Jennie Wyse Power, born Jane O’Toole, in Baltinglass, Co Wicklow in 1858. In the 1880s she joined the Ladies Land League and found herself immersed in their activities during the Land War. She would compile lists of those evicted from their homes and she also organised the Land League in Wicklow and Carlow. In 1883 she married John Wyse Power, a journalist who shared her political beliefs; he was a member of the IRB. They had four children together, a fact that did not interfere with her political work.
She helped set up the Irish Women’s Franchise League and was also a founding member of Inghinidhe na hÉireann and Sinn Féin becoming Vice-President of both organisations. She was later on the Provisional Committee that set up Cumann na mBan. She rose in the ranks to become one of the most important women of the revolution. In October 1914, she was elected the first President of Cumann na mBan. She was a successful business woman owning four branches of her Irish Farm Produce Company. The 1916 Proclamation was written in her home at 21 Henry Street, and she always maintained that the Military Council signed the proclamation in no particular order; they just signed as it was passed to each of the signatories, though, with James Connolly being eager to be the first to sign. Even the identity of the head of the Provisional Government was not altogether clear.
During the Rising she supplied food to the Volunteers. After the Rising she and her daughter, Nancy, helped re-organise Cumann na mBan and distribute funds to families suffering hardships, as well as the Prisoners Dependants Fund. These funds had been sent by Clan na Gael in the United States. She was subsequently elected as one of five women members onto Dublin Corporation in 1920 for the Inns Quay – Rotunda District.
Power supported the Treaty and by the end of 1921, she was convinced that in doing so, would mean the need to leave Cumann na mBan to form a separate organisation and helped set up Cumann na Saoirse (The League for Freedom), the pro-Treaty women’s organisation and became its Vice-President. She was a Free State Senator from 1922 until 1936 and was also a member of Cumann na nGaedhal. Wyse Power served on the Cumann na nGaedheal Ard Chomhairle but her time in the Seanad saw her become increasingly disillusioned with Government policy particularly over the debacle of the Boundary Commission. The last meeting of Cumann na nGaedheal she attended was on 1 December 1925 and thereafter she sat as an independent Senator.
With the entry of Fianna Fáil into both the Dáil and Seanad she found herself more regularly voting with that party in divisions along with Colonel Maurice George Moore and Senator James Charles Dowdall. O’Kelly was probably the one who persuaded Wyse Power to join Fianna Fáil that year and stand for the party in the 1934 Seanad Election where she was re-elected for nine years and would serve until the Seanad was abolished in 1936. She opposed those Conditions of Employment Bill which she felt discriminated against women. On 5 January 1941, aged 82, she died at her home in Dublin, and was interred in Glasnevin Cemetery with her husband and daughter, Máire (who predeceased her). Her funeral was attended by many from both sides of the Dáil and the former revolutionary movement.
One thought on “#OTD in 1941 – Jennie Wyse Power, Irish patriot and women’s rights activist, dies in Dublin.”
She sounds like a fascinating woman. I feel ashamed that she played a vital role in Ireland’s history and I’m only hearing about her now. Thank you for sharing.
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