Cissie Cahalan

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Cissie Cahalan
Photo of Cissie Cahalan.jpg
Died27 August 1948 (aged 7172)
Nationality Irish
OccupationShop worker
Known forActivism as trade unionist, feminist, and suffragette

Cissie Cahalan (1876 – 27 August 1948) was an Irish trade unionist, feminist, and suffragette. [1] [2]

Feminism is a range of social movements, political movements, and ideologies that share a common goal: to define, establish, and achieve the political, economic, personal, and social equality of the sexes. Feminism incorporates the position that societies prioritize the male point of view, and that women are treated unfairly within those societies. Efforts to change that include fighting gender stereotypes and seeking to establish educational and professional opportunities for women that are equal to those for men.

Suffragette member of the Womans Social and Political Union who advocated for womens right to vote

A suffragette was a member of militant women's organisations in the early 20th century who, under the banner "Votes for Women", fought for the right to vote in public elections, known as women's suffrage. The term refers in particular to members of the British Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), a women-only movement founded in 1903 by Emmeline Pankhurst, which engaged in direct action and civil disobedience. In 1906 a reporter writing in the Daily Mail coined the term 'suffragette' for the WSPU, from suffragist, to belittle the women advocating women's suffrage. The militants embraced the new name, even adopting it for use as the title of the newspaper published by the WSPU.



Cahalan was born in either Cork or Tipperary, and was the daughter of a school teacher. [1] She worked in shops in the city of Dublin, mostly at the department store chain Arnotts. [1] Cahalan participated in several activist movements. She was a member of the Irish Drapers' Assistants' Association (IDAA), and also the Irish Women's Franchise League (IWFL), beginning in 1908. [1] Cahalan was described as one of the only women from a working-class background to have a major role in the Irish suffragette movement. [3] [4]

Cork (city) City in Munster, Ireland

Cork is a city in south-west Ireland, in the province of Munster, which had a population of 125,657 in 2016.

County Tipperary County in the Republic of Ireland

County Tipperary is a county in Ireland. It is located in the province of Munster. The county is named after the town of Tipperary, and was established in the early thirteenth century, shortly after the Norman invasion of Ireland. The population of the county was 159,553 at the 2016 census. The largest towns are Clonmel, Nenagh and Thurles.

Dublin capital and largest city in Ireland

Dublin is the capital and largest city of Ireland. It is on the east coast of Ireland, in the province of Leinster, at the mouth of the River Liffey, and is bordered on the south by the Wicklow Mountains. It has an urban area population of 1,173,179, while the population of the Dublin Region, as of 2016, was 1,347,359, and the population of the Greater Dublin Area was 1,904,806.

In 1912 she headed the "Ladies Committee" of the Dublin branch of the IDAA, and also was a contributor to the journal run by the union. [1] In the same year, she sought the support of the Dublin Trades' Council for women's suffrage, in her role as a delegate of the IWFL. [1] Cahalan was on the executive committee of the IWFL from 1917–1918. At some point she also served as the secretary of the Irish Women's Franchise League. [3] Also in 1917, she went to the Irish Trade Union Congress as a delegate of the IDAA. [1] She led a strike at Arnotts while she worked there, and succeeded in winning a 30% pay increase. [1] Cahalan served as president of the IDAA three times, being elected in 1922, 1923, and 1924. [1] As a part of the IDAA, she successfully campaigned for a minimum wage. [1] From 1922 to 1923 she was also on the executive committee of the IDAA, but resigned in protest, citing the union's lack of action on imprisonment. [1]

Womens suffrage the legal right of women to vote

Women's suffrage is the right of women to vote in elections. Beginning in the late 1800s, women worked for broad-based economic and political equality and for social reforms, and sought to change voting laws in order to allow them to vote. National and international organizations formed to coordinate efforts to gain voting rights, especially the International Woman Suffrage Alliance, and also worked for equal civil rights for women.

She continued to work at her day job alongside her activist work until 1932, [1] and also worked part-time at St Ultan's Hospital. [1] She went on writing for the union journal in the 1930s. [1] She was married to John Burns in 1932; Burns died four years later. She was a close friend of Irish nationalist and fellow suffragette Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington. [1] She died on 27 August 1948. [1]

Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington Irish feminist

Johanna Mary "Hanna" Sheehy Skeffington was a suffragette and Irish nationalist. Along with her husband Francis Sheehy-Skeffington, Margaret Cousins and James Cousins, she founded the Irish Women's Franchise League in 1908 with the aim of obtaining women's voting rights. She was later a founding member of the Irish Women Workers' Union. Her son, Owen Sheehy-Skeffington became a politician and Irish Senator.


Cahalan had a well publicized debate with fellow suffragist Louie Bennett in 1919, over the subject of membership in trade unions. The debate took place in the form of writings in the newspaper The Irish Citizen . While Bennet advocated for separate unions for women, Cahalan was in favor of mixed unions, and placed the responsibility on women for failing to rise to positions of authority. [4] Cahalan also argued that segregated unions would provide owners with a tool when disputes arose. [4] In an article in The Irish Citizen Cahalan acknowledged that women's entry into unions had led to antagonism from male workers due to lower wages. However, she argued that:

Louie Bennett was an Irish suffragette, trade unionist, journalist and writer. Born and raised in Dublin, she began her life in the public arena with the establishment of the Irish Women's Suffrage Movement in 1911. She wrote two books prior to this, The Proving of Priscilla (1902) and A Prisoner of His Word (1908), and would continue to contribute to newspapers regularly as a freelance journalist. She played a significant role in the Irish Women Workers' Union once it was established in 1911. Bennett became Organising Secretary of the Irish section in the Union of Democratic Control (UDC) in 1915.

The Irish Citizen was founded in 1912 as the newspaper by the Irish Women's Franchise League. Francis Sheehy-Skeffington the writer, pacifist and suffragist was one of the founders, and also co-edited the publication with James H. Cousins, their wives were members of the IWFL. Other contributors included Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington, the cartoonist Ernest Kavanagh, Margaret Connery, Cissie Cahalan, and Louie Bennett. The paper ceased publication in 1920.

Women have allowed themselves to be used by the capitalists as a means of lowering the standard of wages. If women demanded equal pay for equal work we should not have had this antagonism. [5]

A staunch opponent of the First World War, Cahalan also saw it as an opportunity to improve working conditions for women, and joined the Women’s Employment Committee. [6] She also believed in trade unions being open to all workers (including both men and women), and campaigned for equal pay for all workers. [1]

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 Therese Moriarty (17 October 2012). "Cissie Cahalan (1876–1948)". Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  2. "Presentation at the George Brown Memorial Weekend, Inistioge, 28 June 2013 | Mary Muldowney". 28 June 2013. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  3. 1 2 Yeates, Pádraig (2011). A City in Wartime – Dublin 1914–1918: The Easter Rising 1916. Gill & Macmillan. ISBN   9780717151912.[ page needed ]
  4. 1 2 3 Owens, Rosemary Cullen (2005). "Chapter 8: Trade Unions and Irish Women". A Social History of Women in Ireland, 1870–1970: An Exploration of the Changing Role and Status of Women in Irish Society. Gill & Macmillan. ISBN   9780717164554 . Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  5. Bourke, Angela (2002). The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing. NYU Press. p. 554. ISBN   9780814799079 . Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  6. Therese Moriarty (18 November 2015). "Suffragettes at war". Irish Times. Retrieved 14 September 2016.