Cumann na mBan, a women’s support group to the Irish Volunteers, was founded in 1914. Nationalist in outlook, its aims centred on arming Irish men, generating propaganda and presenting a united Irish opposition to English rule. After participation in the 1916 Rising, members played crucial roles in intelligence work, transporting arms, nursing wounded men, providing safe houses and supporting IRA men in prison. They also boosted attendances at republican election rallies, funerals and protest marches. In 1922 the leadership overwhelmingly rejected the Treaty, causing a split and the formation of Cumann na Saoirse (Free State Cumann na mBan). The Free State government’s awareness of Cumann na mBan’s assistance to the IRA resulted in large-scale imprisonment of republican women during the Civil War. But, for a time at least, Cumann na mBan had placed equality for women on the political agenda and demonstrated that women could be as politically active and capable as men.
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