History Hub


Connecting past and present

In this podcast we want to share with you some of the stories of women you may have never heard of before, and think about how you too can go about discovering the afterlives and contributions of the women in your family, your community and in women’s organizations that you may belong to, so together we can celebrate and acknowledge the lives and afterlives of activist women in Ireland.

Professor Caitríona Beaumont

London South Bank University / Visiting full professor at UCD

AFTERLIVES: Grannies, Guns, and Archives - Tracing revolutionary & post revolutionary women's lives


Supported by UKRI External Participatory and Collaborative Research Fund, London South Bank University and University College Dublin.

In June 2023 Professor Caitríona Beaumont  (LSBU / UCD) joined UCD historians Dr Mary McAuliffe and Dr Fionnuala Walsh to record a podcast on a new project: AFTERLIVES.

The aim of the project is to uncover the afterlives and trace the life stories of lesser known activist women.

Listen to episode 2 – ‘My life wasn’t much after’: women’s voices in the Military Archiveshere

As Beaumont explains, the inspiration for the project came from a surprising discovery.

I got a bit of a surprise a few years ago when my cousin shared a photo with me of our grandmother. Instead of the typical portrait or family group there was my beloved grandmother, my “Maimeó”, as a young woman in her twenties grinning at the camera while perched on a bicycle holding a rifle in one hand and a fishing rod in the other. Taken around 1918 she’s wearing her Cumann na mBán uniform.

Seeing my grandmother in uniform with a rifle was quite a shock. I wasn’t aware she was a supporter of physical-force nationalism. It transpired that Maírín McGavock, later Beaumont, went on to join the executive of Cumann na mBan in 1920 and along with other members voted against the 1921 Anglo-Irish treaty leading to a split in the organisation in February 1922.

Seeing this photo it suddenly dawned on me that my grandmother who lived with me in Dublin until her death in 1972 when I was five years old was one of the so-called “furies” and “die-hards” who president Cosgrave proclaimed in a speech that these were the women who, and I quote: “at their extremist confined no outlets so satisfying as destruction, sheer destruction” (Irish Times, 1 January 1923).

Discovering this photo of Maírín with a rifle, and sharing her little known story of activism during and after the Irish Revolution and Civil War has led to a new history project in collaboration with a number of academics, including Dr Mary McAuliffe and Dr Fionnualla Walsh of University College Dublin, and we’re also working with the ICA and Soroptimist Ireland on this new project.

Together we want to uncover the afterlives and trace the life stories of lesser known activist women. We want to better understand and acknowledge the contributions of the women frozen in time in old photos in homes and attics around the country, to the Ireland that we live in today.

Professor Caitríona Beaumont


Listen to the podcast

Listen to ‘AFTERLIVES: Grannies, Guns, and Archives – Tracing revolutionary & post revolutionary women’s lives’ on Apple, Spotify, Soundcloud and via RSS Feed.

Useful resources

Throughout the podcast there are lots of useful resources mentioned which you can use as part of your own historical research.

These include:

Bureau of Military History

The Bureau of Military History Collection, 1913-1921 (BMH) is a collection of 1,773 witness statements; 334 sets of contemporary documents; 42 sets of photographs and 13 voice recordings that were collected by the State between 1947 and 1957, in order to gather primary source material for the revolutionary period in Ireland from 1913 to 1921. The Bureau’s official brief was ‘to assemble and co-ordinate material to form the basis for the compilation of the history of the movement for Independence from the formation of the Irish Volunteers on 25th November 1913, to the 11th July 1921’ (report of the Director, 1957).

Military Service Pensions Collection

The collection comprises a large and varied corpus of archival material and records. The two broad streams of legislation are used to illustrate the nature and content of the personal files of applicants and the relevance of the supporting administrative records and other material in the collection. The supporting administrative and other records were gathered to assist the Department of Defence and the bodies set up under the legislation in deciding on the merit of each applicant’s case.

Military Archives

From as early as 1924, the National Army, recognising the importance of the War of Independence, undertook to preserve historical documents from that time. Some of the earliest collections preserved by the Historical Section include the Collins Papers, Civil War Operations and Intelligence files and Captured Documents (Civil War up to 1925), which continue to be made available today.

Irish Newspapers Archive

The online newspaper archives provides a fast and easy way to access newspapers from 1738 all the way up to current day. The archive consists of over 6 million pages of newspaper content from titles North and South of the Irish border and through the newspaper obituaries Irish genealogists can search, retrieve and view births, deaths and marriage records from over 279 year’s worth of Irish publications.

UCD Archives

UCD Archives specialises in the acquisition of private paper collections associated with the history and development of the modern Irish State. It now preserves the papers of a great many Irish public figures including diplomats, senior civil servants, members of government and the judiciary, presidents and EU commissioners. UCD also acquires the records of significant organisations such as political parties, trades unions, professional, cultural and sporting bodies. These collections constitute an essential resource for research into Irish history, politics and culture from the twentieth century onwards.

