not be won through traditional means. A new kind of war would require new kinds of strategies and warriors. Beginning in 1918, the Irish Republican Army officer Michael Collins embraced irregular military tactics to undermine British rule over the island, taking advantage of a population of revolutionaries largely ignored by other leaders: women. Though Countess Constance Markiewicz had counseled women in 1909 to ‘not trust to their “feminine charm” and … capacity for getting on the soft side of men’, femininity became a revolutionary woman’s most valuable weapon just a decade later. The gender stereotypes that barred women from full participation in the Rising became their greatest assets as combatants during the Anglo-Irish War, which broke out in 1919.As martial law and internment forced male revolutionaries into hiding, women carried out revolutionary tasks in plain sight. While any man with an Irish accent could be held under suspicion of collusion with the IRA, it was difficult to discern a woman’s politics from her appearance alone. Cumann na mBan (the Irishwomen’s Council) member Catherine Wisely looked like any other mother taking her baby for a stroll, but smuggled ammunition in the blankets of her son’s pram. Family photographer Bridget McGrath’s camera bag was her camouflage as she carried dispatches to the Tipperary IRA’s No. 2 flying column. ‘I usually carried a camera’, she explained in her witness statement for the Bureau of Military History. ‘If held up by police or military, I was supposed to be out photographing.’ Female revolutionaries represented all ages and social classes. Brigid Lyons (later Thornton) carried messages in her notes as she attended medical classes at University College Galway. Socialite Moya Llewelyn Davies also aided the revolutionaries, her English husband a perfect foil for her politics.Male insistence on women’s weakness was also used by the revolutionaries. Several women recalled soldiers and police officers coming to their aid as they committed treason against the government. Thornton described a close call smuggling arms on the train, saying a police officer entered her cabin yet never searched her bags. The officer later told a colleague: ‘Don’t disturb the lady’s luggage.’ Nancy O’Brien shared a similar story, saying one police officer helped her unload a suitcase full of guns and ammunition from a tram, delivering it right to her front door without a second thought to its possible contents.A woman’s ability to be an active revolutionary while living a seemingly normal life was particularly valuable in espionage. Josephine Marchmont gave local IRA brigades advance warnings of raids and arrests from her post as secretary at the British Army’s 6th Division Headquarters in Cork. Post official Siobhán Creedon intercepted telegraphs, sending the information to the IRA headquarters in Dublin for dissemination to local units. Some of the most critical intelligence work was carried out within the seat of British government in Ireland: Dublin Castle. Under-Secretary James McMahon had no idea that, in her position as General Post Office clerk, Nancy O’Brien was a fervent nationalist when he put her in charge of coded messages going in and out of Dublin Castle. He was also unaware of her family connections. O’Brien made copies of the coded messages during her lunch hour, smuggling them out of the office into the hands of her cousin – Michael Collins.Family ties also brought Lily Mernin into Collins’ spy network in the castle. Upon hearing that she had been hired as a secretary, her cousin Pieras Béaslaí convinced her to begin routing information to IRA headquarters. Mernin made carbon copies of personnel lists, memos and other government documents for Collins and his Dublin Brigade and was particularly effective at turning office gossip into actionable intelligence for the IRA. Conversations with one frequent visitor, who, ‘while under the influence of drink … was liable to talk a lot’, resulted in information on planned raids on safe houses and arrests. ‘Whatever tit-bits [sic] of information I could glean … I immediately passed on to the intelligence section’, she explained.Lieutenant GThe British spoke openly in front of the secretary because she was a woman; the Irish trusted her because they believed she was a man. In an effort to protect her identity and lend credibility to the information she provided, Mernin became known as ‘Lt. G’. On 17 November 1920, Collins sent a memo to the Dublin Brigade Commandant, Dick McKee, confirming the identity of key British operatives, saying ‘arrangements should now be made about the matter. Lt. G is aware of things’. The group assassinated members of the Cairo Gang (a group of British Intelligence agents, later described by Collins as the ‘particular ones’) three days later. On what was to become known as ‘Bloody Sunday’, the IRA made good on its promise to make Ireland ungovernable – few knew the entire operation had rested on the work of a secretary.Accepting the idea that women were capable actors in times of social crisis opened the door to more uncomfortable ideas, including women’s right to participate in the new nation they had helped establish. Accompanying these ideas was the unspoken fear that women could undermine the new Free State government just as they had undermined the old. The government responded by emphasising that female contributions were appreciated, but no longer necessary. The 1924 Military Service Pensions Act did not include Cumann na mBan; therefore most women were not eligible for pensions. The 1934 Act extended eligibility with a catch. Regardless of their service record, all female claims were assigned the lowest rankings and, therefore, the lowest pensions. Some women appealed these decisions in the hopes of forcing the government to acknowledge the important role they played in securing Irish independence; the majority were denied. Debates over Siobhán Creedon Lankford’s 1934 appeal dragged on for eight years, though several male veterans testified on her behalf. Adding insult to injury, government officers misspelt her last name on all her pension documents.Future participationAs female revolutionaries struggled for recognition of their past, female politicians struggled to secure participation in the nation’s future. Jenny Wyse Power, Cumann na mBan president from 1914 to 1917, was a stalwart for women’s rights in the Free State Seanad. She exposed the hypocrisy in the government’s logic during debates over the 1925 Civil Service Regulation (Amendment) Bill, which would make women ineligible for most civil service positions. ‘When [the Executive Council] wanted messengers to go into dangerous places they did not call on members of their own sex … I regret that this has come from the men who were associated in the fight with women who played the part at a time when sex and money were not considerations.’In war, women were successful ‘playing the part’ because of the ways that society interpreted what they could and could not do. Gender stereotypes that said women must stay silent and in the background provided the perfect cover for revolutionary activity. It was not merely that women were not considered a threat, but that often they were not considered at all. Unlike the women who drilled with the Irish Volunteers and Irish Citizen Army before the Rising, female spies, couriers and arms smugglers posed no threat to the traditional spheres of manhood. They undermined social stereotypes by using them to their advantage.Being female, however, proved to be a shortcoming in peacetime. The greatest blow to women’s rights came in Article 41.2.1 of the 1937 Constitution: ‘By her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved.’ With their futures confined to the home and their pasts consigned to the footnotes of Irish history, female spies and revolutionaries again faded into the background. With the 2003 opening of the Bureau of Military History Digital Archives and periodic additions to the Military Service Pension Archives, historians are beginning to extract women from the shadows. Irish independence would not have been possible without them, but most still remain hidden in plain sight.Kate Murphy Schaefer researches female participation in revolutions and wars. This article was originally publised in the August 2018 issue of History Today with the title ‘Hidden in Plain Sight’.

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