Senator Bacik, Vótáil100 and a new Irish book on Somerville and Ross by Julie Anne Stevens
On 5 September 2017 in the Royal Irish Academy, Senator Ivana Bacik launched Somerville Press’s Two Irish Girls in Bohemia: The Drawings and Writings of E. Œ. Somerville and Martin Ross by Julie Anne Stevens of the School of English, Dublin City University.
Senator Bacik spoke of the timely nature of a publication on Irish feminism at the turn of the twentieth century. She noted that 2018 sees the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the parliamentary vote for women in Ireland. A century ago, the writer and artist Edith Somerville, president of the Munster Women’s Franchise League, and her cousin and co-author, Violet Martin as its vice-president argued that educational opportunities for women would allow them to advance. Two Irish Girls in Bohemia gives an account of how these ladies of the Irish Big House used their positions to further women’s involvement in art and literature in Ireland. Edith Somerville’s drawings provide a visual record of a female sisterhood established in the art studios of Paris and Somerville and Ross’s writings such as their novel, The Real Charlotte (1894), show the challenges of trying to create similar female opportunities in Ireland.
Senator Bacik pointed out that in this centenary year we continue to face the challenge of women’s under-representation in the public sphere. She argued the vital importance of remembering the achievements of women in the past and the need to encourage the young women of the future. She spoke, then, of one of the events that will be happening in 2018 when the Houses of the Oireachtas will be offering a programme to celebrate the work of earlier Irish feminists such as Somerville and Ross. Entitled Vótáil100, the commemoration programme will include Seanad Eireann’s hosting of a youth debate aimed at transition year students and mentoring in public speaking will be part of the package.