In today's 23rd installment of #WednesdayWomen, a series by Amy Griggs in celebration of UK Parliament's #Vote100, we meet Winifred Carney.
During the Easter Rising of 1916, Winifred Carney was the only woman present at the initial occupation of Dublin’s General Post Office. As she marched into the building, she carried her typewriter and her Webley revolver. Winifred entered alongside the Rebellion’s leader, James Connolly. Though many women fought during the Rising, none were a part of the epicenter the way Winifred was.
By 1916, she and Connolly had known each other for four years, having met in 1912 when he was based in her native city of Belfast. They worked together on suffrage and socialist activities, trying to better the conditions of the female textile workers. Winifred became the secretary of the Textile Workers Union, and eventually Connolly’s secretary, typing his publications and becoming an integral part of his inner circle. As the Easter Rising was being planned, Connolly asked Winifred to accompany him to Dublin to type his dispatches and record the events of the Rebellion.
Winifred was one of the first women in Belfast to receive her qualification as a secretary and typist from Hughes Commercial Academy. She was a staunch Irish Catholic Republican and a member of Cumman na mBan, the women’s branch of the Irish Volunteers, where she taught first aid and learned to handle a rifle as well as her revolver. Winifred was known as a crack shot.
After the rebels surrendered, Winifred was jailed at Kilmainham Goal, and later moved to an English prison. She was held from April until Christmas, 1916. Because she never gave up her activism and her Anti-Treaty views, Winifred was jailed many times in subsequent years.
In 1928, after a lifetime of fighting for her belief in an Irish Republic, Winifred surprised everyone she knew by marrying a man who was a Unionist, meaning he believed in Ireland remaining a part of England. Tall, handsome George McBride, a Protestant, a former member of the Ulster Volunteers, a veteran of the First World War. George had enlisted in the Royal Irish Rifles and served with distinction at the Battle of the Somme. He was 10 years younger than Winifred, and they came from vastly different backgrounds.
But he was, however, an avid socialist, and like Winifred, he fought for workers’ rights. Winifred alienated anyone who did not approve of her marriage to McBride. Though they debated their differences, neither changed their position, and they remained happily married until Winifred’s death in 1943. George never remarried.
Winifred Carney, a boundary-breaker and a passionate fighter, and a woman who followed her heart.
Next time, join Wednesday’s Women for another profile a brave woman who fought for a cause.
For more: http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-58625