Kathleen Clarke (1878 - 1972)
Kathleen Clarke was born on April 11, 1878 in Limerick city; the third of ten children born to Edward and Catherine Daly (née O'Mara). It's assumed that she was educated at the Presentation Convent Primary School founded and operated by the Presentation Sisters. She probably completed her formal education at the age of fourteen as was typical at that time. According to the 1901 census she was able to read and write and spoke both English and Irish.
Kathleen grew up in a family with a history of republicanism Her uncle, John, was an leading member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB). In November of 1866, both he and her father Edward were arrested, at their family home, and imprisoned for running a munitions factory in the Pennywell district close to their home. They were released in February of 1867.
Shortly after his release John took part in the abortive Fenian Rising of 1867. In the following roundup he avoided capture by escaping to the United States. In 1884 he was arrested in England as a dynamiter and sentenced to life in prison.. He was released in 1896. While in prison he befriended Thomas Francis Clarke, Kathleen's husband to be.
When her father died in 1890 at the age of 41 her Uncle James who had accrued a considerable fortune in Australia returned to Ireland to care for the family. He was a generous man whose wealth and generosity made life relatively comfortable.for the Daly family.
After finishing school uncle James arranged and paid for a dressmaking apprenticeship for Kathleen. She did well, learned all that she could about the business, and at the age of eighteen established her own dressmaking business. By the time she sold the business in 1901, before embarking for America, she had build it up to be one of the best dressmaking establishments in Limerick.
Kathleen first met Tom Clarke in March of 1899 when he was invited by her uncle John to spent some time at their home. Released from Portland prison just five months earlier on a ticket-of-leave he was still recovering from the hardship and cruelty endured during the fifteen years he spent there. Although twenty years older than Kathleen they got on well together and within a matter of months were engaged to the consternation of her mother who believed that Tom, although a good man, was not in a position to support a wife and family.
Unable to find work in Ireland Tom emigrated to the United States in late 1900. Kathleen joined him in mid 1991. They married shortly after her arrival. They lived in the Bronx for a short period of time before relocating to Greenpoint in Brooklyn.
Tom was active in Clan na Gael and worked closely with John Devoy in promoting the cause of Irish freedom. Both Kathleen and Tom were also active in promoting Irish culture, particularly the Irish language, through the Brooklyn Gaelic Society that Tom was instrumental in founding. The Society was modeled after the Gaelic League in Ireland.
Their first son, Daly, was born in Greenpoint in 1902. Shortly after Kathleen and her son returned from a visit to Ireland in 1905 the family purchased a small farm in Manorville in Long Island. Although they had no farming experience they, nonetheless, were very successful in growing produce for the New York market.
By 1907 Tom was anxious to return to Ireland to get things moving there in order to be able to take advantage of the much anticipated war between Germany and England, dubbed in American newspapers and journals as a war for "commercial supremacy" . Although Kathleen did not share Tom's enthusiasm about returning to Ireland, primarily because of Tom's ticket-of-leave statues there, she reluctantly agreed for his sake. Once the decision was made Tom met with John Devoy who promised Tom he would help him in his efforts to achieve Irish independence.
After selling the farm and settling their affairs they departed the United States arriving back in Ireland in November of 1907.
Shortly after returning they setup a tobacconist and newspaper shop in Amiens St. Dublin. Their second son was born in 1908. In 1909 they purchased a second shop in Parnell St. that became a popular meeting place for like minded compatriots. In the interim years leading up to the Easter Rising in1916 Kathleen worked side by side with Tom and was privy to all the plans for the Rising.
In 1914 Kathleen was present at the first meeting of Cumann na mBan held at Wynn's Hotel in Abbey St. in Dublin. The primary aim of the organization was to "advance the cause of Irish liberty and to organize Irishwomen in the furtherance of this object", to "assist in arming and equipping a body of Irish men for the defense of Ireland" and to "form a fund for these purposes, to be called 'The Defense of Ireland Fund'"
Kathleen, together with Mrs. Ceannt was selected to set up the first branch of Cumann na mBan, which was designated the Central Branch. Later she became become its President. Other branches were established throughout the country. Members were involved in nursing the wounded, gathering intelligence, moving arms, sheltering men on the run, and raising funds for prisoners.
Shortly before the planned Rising, Kathleen was selected by the Supreme Council of the IRB to be the custodian of their plans and decisions. In the event that members of the Supreme Council would be killed or arrested during the Rising it was her responsibility to pass on their plans to other leaders of the IRB throughout the country. In carrying out this responsibility she had to commit all details and names to memory to prevent that possibility of documented evidence falling into the enemy's hands.
After the Rising and execution of its leaders including her husband Ton and brother Ned, Kathleen, despite her grief and a miscarriage, wasted no time in organizing the Prisoners' Dependants' Fund to support the relatives of the dead and imprisoned. She also met with second tier leaders of the IRB briefing them on the plans entrusted to her by the Supreme Council prior to the Rising.
In 1917 she was elected to the Sinn Fein executive and later that year was elected to the executive of Cumann na mBan.
Early in 1918 Kathleen was arrested in a roundup of Sinn Fein activists. She was interned in Holloway Women's Prison in London with other Irish women activists including Countess Markievicz and Maude Gonne McBride. Although the prison staff treated them well both she and Maude Gonne suffered illness for the duration of their imprisonment. Kathleen's illness was exararbated by anxiety for her three children of whom she had no knowledge of their whereabouts or who was taking care of them. She was released in February of 1919.
After her release from Holloway Prison she resumed her work with Sinn Fein. She was an active participant in the War of Independence and as a consequence her home was continuously raided by the Black and Tans and other security organs of the British administration in Ireland. During this period she was also elected to the Dublin Corporation and in 1920 was appointed a judge in the Sinn Féin courts.
As a member of the Second Dáil she voted against the Treaty. She supported anti-Treaty forces during the ensuing Civil War, and as in the War of Independence had her house raided by British supported pro-Treaty forces primarily made up of discharged British soldiers who fought in the 1914-18 war.
As a senator from 1928 to 1936, she was
committed to equality for women. She supported
the right of unmarried mothers to seek
maintenance from the fathers of their children
and to raising the age of consent in the case of
indecent and sexual assault. She opposed
restrictions on women's employment in the
Conditions of Employment Bill (1935) and her
demand for equal pay was radical at that time.
Kathleen Clarke became the first woman Lord
Mayor of Dublin in 1939.
Throughout the 1940s she served on numerous hospital boards and the National Graves Association.
In 1965 she left Ireland to live with her
youngest son Emmet and his family in Liverpool,
although she did return to Dublin in 1966 for
the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Rising.
She died in Liverpool on the 29 September 1972
cemetery AND grave location
Name: Deansgrange Cemetery PHONE NO.
ADDRESS: Grange Rd, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland
Back to Biographies Posted 08/09/2012