Women taking part in warfare

The network of marriage alliances in a small country often meant that women had family contacts on both sides in warfare and they frequently acted as messengers and go-betweens.

There are references to those who urged their men folk to rebel and to a few 'she soldiers', women who fought in the ranks, perhaps dressed as men:

As the lord justices explained in June 1642: 'We have hitherto where we came against the rebels ... the soldiers sometimes not sparing the women, and sometimes not children, many women being manifestly very deep in the guilt of this rebellion ... very forward to stir up their husbands, friends and kindred ... and in their spoils even with rage and fury with their own hands.'
Mary O'Dowd, 'Women and war in Ireland in the 1640s' in Margaret MacCurtain & Mary O'Dowd, Women in early modern Ireland, Dublin, 1991, p.100.

Famous examples of women who conducted the defence of their castles or towns, include Lettice Lady Offaly who successfully defended her castle at Geashill near Tullamore in 1642 when it was besieged twice by Confederate forces under the command of her cousin, Lord Clanmaliere.

Elizabeth Butler, Lady Thurles managed to hold on to her property by 'running with the hares and hunting with the hounds', seeming to support both sides in the Confederate War until her son James Butler became Duke of Ormond and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1662 after the Restoration.


  1. Write a brief account of women who took part in warfare in early modern Ireland.
  2. Lettice, Lady ___ successfully defended her castle and ____, Lady Thurles managed to hold on to her property until her son, James ___ became Lord ____ of Ireland in ___ after the ____.


  1. Research Lettice Lady Offaly or Elizabeth Lady Thurles.
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