The new Irish Free State came into existence as the result of a revolutionary movement in which both women and men played an active part together. When revolutions are over and new states founded, women throughout the world are often disappointed to find themselves restricted and marginalised as men take control of the new state and its institutions.
|The involvement of women is a common feature of nationalist movements. From India to Egypt to Africa to Ireland, the upsurge of nationalism was accompanied by the emergence of women onto the streets in public protest, and into public life as organisers, leaders and shock troops ... In all these countries their hopes for equal treatment after independence were dashed as the new state was established, modelled to a greater or lesser extent on that which it had replaced.
Carol Coulter, The Hidden Tradition, Cork, 1993, p. 5.
The institutions of the Irish Free State were in fact largely modelled on those of Britain. However, the Irish Free State Constitution gave the vote to women over 21 on the same basis as men and seemed to offer sound guarantees to women.
|Every person, without distinction of sex, domiciled in the area of the jurisdiction of the Irish Free State at the time of the coming into operation of this Constitution, who was born in Ireland or either of whose parents was born in Ireland or who has been ordinarily resident in the area of the jurisdiction of the Irish Free State for not less than seven years, is a citizen of the Irish Free State and shall within the limits of the jurisdiction of the Irish Free State enjoy the privileges and be subject to the obligations of such citizenship ...
Article 3, Constitution of the Irish Free State, 1922.
The new rulers had years of experience in rebel organisations but they had to grapple with very serious problems as they learned for themselves how to govern a country. It is generally agreed that they gave more attention to finance, farming, trade, security and political issues than they did to women's and other social issues. Many reasons are advanced to explain why women in Ireland were restricted and marginalised at this time