Kathleen Clarke, formerly Kathleen Daly from Limerick, liked people to address her by her married name, Mrs Tom Clarke. Her gravestone reads: Chaitlin Ui Chleirigh, Baintreach, Tomáis S UÍ Cléirigh, a básaíodh i mBaile Átha Cliath, Bealtaine 3 1916. [Kathleen Clarke, widow, Thomas S Clarke, died in Dublin, 3 May 1916.]
During her long widowhood of over 50 years she accomplished much. She was the first Lady Mayoress of Dublin, a TD, and a Senator but there is no mention of these facts on her gravestone. Yet her contribution was important enough to warrant a State funeral, which was recorded on film.
In 1901 at the age of 23, Kathleen Daly married a man 20 years her senior. He was to her the embodiment of a heroic Irishman. Tom Clarke had served a 15 year sentence in England for treason. The couple had three sons – John Daly Clarke (b. 1902), Tom Junior (b. 1908) and Emmet (b. 1910). Tom Clarke’s involvement in nationalist politics culminated in his participation in the 1916 Rising, and his subsequent execution. Kathleen’s only brother Edward (Ned) Daly was another of the leaders to be executed.
Kathleen was a founder member of Cumann na mBan. She did not take part in the Rising as she had been selected by the Irish Republican Brotherhood to coordinate the distribution of support for the families of activists. Afterwards she was a key organizer in the aid distributed to prisoners’ dependants, which was vital to establishing a network of sympathisers in the years of guerrilla war that followed.
During the War of Independence, she was an active fund-raiser, she sheltered men and women on the run and worked as a District Justice in the Sinn Féin courts in Dublin for the north city circuit, and also as Chairman of the Judges on this circuit. In 1919 she was elected Alderman for Dublin Corporation. In this capacity she served on numerous committees and boards. She was also active in the White Cross, a non-political organisation set up in 1920 to assist the families of Volunteers.
Although she opposed the Treaty, she was Chairman of a committee that tried unsuccessfully to negotiate a pact between Anti-Treaty and Pro-Treaty sides. The Irish Free State authorities imprisoned her for a short time in Kilmainham Jail in February 1923. In 1924 Kathleen went to the United States to lecture and raise funds on behalf of Republicans.
A founder member of Fianna Fáil, between 1928-1936 she served in the Senate. She was Dublin’s first female Lord Mayor, 1939-1943. In 1948, at the age of 70, she stood unsuccessfully for the Clann na Poblachta party. 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 aged ninety-four.
Photo: Kathleen Daly Clarke