EVA GORE BOOTH / POET, SUFRAGETTE, SOCIAL WORKER & LABOUR ACTIVIST

EVA GORE BOOTH

Poet, suffragist, social worker and labour activist

Sligo / Dublin / Manchester

1870 –1926

Eva Gore-Booth despised her aristocratic roots. She was born in 1870 in Lissadell House, a seventy-two roomed Greek revival mansion set on 32,000 acres of land in Sligo. She was one of five siblings. Her older sister, Countess Markievicz, played a prominent role in the fight for Irish independence and her older brother, Josslyn, worked with Horace Plunkett to establish co-operative schemes across the West of Ireland.

Gore-Booth established the first Sligo suffrage organisation in 1896. Weeks after their first public meeting Gore-Booth moved to Manchester to live with her lesbian partner, Esther Roper, with whom she would remain with for the rest of her life. She lived and worked amongst the working-classes in Manchester, many of whom were Irish emigrants. She established trade unions for female workers who were previously ignored by mainstream movements such as circus performers, pit-brow girls and flower sellers.

In 1908, she ran a rather theatrical campaign against Winston Churchill at a Manchester by-election. She introduced her sister, Markievicz, to politics through this campaign. The sisters drove a coach and four white horses through the streets giving rousing speeches in support of the continued employment of barmaids. They successfully orchestrated the defeat of Churchill at said by-election.

Gore-Booth was also a prolific writer, publishing nineteen volumes of poetry, philosophical prose and plays during her lifetime. Her work received favourable reviews in journals and newspapers across Ireland, England and America. She contributed towards the Celtic literary revival and her literary peers - W.B Yeats, George Russell and Katherine Tynan - were impressed with her poetry and dramatic works.

During World War One she moved to London and aided conscientious war objectors. After conscription was introduced in 1916 in England she travelled the country attending tribunals in support of the Conscientious Objectors.

Although a dedicated pacifist, she was in support of the Easter Rising. In the aftermath, she travelled to Dublin where she helped wives and children of those killed and maimed in the rebellion. Most notably she located Michael Mallin’s pregnant wife, Agnes, and organised financial aid and protection for Agnes and her young children after her husband was executed. Gore-Booth launched a high profile campaign for the reprieve of Roger Casement’s death sentence. Although ultimately unsuccessful, she managed to receive an audience with George V and propel the plight of Casement to an international audience.

She established a journal, Urania in 1916, which argued for the complete acceptance of same-sex relationships, which she placed in an exalted position. After the Easter Rising Gore-Booth became a prison rights activist and campaigned for the abolition of the death penalty. She was a vegetarian and a theosophist, dedicating her final years to anti-vivisection and spirituality. She died in 1926 in Hampstead, London with her partner, Esther, by her side.