Women on Campus / Mná ar an gCampas

Female students began to attend the University in significant numbers at the turn of the century; still, by 1916 only 47 of the 227 students were women.

There were separate reading rooms for male and female students but the sexes mixed in the College’s popular Choral and Orchestral societies, the Dramatic Society and in the Gaelic Society. The Student Representative Council, which was formed in 1914, was composed of ten students, only four of whom could be female. Male students could only vote for male candidates and, likewise, female students could only vote for female candidates. Conservative attitudes regarding the role of women were enshrined in College Regulation III.10, which stated, ‘Any act of a woman student, which, in the opinion of the academic council, is unbecoming of a Lady and a University student, shall be deemed a breach of College discipline.’

The Connaught Women’s Franchise League (Non-Militant) was founded in Galway in January 1913 with the object of obtaining for women the parliamentary franchise on the same terms as men. Dominated by educated women with ties to the University, including future Professor of History, Mary Donovan (O’Sullivan from 1915), the organisation aimed to be a ‘social and moral force’ rather than a militant suffragette organisation. Following the outbreak of the war, however, war relief superseded women’s rights and several of the officers of the League threw themselves into recruiting efforts and charitable work for soldiers at the front.

There was considerable opposition to the suffrage movement from within student ranks, and the inaugural meeting of the Connaught Women’s Franchise League was disrupted by a large gathering of male students who continually jeered and whistled. Some female students also opposed votes for women: at a meeting of the Debating Society in 1914, Miss Quigley predicted ‘the evil effects the franchise would bring’, and, while, ‘she did not admit the inferiority of woman or her inability to perform the duties of the franchise, she was of the opinion it would take away many of her womanly traits'. 'It was not so much that women were unfit for public life', she went on, 'but that public life was unfit for women'.

Mary Donovan O’Sullivan (1887-1966) was the only female member of the academic staff at the outbreak of the war in 1914. She was Professor of History at the University from 1914 until 1957. Educated at the Dominican Convent on Taylor’s Hill and UCG, she held a fellowship for a period in the University of Marburg in Germany. During the war she became involved in the Galway Women’s Recruiting Committee. While moderate in her political views generally, she was an active supporter of the women’s suffrage movement, and had to overcome personal and professional hostility in her early career. A longtime editor of the Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society, her best-known work, Old Galway: The History of a Norman Colony in Ireland, was published in 1942.

From early 1918 onwards the most visible female presence in the vicinity of the campus was the working-class women employed in the munitions factory located close to where Áras na Mac Léinn stands today. The factory employed women, some with loved ones in the armed forces, in three eight-hour shifts making shells twenty-four hours per day. The factory was bustling, noisy and dirty and provided a daily reminder of the ferocity of the war effort to students and staff.

Brigid Lyons (1896–1987) was a second-year Arts student in the University upon the outbreak of the 1916 Rebellion. Originally from Scramogue, Co. Roscommon, she helped found Cumann na mBan in Galway in early 1915 and was appalled at what she perceived as the lack of support for the movement among the ordinary people of Galway town. In Dublin at the beginning of the 1916 Rising, she fought in the Four Courts Garrison, alongside her uncle, Joseph McGuinness. Her commanding officer, Frank Fahy, was a graduate of the College, and Brigid was among the seventy-seven women arrested after the Rebellion.

Mná ar an gCampus

Thosaigh líon suntasach ban ag freastal ar an Ollscoil ag tús na haoise; ach fós féin, faoi 1916, ní raibh ach 47 bean i measc an 227 mac léinn ar fad.

Bhí seomraí léitheoireachta ar leith ann do mhná agus d’fhir ach tháinig siad le chéile sa Chumann Córúil agus sa Chumann Ceolfhoirneach, sa Chumann Drámaíochta agus sa Chumann Gaelach. Bunaíodh Comhairle Theachtaí na Mac Léinn sa bhliain 1914 agus bhí deichniúr mac léinn ina mbaill – ní raibh cead ach ag ceathrar ban a bheith ar an gComhairle, áfach. Ní fhéadfadh mic léinn fhireanna vóta a chaitheamh ach d’iarrthóirí fireanna agus, mar a chéile, ní raibh cead ag mic léinn bhaineanna vóta a chaitheamh ach d’iarrthóirí baineanna. Bhí dearcaí coimeádacha maidir le ról na mban cumhdaithe i Rialachán an Choláiste III.10, a d’áitigh, ‘Any act of a woman student, which, in the opinion of the academic council, is unbecoming of a Lady and a University student, shall be deemed a breach of College discipline.’

