On November 14th 1918 the British prime minister announced a general election to be held exactly one month later on December 14th. It was the first time that women had a vote, which increased the electorate from greatly from 700,000 to two million. It was also the fist time that women went up for election.
Countess Markievicz and Winifred Carney were the only two candidates in Ireland. They were members of a very small group of females that were in with a chance of gaining seats for Sinn Fein. The other contenders were Kathleen Clarke, who was in jail in Britain at the time, and some of the men had not problem stepping into her place. Another possibility, Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington didn’t take up on the offer as she didn’t have much faith in victory. She would however, take her place in history as of one of the greatest champions of women’s rights in Ireland to this day.
Women did a lot of the canvassing for the 1918 election, it was a first for them in that respect too. Emily no doubt would have done her share. She no longer enjoyed the free time she had grown used of, on two accounts. Firstly it was at the peak of the Spanish flu epidemic, as a trained nurse she was working flat out at the time. The second was she had to work as she was left penniless due to the loss of her income from Russian industry, due to the Revolution there the previous year. She would have, as a member of Cumann na mBan dedicated what little time she had to the Sinn Fein election campaign.
See below the video from The Easter Rising Stories, by Marcus Howard, that tells of Countess Markievicz election campaign of 1918
On this day November 25th Emily Weddall’s life ended. She was 85 years old. He last days were spent in St. Mary’s in Ballsbridge, Dublin.
Her funeral two days later was attended to the last survivors of her generation. Dr. Kathleen Lynn being one.
The funeral took place from St. Mary’s Home, Clyde Road, Dublin to Glasnevin yesterday, of Mrs. Emily A. Weddall, who was a friend of the brothers’ Pearse.
An early co-worker with An Croabhlin, she started a Gaelic Summer School in 1912 at Keel, Achill, where she lived for many years. ather Rising she worked for the National Aid, organised Cumann na mBan and was imprisoned. during the Black and Tan period and subsequently, she gave devoted service succoring men “on the run”, to whom she unconquerable spirit and boundless generosity were an inspiration.
Mr. Peadar O’Flaherty, solicitor, Enniscorthy, spoke at the graveside.
The attendance included: the Minister for Lands and Mrs. O’Deirg; Miss Stella Frost, Miss Kirkpatrick, Mr. and Mrs. Gerald Elliott, Miceal O’Cleirigh, Dr. Kathleen Lynn, Mrs. Sean O’Briain, Mrs. dwan, Mrs. James Montgomery, Miss Maeve Phelan, Mrs. M. Power, Sean George and Sean Fitzpatrick, Secretary, National Graves Association.
The prayers at the graveside were recited in Irish by Rev. S. Craig.
Since February 6th 1918 women gained the right to vote. Emily and her friends Eva O’Flaherty and Anita McMahon all qualified, but a lot of women did not. If a women was under thirty did not own property rights or was not university educated they did not gain the right. Representation of the People Act, 1918, was the law that afforded women and all men over 21 the right to vote.
In the same year two Irish women went up for election, Countess Markievicz and Winnifred Carney.
1918 was the first time Irish women were permitted by law to vote and stand in parliamentary elections. 1918 was also the year in which the first woman was elected to the British Parliament at Westminster. Countess de Markievicz, who represented a Dublin constituency, never took her seat at Westminster. Instead, she joined the revolutionary first Dáil, becoming the first female TD
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.
The Armistice was signed at 5.12AM on 11 November but, for tidiness, it was agreed the ceasefire would take place at 11.00AM on the 11th day of the 11th month.
Just as the guns were silenced at 10 a.m. local time, Emily was at the bedside of flu stricken Millie Figgis. She may well have been finishing her shift at the Meath Hospital, which was operating at full capacity with flu victims. She may have heard the news on the street as every news stand and paperboy would have had the word since early that morning.
Emily had a lot on her mind, with her sick friends, Millie and Darrell Figgis , and An Paroach, who caught the virus in the remote Achill Beg. All recovered but they could easily have not like Sadhbh Trench. She was also about to loose her her home Rockfield House on Achill. She also had the added worry of her niece’s welfare, who followed her into nursing and was working flat out nursing children. She revealed all her worries to her friend Mairead, Sadhbh’s sister in a letter of condolence.
The end of the war may have been far from her thoughts, apart from the fact that her only two nephews were both fought in it and now they were safe.
Emily was working in the Meath Hospital just as the First World War was winding down, and the Spanish Flu was at its peak in November 1918. Normally she took personal interest in the political situation but she had important things on her mind. As well as being exhausted at working long shifts nursing the flu victims she also nursed her friend Millie Figgis, whose husband, Darrell was in prison in Durham Gaol as a political prisoner. He was later released on parole, but not before Emily intervened on behalf of his wife.
Both Emily and her doctor, Alice Barry were very concerned about at the severe nature of Millie’s illness as she had an underlying heart condition. The flu could be deadly in her case. To make matters worse the mortality rate was highest in the 20-40 age group of which Mrs Figgis was in at the time.
Her doctor Dr. Alice Barry was not too concerned at first, as the authorities recorded: “The Doctor expressed the opinion that she is not in danger of death at present, but that she may develop serious symptoms later.” That was written on 11 November 1918, that day the war ended. A day later Emily made her way to a post office to send a telegram to the Chief Secretary’s office. Emily was not one to bother with middle men.
“I wish to draw your attention to the urgency of the matter placed before you in regard to Mrs. Darrell Figgis.. Weddall Nurse”
Her word was not taken seriously buy the authorities even as a person with medical knowledge. Neither was Mrs. Figgis doctor, as she and Emily were both under surveillance.
“Mrs Weddall is a Nurse in the Meath Hospital; she belongs to Achill and is a personal friend of Mrs Figgis. It is said that this Nurse holds extreme views.”
Emily and Dr. Barry’s plea worked. Darrell Figgis was released on compassionate leave and Millie got better.