Glasnevin Cemetery, Finglas Rd, Botanic, Glasnevin, Co. Dublin D11 PA00, Ireland
Johanna Mary "Hanna" Sheehy Skeffington (née Sheehy; 24 May 1877 – 20 April 1946) was a suffragette and Irish nationalist. Along with her husband Francis Sheehy-Skeffington, Margaret Cousins and James Cousins, she founded the Irish Women's Franchise League in 1908 with the aim of obtaining women's voting rights. She was later a founding member of the Irish Women Workers' Union. Her son, Owen Sheehy-Skeffington became a politician and Irish Senator. Her name and picture (and those of 58 other women and men's suffrage supporters) are on the plinth of the statue of Millicent Fawcett in Parliament Square, London, unveiled in 2018.
Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington's sister Mary married the writer and politician Thomas Kettle. Another sister, Kathleen, married Frank Cruise O'Brien, and was the mother of Conor Cruise O'Brien. The fourth of the sisters, Margaret, married a solicitor, John Culhane, and later the poet Michael Casey. Their two brothers worked as lawyers.
Hanna Sheehy was born in Kanturk, County Cork, Ireland, the daughter of Elizabeth "Bessie" McCoy and David Sheehy, an ex-Fenian and an MP for the Irish Parliamentary Party, representing South Galway. Hanna spent her earliest years on a millhouse which her father also grew up on. When Hanna was three years old the family relocated to Loughmore, Tipperary. Hanna had six siblings, one of whom died at an unknown age; there is very little written about this child. Her siblings were Margaret, born 1875; Eugene, born 1882; Richard, born 1884; Mary, born 1884; and Kathleen, born 1886. One of her uncles, Father Eugene Sheehy, was known as the Land League Priest, and his activities landed him in prison. He was also one of Éamon de Valera's teachers in Limerick. When Hanna's father became an MP in 1887, the family moved to Hollybank, Drumcondra, Dublin. The family lived next door to the Lord Mayor of Dublin and poet of "God Save Ireland", T.D. Sullivan. Hanna was sent to Germany for a short period when she was 18 years old to get treatment for tuberculosis. After graduating from the Royal University of Ireland, she worked in Paris for a time as an au pair, returning to Ireland in 1902. Hanna's brother Richard was close friends with James Joyce. Joyce wrote about the Sheehys in his acclaimed novel Ulysses, depicting Bessie as a 'social climbing matriarch', a description to which she vehemently objected.  When Hanna was a teenager, the Sheehys held an open house on the second Sunday night of each month, at 2 Belvedere Place near Mountjoy Square in Dublin. They encouraged young people to visit them and their six children. James Joyce, who was a student at the nearby Belvedere College, and his younger brother Stanislaus, were regular visitors in 1896-1897. Joyce nursed a secret love for her sister Mary, the prettiest girl in the family (and later Mrs. Tom Kettle). The Sheehys were fond of singing and playing games, and would ask their guests to sing.
Hanna was educated at the Dominican Convent on Eccles Street, where she was a prize-winning pupil. She then enrolled at St Mary's University College, a third-level college for women established by the Dominicans in 1893, to study modern languages (in her case, French and German). She sat for examinations at Royal University of Ireland and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1899, and a Master of Arts Degree with first-class honours in 1902. This led to a career as a teacher in Eccles Street and an examiner in the Intermediate Certificate examination.
Hanna was introduced to Francis Skeffington, from County Down, by mutual friend James Joyce, who went to university with Skeffington. The couple would meet regularly in Bewley's Cafe to discuss politics, the arts and religion. Hanna married Francis Skeffington on June 3, 1903 at University Chapel in St. Stephen's Green, Dublin. The couple wore their graduation gowns as a substitute for a traditional wedding gown and suit. Both husband and wife took the surname Sheehy Skeffington as a symbol of their honour for one another. This gesture angered Dr. J.B., Francis's father, as it was seen as an act of betrayal to their family's name. The couple moved to 8 Airfield Road, Rathgar, Dublin, shortly after the ceremony. This was an area considered Pro-British at the time. Sheehy Skeffington had a son named Owen. (In 2014, Owen's daughter, Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington, won a gender discrimination case against NUI Galway.)
The Irish Citizen was a feminist newspaper launched by Hanna Sheehy Skeffington and Margaret Cousins. It was first published on 25 May 1912 as an eight-page weekly newspaper. By June 1912 it had sold 3,000 copies and was reaching up to 10,000 readers. The motto of the newspaper was, ‘For Men and Women Equally The Rights of Citizenship; For Men and Women Equally The Duties of Citizenship’. Francis Sheehy Skeffington and James Cousins, the husbands of Hanna Sheehy Skeffington and Margaret Cousins, were the first editors of the publication. Hanna, in October 1919 said that the newspaper was founded "to further the cause of Woman Suffrage and Feminism in Ireland... In addition it had stood for the rights of Labour, especially for the rights of women workers... we stood for the self determination of Ireland." The newspaper covered topics such as Home Rule, Nationalism, and Feminism. It gave women and the suffragette movement their own voice to express their views. Lillian Metge, from Lisburn, wrote articles for the newspaper throughout the suffrage campaign and during World War One. Hanna Sheehy Skeffington took over the position of editor when her husband was shot in 1916 and remained in this role, on and off, until 1920 when the publication ceased.
She died, aged 68, in Dublin, and is buried with her husband in Glasnevin Cemetery.
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