BMD CD266/07/01 Cumann na mBan Cyclist Corps en route to Bodenstown, date unknown.

Cumann na mBan

Foundation of Cumann na mBan

Wednesday 2nd April 2014 marks the hundredth anniversary of the foundation of Cumann na mBan. At a meeting in Wynn's Hotel, Dublin chaired by Agnes O'Farrelly the objects of the organisation were set forth and a provisional committee established.

Cumann na mBan's objectives were fourfold:

  1. To advance the cause of Irish liberty.
  2. To organise Irishwomen in furtherance of this object.
  3. To assist in arming and equipping a body of Irishmen for the defence of Ireland.
  4. To form a Fund for these purposes to be called "The Defence of Ireland Fund."

A host of familiar names appear on the Provisional Committee which was comprised of Mrs Eoin MacNeill, Mrs Wyse Power, Madam O'Rahilly, Agnes O'Farrelly, Mrs Tuohy, Mrs MacDonagh O'Mahony, Miss Gavan Duffy, Mrs Padraic Colum, Mary M Colum and Louise Gavan Duffy.

A further note that appears in 'The Irish Volunteer' report of the meeting was that women of Irish birth or descent alone would be eligible for membership.

Cumann na mBan at work

Members of Cumann na mBan paraded, drilled, learned first aid and raised funds to forward their aim of Irish liberty.

1916: Eilís Uí Chonaill (née Ní Riain) in focus

Cumann na mBan declared their support for the Irish Volunteers in November 1914 and their membership numbers suffered as a result. However by 1916 many who remained took an active part in the Easter Rising, serving as couriers, aides and nurses.

Eilís Uí Chonaill was born in 1894 in Longford into what she describes as a family 'with an Irish outlook', several family members were later involved in the revolutionary period. Eilís joined the Central Branch of Cumann na mBan at 25 Parnell Sqaure, Dublin after attending O'Donovan Rossa's funeral in August 1915. She was already a member of the Gaelic League.

On Easter Monday morning Eilís received a despatch to report at Palmerstown Place at 12 noon, there was little happening in the area and later that day she was ordered home. Together with another member, Emily Elliott, she volunteered at the GPO and was sent to Reis's Chambers on the opposite side of O'Connell Street to prepare food and carry despatches. Later on Tuesday she reported to the Four Courts Garrison and was sent to Fr Matthew Hall on Church Street to assist in a First Aid Unit. She served here for the rest of the week and assisted in removing patients to Richmond Hospital in preparation for a surrender. After the surrender she evaded arrest by mingling with the congregation attending early morning mass with the Capuchin Fathers in Church Street.

In the aftermath of the Rising Eilís continued her work with Cumann na mBan, re-organising and raising funds for Volunteers' dependants. She went on to become a member of the Executive of Cumann na mBan.

Under the 1934 Service Pension Act Eilís Uí Chonaill was awarded four years service for participation during the entire period of the fighting. To read more from her pension application click on the image of her application.

Cumann na mBan at Military Archives

To commemorate the centenary of the foundation of Cumann na mBan Military Archives has produced a comprehensive listing of relevant materials in our collections. This includes a wide range of references from popular collections such as the Bureau of Military History 1913-1921 and the recently released first phase of the Military Service Pensions Collection . It also includes information from less familiar collections such as Civil War Captured Documents and Civil War Internment ledgers.

With ongoing work on the Military Service Pensions Collection and the cataloguing of various private papers, we expect more sources on Cumann na mBan to become available in the future.