Bunaíodh Conradh Chearta Vótála na mBan i gConnachta (neamh-mhíleata) i mBaile na Gaillimhe i mí Eanáir 1913 agus é mar aidhm ag an gConradh cearta vótála parlaiminteacha a bhaint amach do mhná ar na téarmaí céanna is a bhí ag fir. Mná ón meánaicme uachtarach a raibh oideachas orthu agus a raibh ceangal acu leis an Ollscoil, lena n-áirítear Mary Donovan (O’Sullivan ó 1915), a bhí ina hOllamh le Stair ar ball a bhí páirteach sa Chonradh. Bhí sé mar aidhm ag an gConradh a bheith mar fhórsa sóisialta agus morálta seachas ina eagraíocht sufraigéide mhíleatach. Tar éis bhriseadh amach an chogaidh, áfach, bhain níos mó tábhachta le fóirithint don chogadh ná le cearta na mban agus dhírigh cuid de na hoifigigh sa ghrúpa ar iarrachtaí earcaíochta agus ar obair charthanachta a dhéanamh do shaighdiúirí ar an bhfronta.

Cuireadh in aghaidh an ghluaiseacht chearta vótála i measc na mac léinn agus cuireadh isteach ar an gcéad chruinniú i nGaillimh de Chonradh Chearta Vótála na mBan i gConnachta (neamh-mhíleatach); bhailigh grúpa mór mac léinn fireann le chéile agus iad ag gleo agus ag feadaíl i gcaitheamh an chruinnithe. Chuir roinnt mac léinn baineann in aghaidh vótaí do mhná chomh maith: ag cruinniú den Chumann Díospóireachta sa bhliain 1914, thuar Iníon Quigley na drochéifeachtaí a bheadh ag an gceart vótála dar léi agus cé nár admhaigh sí easpa cumais na mban ná a heaspa cumais féin dualgais na gceart vótála a chomhlíonadh, bhí sí den tuairim go gcaillfeadh sí a cuid tréithe banúla dá bharr. Ní hé nach raibh mná feiliúnach don saol poiblí ach níor fheil an saol poiblí do mhná.  

Ba í Mary Donovan O’Sullivan, (1887-1966) an t-aon bhean ar an bhfoireann acadúil nuair a bhris an cogadh amach sa bhliain 1914. Bhí sí ina hOllamh le Stair san Ollscoil ó 1914 go dtí 1957. Fuair sí a cuid oideachais sa Chlochar Doiminiceach ar an mBóthar Ard agus Coláiste na hOllscoile, Gaillimh, agus bhí comhaltacht aici ar feadh tamaill i Marburg na Gearmáine. Nuair a bhris an cogadh amach thosaigh sí ag obair le Coiste Earcaíochta na mBan i nGaillimh. Cé go raibh a cuid tuairimí polaitiúla measartha go maith, thacaigh sí go gníomhach le gluaiseacht chearta votála na mBan, agus b’éigean di naimhdeas ar bhonn pearsanta agus gairmiúil a shárú i dtús a gairme. Chaith sí tréimhse fhada ina heagarthóir ar an Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society. Foilsíodh an saothar ba cháiliúla léi, Old Galway: The History of a Norman Colony in Ireland, sa bhliain 1942.

Ó thús 1918 ar aghaidh ba iad na mná is mó a a bhí le feiceáil ar an gcampas ná mná as aicme an lucht oibre a bhí fostaithe sa mhonarcha mhuinisean a bhí in aice leis an áit a bhfuil Áras na Mac Léinn suite inniu. Bhí mná ag obair sa mhonarcha ar thrí sheal ocht n-uair an chloig ag déanamh sliogán; bhí fir chéile roinnt de na mná sin sna fórsaí armtha. Bhí an mhonarcha gnóthach, salach agus lán le torann agus ba mheabhrúchán laethúil é do mhic léinn agus don fhoireann ar a fhíochmhaire is a bhí an cogadh.

Bhí Brigid Lyons (1896–1987) sa dara bliain dá cúrsa céime sna Dána san Ollscoil nuair a thosaigh Éirí Amach 1916. Ba as Scramóg i ndeisceart Ros Comáin ó thús do Brigid agus bhí baint aici le bunú Chumann na mBan i nGaillimh go luath sa bhliain 1915. Chuir an laghad tacaíochta don ghluaiseacht i measc ghnáthdhaoine bhaile na Gaillimhe alltacht uirthi. Bhí sí i mBaile Átha Cliath nuair a thosaigh Éirí Amach 1916 agus throid sí i nGarastún na gCeithre Chúirt, in éineacht lena huncail, Joseph McGuinness. Ba é Frank Fahy a hoifigeach ceannais, agus ba chéimí de chuid an Choláiste é siúd; bhí Brigid ar dhuine de sheachtar ban is seachtó a gabhadh tar éis an Éirí Amach.