Rosamond Jacob

Rosamond Jacob

“Contemporary Waterford is teeming with ambitious and strong women who are changing the landscape and future of the city with their work and vision. Today’s women follow in the footsteps of those who came before them and the diverse interests of the women of Waterford City are simply fascinating. Megan Winters has teamed up with Waterford In Your Pocket and Paul Dower to celebrate Illuminate HerStory, by picking out two exceptional and contrasting women to highlight in 2017 – Actress Dora Jordan and Activist Rosamond Jacob.”

Rosamond Jacob (13 October 1888 – 11 October 1960) was an Irish writer and a political and social activist.

She was born in Waterford, where she lived until 1920. She was a lifelong suffragist, republican, socialist and a writer of fiction.

She, along with her brother Tom, was a member of Sinn Féin from 1905 and later Fianna Fáil. She was also a member of Cumann na mBan, the Gaelic League and the Irish Women’s Franchise League. She opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 and was especially involved in left-wing and republican organisations in the 1920s and 1930s. She was imprisoned in Mountjoy Jail during the Irish Civil War. In 1931 she travelled to Russia as a delegate of the Irish Friends of Soviet Russia. She was involved in the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and later in the Irish Housewives Association, although as a single, childless woman she abhorred the manner in which female activism assumed a maternalistic focus from the 1940s.

Rosamond Jacob

She was an interesting mix of convictions, contradictions and paradoxes; most notably she was forced to reconcile her commitment to pacifism with her republican sympathies. This contradiction played itself out in her romantic relationship with fellow republican Frank Ryan and there is the wonderful story of him secretly passing her a leather case at a Gaelic League meeting ‘with something hard in it’; she was to keep it safe for him which she duly did, and this contradicted her pacifism. As a sharp contrast to her predecessor Dora Jordan, Rosamund was a prickly and sharp woman, who did not endear others to her. She struggled to find fulfilment in her love life and although she wanted marriage and children, she did not get these things. Rosamund was a trailblazer in many ways, fighting prejudice in many areas of her life and doing it her own way.

Rosamond Jacob kept a diary almost all of her life, and there are 171 of these diaries among her literary and political papers held in the National Library of Ireland. These have been a crucial resource for understanding the social and political context of her time from the often unheard voice of the woman. Rosamond Jacob’s political involvements, her commitment to women’s rights, her intolerance of organised religion and of cruelty to animals as well as her interest in history and in nature, is reflected in her writings.

Rosamond Jacob

The diaries also reflect and record the turbulent events of the times she lived through – the division in Irish society and in families, caused first by the events of 1916 and subsequently by the Civil War – and the efforts of the women to try and resolve conflict without further bloodshed. They throw light on an almost forgotten generation of Irish women who made significant contributions to the formation of the independent Irish state and who, in the following decades, campaigned for the liberal principles that had promised so much in the early years of the new state

Thanks to Dr Leanne Lane, Queens University.

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