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One press report stated that the women were ‘serving in the dining room of the Post Office dressed in their finest clothes, and wore knifes and pistols in their belts …wearing green and white and oranges sashes’; another report, based upon an account by a Red Cross nurse and published under the headline ‘Fearless under Fire’, expresses admiration for ‘…these Irishwomen, who did their work with a cool and reckless courage, unsurpassed by any man from the first to the last day of the Rebellion’.
This figure is drawn from recently released material held by the Military Archives and adds almost 100 names to a list of participants previously compiled by this author.Prior to the release of the Military Archive's records, lists of female combatants and others were assembled from a variety of sources: from the published accounts of the Rising by participants; through the identification of individuals who stood for a group photograph in the grounds of Ely O’Connor’s House in the summer of 1916; and from the signatures of those who contributed to an Easter Week Roll of Honour which was compiled in 1936 and in a ceremony in front of government buildings on Merrion Street.What we know of women’s participation in the Rising has been transformed by the material released from the Military Archives over the past decade.The witness statements housed by the Bureau of Military History give us the voices of the participants but it is the applications for military pensions that give us verified accounts by their contemporaries confirming and outlining their actions.Although from diverse backgrounds they united around such causes as the promotion of workers’ rights and they came together in the course of such cultural activities as the revival of the Irish language and music.
Across the decades that followed, which saw a War of Independence and a Civil War, the majority of the women ‘Out in 16’ would suffer poverty, imprisonment, ill-heath and, in some cases, premature death as a result of their politicisation. Approximately 300 took part in the events across Easter week.