Constance Markievicz

Constance Markievicz was the first woman elected to the British House of Commons in 1918.

Who is Constance Markievicz and what is her connection to UCL?

The Irish nationalist, socialist and suffragette Constance Markievicz was born in 1868. She was the eldest child of the philanthropist and explorer Sir Henry Gore-Booth and had a privileged upbringing between London and the family estate, Lissadell House, in Co. Sligo. Although her parents were opposed to her artistic ambitions, she attended the Slade School of Art, where she first became politically active and joined the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies. While continuing her studies in Paris, she met the Polish Count Casimir Markievicz, whom she married in 1900.

What is inspiring about Constance Markievicz?

Countess Markievicz was a lifelong advocate for women’s suffrage and, at a time when women were largely excluded from political life, an activist dedicated to the rights of Irish nationalism. In 1908 she joined Sinn Féin and the radical women’s group Inghinidhe na hÉireann (Daughters of Ireland), which later merged with Cumann na mBan in 1914. She was sentenced to death for her role in the Easter Rising in 1916, but the sentence was commuted and she was released the following year. In 1918 she became the first women elected to the British parliament, although, in line with Sinn Féin’s policy, did not take her seat in Westminster. She joined the newly founded Fianna Fáil party in 1926 and was elected in the Irish general election in June 1927, but died the following month.

What is her legacy?

Owing to her political activism, Countess Markievicz spent most of her years in danger of arrest and spent much time in and out of prison, but her faith in the republican ideal never wavered. She was committed to feminist causes and became the first Irish female cabinet minister and only the second in Europe and was a shining example of radical and revolutionary activity.