UCD Digital Library

The Mission of the UCD Digital Library is to capture, curate, and manage digital cultural resources and research outputs of the University College Dublin community as well as its collaborators and partners, to preserve and sustain the usability of these assets, and to enable their broad dissemination. UCD Digital Library refers to the digital collections and online services made available by the Library of University College Dublin. Resources managed by the UCD Digital Library include: digitised cultural heritage data: printed documents, archival materials, artefacts, etc. research data arising from activity at UCD and elsewhere.

The National Library of Ireland

Every year thousands of people visit the National Library in person and online to research their family history. The NLI has many records and resources that can be used to trace your ancestors including Catholic parish records, property records, newspapers and directories. The NLI offers a free Family History Service to assist researchers who require additional help in their search for their ancestors. They also provide free access to a number of genealogy subscription sites in all their reading rooms.

Check out some advice from NLI conservator Louise O’Connor on looking after your family archives: https://www.nli.ie/news-stories/stories/looking-after-your-family-archives-prevention-better-cure

The National Archives of Ireland

National Archives hold records of government of the modern Irish state from its foundation to approximately 1988. National Archives also acquires private collections that complement their holdings, including business records, medical collections, solicitors’ collections and some landed estate collections. Their collections are particularly useful for anyone interested in researching the political, social and economic development of Ireland from the 18th century to the present day. Many of their collections are also extremely valuable for family and local history research.

Check out some advice from Zoë Reid, Keeper of Public Services and Collections, on caring for your family papers:

Dictionary of Irish Biography

The Dictionary of Irish Biography (DIB) is a project of the Royal Irish Academy. It tells the island’s life story through the biographies, at home and overseas, of prominent men and women born in Ireland, north and south, and the noteworthy Irish careers of those born outside Ireland. Launched in 2009 after many years of research by hundreds of contributors, the DIB’s online edition now features nearly 11,000 lives and continues to grow. The DIB regularly publishes new entries on important figures who have died in recent times, and on ‘missing persons’: previously overlooked figures deserving fresh interest.

BBC Family History – Getting Started

Learn the basics you’ll need to get started on your own research, from drawing up your family tree to exploring the archives.

British Red Cross First World War Volunteers:

Over 90,000 volunteers worked for the British Red Cross during the First World War. Known as ‘Voluntary Aid Detachments (VADs)’, they were of vital importance in providing humanitarian aid to naval and military forces during the war at home and abroad. These included over 13,000 volunteers from Ireland, mostly women, who served on the home front and in hospitals overseas. The WWI Red Cross records are digitised and can be searched by person or place or keyword.

The National Archives (London), First World War Research Guides

The National Archives in London holds WWI records of men and women and are an excellent source for researching Irish ancestors. Relevant digitised collections for researching Irish women include the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps records and the British Army Nursing records.


Findmypast is a fast-growing, technology-driven subscription service. With a bank of billions of digitised records, and access to some of the world’s most renowned historical databases, Findmypast allows customers to connect to people, both past and present, and visualise their family story in more detail than ever before.

Further Reading

Caitríona Beaumont, “How a photograph uncovered my grandmother’s republican activism during the Irish revolution” The Conversation, October 17, 2022. https://theconversation.com/how-a-photograph-uncovered-my-grandmothers-republican-activism-during-the-irish-revolution-189326.

Caitríona Beaumont, Women, Citizenship and Catholicism in the Irish Free State, 1922 to 1948 in Women’s History Review, 6, 4, 1997. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09612029700200154

Caitríona Beaumont, Mary Clancy and Louise Ryan, Networks as ‘laboratories of experience’: exploring the life cycle of the suffrage movement and its aftermath in Ireland 1870–1937 in Women’s History Review, 29, 6, 2020. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09612025.2020.1745414

Mary McAuliffe, Margaret Skinnider (Dublin: UCD Press, 2020)

Fionnuala Walsh, Irish Women and the Great War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020)

Fionnuala Walsh: Historiography 1918-Today (Ireland) , in: 1914-1918-online. International Encyclopedia of the First World War, ed. by Ute Daniel, Peter Gatrell, Oliver Janz, Heather Jones, Jennifer Keene, Alan Kramer, and Bill Nasson, (Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin 2022-03-21). DOI: 10.15463/ie1418.11604. https://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/historiography_1918-today_ireland

Margaret Ward, Unmanageable Revolutionaries: Women and Irish Nationalism, 1880-1980. (2nd edition, 2021).

Louise Ryan & Margaret Ward (eds) Irish Women and the Vote: Becoming Citizens. (2nd edition, 2018).

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