Learn about some of the first women to participate in parliamentary politics in Ireland. The biographies on this page are reproduced by kind permission of the Dictionary of Irish Biography and Maedhbh McNamara, co-author of Women in Parliament, Ireland 1918-2000.

Countess de Markievicz

Countess de Markievicz / Courtesy of the National Library of Ireland

Countess de Markievicz

Countess de Markievicz was one of the two women who stood in the general election of 1918 and the first woman elected to the British House of Commons. Like the other Sinn Féin candidates, she had pledged to abstain from the Westminster Parliament, and so she never took her seat. Instead, she joined the revolutionary Dáil Éireann, becoming the first female TD and the first female Minister in western Europe.

Winifred Carney

Winifred Carney / Courtesy of Kilmainham Gaol Museum

Winifred Carney

Winifred Carney was one of the two women who stood in the 1918 general election. She stood in a unionist division of Belfast, and was not elected. A member of the Irish Citizen Army, she was a close friend and secretary to James Connolly. She was in the GPO during Easter 1916 and was interned after the Rising. She continued to work for the trade union and labour movements and was critical of the social conservatism of Irish Governments after independence.

Ada English

Ada English in Gaelic costume / By kind permission of Gill

Dr. Ada English

Dr. Ada English was a Member of the second Dáil and one of the first female doctors in Ireland. She was a modernising force in Irish psychiatric medicine, but was also prominent in the republican movement as a member of Cumann na mBan and Sinn Féin.

Hanna Sheehy Skeffington

Hanna Sheehy Skeffington / Courtesy of the National Library of Ireland

Hanna Sheehy Skeffington

Hanna Sheehy Skeffington was one of the co-founders of the Irish Women's Franchise League. She was imprisoned and dismissed from her job as a result of her militant campaigning for the vote. After 1918, she remained remained active in politics and feminism for decades, and campaigned against the 1937 Constitution. She stood unsuccessfully in the 1943 general election.

Dr. Kathleen Lynn

Dr. Kathleen Lynn / Reproduced by kind permission of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland

Dr. Kathleen Lynn

Dr. Kathleen Lynn was elected to the fourth Dáil in 1923, but did not take her seat as she opposed the Treaty. She was one of the first women to obtain a medical degree from the Royal University of Ireland and founded a children's hospital. She joined the suffrage movement and was a medical attendant to feminist hunger strikers from 1912. During the 1916 Rising she was chief medical officer of the Irish Citizen Army.

Kathleen O'Callaghan

Kathleen O'Callaghan / Courtesy of the National Library of Ireland

Kathleen O'Callaghan

Kathleen O'Callaghan came from a republican family and was a Member of the second Dáil of 1921. She was returned to the third Dáil in 1922 but, as an anti-Treaty candidate, refused to take her seat. Although she retired from active politics, she opposed the 1937 Constitution of Ireland.

Margaret Pearse

Margaret Pearse / Courtesy of Dublin City Library & Archive

Margaret Pearse

As the mother of Patrick and William Pearse, who were executed after the 1916 Rising, Margaret Pearse was regarded as a figurehead in Irish nationalism. She was a Member of the second Dáil of 1921 and opposed the Treaty.

Kathleen Clarke

Kathleen Clarke / Courtesy of the National Library of Ireland

Kathleen Clarke

Kathleen Clarke was a Member of the second Dáil and the short lived fifth Dáil, and was later nominated to the Seanad. She started her own business at the age of 18 but later dedicated her life to working for Irish independence. After the Easter Rising, with the leaders executed or imprisoned, Kathleen Clarke was instrumental in continuing the campaign for independence and was imprisoned in Holloway Prison. In 1939, she became the first woman Lord Mayor of Dublin.

Caitlín Brugha

Caitlín Brugha

Caitlín Brugha

Caitlín Brugha was elected to the fourth Dáil in 1923 and was re-elected in 1927. Her seat had previously been held by her husband, Cathal Brugha, who had been killed fighting for the Republican side in the Civil War the previous year. Caitlín opposed the Free State government and abstained from taking her seat. Her son, Ruairí, also went into politics and served in both Dáil and Seanad Éireann.

Margaret Collins-O'Driscoll

Margaret Collins-O'Driscoll / RTÉ Photographic Archive

Margaret Collins-O'Driscoll

After her brother, Michael Collins, was shot dead in 1922, Margaret Collins-O'Driscoll was elected to the fourth Dáil. She was re-elected three times, and was the only woman elected to the sixth Dáil.

Margaret Cousins

Margaret Cousins / By kind permission of Keith Munro, grandnephew of Margaret and James Cousins

Margaret Cousins

Margaret Cousins was one of the co-founders of the Irish Women's Franchise League. She travelled to England to learn militant tactics, marched in Black Friday and was imprisoned in Holloway. In 1913 she was jailed in Tullamore prison for breaking windows. After moving to India, she continued to campaign for women's rights and became the first female magistrate in India.