Helena Molony 1884 1967

An actress by profession, Helena Molony was a woman of many parts. She joined Inginidhe na hEireann in 1903, worked with Maud Gonne on cultural reclamation of matters Irish, and shared the taste of the latter for defiance in the face of 'the loyal flunkyism' of Vice Regal Dublin.


In 1908 she became editor of Bean na hEireann, advocating '...complete separatism, the rising cause of feminism, and the interests of Irish women generally'. During the visit of George V to Dublin in 1910, she threw a stone at a window containing effigies of the royal visitors, and was charged with high treason. Although the stone missed its target, she became, briefly, one of the first political prisoners of her era.


Released in 1911, she returned to the boards of the Abbey and in the course of the Lock-Out in 1913 played in The Mineral Workers. Between scenes, however, she maintained a key supporting role, from the steps of Liberty Hall, urging workers to unite, to organise and to fight! After 1913, in tandem with James Connolly, she accepted the task of organising women workers, many of whom had lost their employment in the fight for the right to join the fledgling Irish Women Worker's Union. They formed a Workers Co-op and occupied a small room on Eden Quay. Front of house the women specialised in production of 'a man's working shirt, called The Red Hand'; backstage Miss Molony acted as Registered Proprietor of The Worker's Republic, assuming full responsibility for 'any treasonable matter'. By 1915, she was a member of Cumann n mBan, the movement deemed by Dublin Castle to be 'a very dangerous body'. Suitably cast, Miss Molony, Secretary of the Irish Women Workers Union, downed tools, and took up arms. In the wake of Easter, 1916, she was marched from Ship Street Barracks to Kilmainham Jail, despatched to England, and to internment. On her release, she returned to the ranks of the IWWU and to the files of Dublin Castle. From within Cumann na mBan she continued to resist British rule, opposed the Treaty, and was on active duty throughout the Civil War. By the thirties, her resistance had found focus in other quarters - she welcomed the Vocational Education Act of 1930, and became a champion of this "University of the Poor'; she challenged the corporatist disposition of the Commission on Vocational Organisation, and 'stressed the wide platform of social justice' based on the Papal Encyclicals. In 1936 she was elected President of the Trade Union Congress. Her life became a statement on behalf of the dispossessed - by nation, by class, by gender; her methods took her from the trenches to the negotiating table and from the barricades to the ballroom. Her reviews, as with her audience, were mixed - to Maud Gonne she was, always, 'Emer, my old friend and comrade'; but to 'tricky English politicians' she was deemed the personification of native defiance.

Source: http://ilhm.tripod.com/hmolony.html (Irish Labour History Museum)