Letter of Mrs Kate O'Callaghan to Mr Éamon de Valera 
in 1937 in connection with the proposed Constitution.

[Mrs Kate O'Callaghan was the widow of Michael O'Callaghan,, mayor of Limerick who was murdered in her presence by British forces in 1921. She was a member of Dáil Éireann from 1921-1923.] 

St. Margaret's, 
O'Callaghan Strand, 
23rd May 1937.

Dear Mr de Valera,

You indicated in your introduction to the Draft Constitution that you would welcome criticism from those who read it with care. I have read it and I read too your speech on the Second Reading and I want to lay before you the reasons why I could not vote for its acceptance.

... The articles relating to the status of women were a great disappointment to me, as they must have been to the many who hoped for the 'equal rights and equal opportunities' which the Proclamation of the Republic in 1916 guaranteed to all its citizens.

I note that you gave a qualified promise to a delegation from women's societies that you would consider safeguards regarding the status of women under Articles 9 and 16, but I want to protest strongly against certain other articles which seem to me to be unjust to women: Articles 40.1, 41.2 and 45.4.2

[Mrs O'Callaghan then went on to detail the nature of her objections to these articles.]

Article 45.4.2 is the most objectionable ... as it charges the Creator with afflicting half the race with 'inadequate strength' or with éagcumas, which surely means the lack of some power which they ought to have.

... I would ask you to delete these clauses, because they are a betrayal of what was regarded by all loyal Irishwomen as the charter of their freedom. In the period of the war with England, 1916-1923, the Irish nation rose to the test as never before in its history, men and women serving alike. There was no talk then of the inadequate strength of women, their differences of capacity, physical and moral and of social function and I am surprised that you, who lived through the period in intimate contact with the ordinary people of the nation and valued, I think, the splendid service of the women of the people, now include in this Draft Constitution, clauses which, however well-intentioned, will militate against women in a state based on their work and sacrifice.

... You will, I hope, believe that I make these criticisms in good faith, for I have always wanted justice and complete freedom for this country.

I am with good wishes for you and yours,

Yours sincerely,
K. O'Callaghan


Reply from President de Valera's office


25adh Bealtaine, 1937.

A Chara,

I am to say that your letter of the 23rd instant has been received and that it will be brought to the notice of the President at the earliest opportunity.

Mise, le meas,


Mrs. K. O'Callaghan,
St. Margaret's O'Callaghan Strand,

Source: National Archives of Ireland, Roinn an Uachtaráin, S9880.



  1. What kind of source is this? How and why does it become available to the public?
  2. Evaluate this letter as historical evidence for the period of composition of Bunreacht na hÉireann.
  3. How did Mrs Kathleen O'Callaghan feel about Articles 40.1, 41.1.2 and 45.4.2?
  4. What reasons does she advance for her attitude to the Articles?
  5. Read Articles 40.1, 41.2. and 45.4.2 and discuss them in the light of Mrs. O'Callaghan's feelings.
  6. Why do you think de Valera wanted to insert these articles in the Constitution?
  7. Discuss this document in its historical context.


  1. Research Articles 40.1, 41.2 and 45.2 ofBunreacht na hÉireann and describe the safeguards for women which De Valera agreed to insert in Articles 9 and 16. (They refer to citizenship, voting rights and election to Dáil Éireann)
  2. Draft a reply from de Valera to the above letter.
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