Rosie Hackett was a trade unionist, a founder-member of the Irish Women Workers’ Union, and supported strikers during the 1913 Dublin Lockout. She later became a member of the Irish Citizen Army and was involved in the 1916 Easter Rising.
Rosie, christened ‘Rosanna’ was born in Dublin on 25 July 1892. At the time of the 1911 Census she lived on Abbey Street with her mother, sister, stepfather, stepsisters and a lodger.
She joined the Irish Transport and General Workers Union when it was founded in 1909. In 1911 Rosie was working as a messenger for the Jacob’s Factory. The conditions at the time were so bad for workers that Jim Larkin himself described them as ‘sending them from this earth 20 years before their time’. The male workers withdrew their labour in pursuit of better working conditions and Rosie was one of the first women to come out in sympathy with them.
Rosie helped to galvanise and organise more than 3,000 women in the Jacobs Factory to withdraw their labour in protest. The women were successful and they received better working conditions and an increase in pay. Rosie was just eighteen years old at the time. Two weeks later Rosie cofounded the Irish Women Worker Union (IWWU), along with Delia Larkin, which was set up to protect women from the horrendous conditions which they were expected to work in.
In 1913, being actively involved in the trade union movement, she once again helped to organise the women in Jacobs to strike and protest against poor working conditions. When the tram workers went on strike against their employers, the Jacobs Factory workers came out on strike in support.
The 1913 Dublin Lockout lasted from August to January 1914. There was widespread hunger and poverty in Dublin at the time. Rosie, along with other members of the IWWU, worked tirelessly during the Lockout providing the strikers with basic food and moral sup sort. The women set up a soup kitchen in Liberty Hall.
In 1914, Rosie lost her job in Jacobs for the part she played in the Lockout. She took up a post working as a clerk in the IWWU in Liberty Hall and worked alongside activists Delia Larkin and Helena Maloney. It was here that she became connected with the Irish Citizen Army. She also trained as a printer.
Rosie was among the small group, along with Constance Markievicz and Michael Mallon, who occupied Stephen’s Green during the Easter Rising and the Royal College of Surgeons. Rosie was also involved with the group that printed the first 1916 Proclamation and gave it to James Connolly. They were able to print it off on a faulty printing press and they handed it to him, still dripping wet. She later recounted how the men with Connolly complained that a woman had been let into the room. Following the surrender of the rebels at the Royal College of Surgeons, the group, along with Rosie, were brought to Kilmainham Gaol. They were in prison for ten days and then freed on general release.
In 1917, on the anniversary of Connolly’s death, the ITGWU decided that to commemorate it. They hung a sign from Liberty Hall that said ‘James Connolly, Murdered May 12th, 1916’. According to Rosie’s own account, it was up no time at all, when the police took it down. Rosie, along with Helena Maloney, Jinny Shanahan and Brigid Davis, decided it was important that everyone knew it was the anniversary. They printed out another poster, climbed to the roof of Liberty Hall and barricaded themselves in. They nailed the doors shut and put coal up against the windows. Rosie said the police mobilised from everywhere, but it took them hours to get in. The poster remained in position until six in the evening. Rosie later bragged that it took four hundred policemen to take down four women. ‘We enjoyed it at the time – all the trouble they were put to’.
After the Rising, Rosie re-founded the Irish Women Workers Union with Louie Bennett and Helen Chenevix. The union organised over 70,000 women. She then went on to work in the Eden Quay Co-Operative where she worked for over 40 years.
In the 1970s, Walter McFarlane (then branch secretary of the ITGWU) awarded an honorary badge for Hackett’s fifty years contribution to the union.
Hackett was never married, and lived in Fairview with her brother Tommy until her death. She was buried at St Paul’s plot, in Glasnevin cemetery next to her mother Rosanna née Dunne and stepfather Patrick Gray. At her burial she was honoured with a military salute and her coffin covered with the Irish flag.
After her passing on 4 July 1976, her legacy was remembered in the union’s newspaper, a tale of the strife of Rosie together with the rest of Dublin’s working class, for which she fought to change.
In May 2014, the Rosie Hackett Bridge was officially opened by the Lord Mayor of Dublin. The Hackett Bridge Campaign had begun in October 2012 – led by three women Angelina Cox (an active member of Labour Youth), Jeni Gartland and Lisa Connell. The final shortlist of contending names for the new bridge (and their awarded voting points) had been Rosie Hackett (192 points), Kay Mills (176), Willie Bermingham (167), Bram Stoker (92), Frank Duff (80).
In April 2015 a plaque was unveiled on Foley Street by the North Inner City Folklore Project to commemorate the women of the Irish Citizen Army. The plaque lists Rosie Hackett as a member of the St Stephens Green/College of Surgeons garrison during the 1916 Easter Rising.
Rosie passed away on 4 July 1976, aged 84.