OPW presents two new exhibitions in Kilmainham Gaol Museum on the experiences of women prisoners during the Irish Civil War
30 May 2023 to 30 April 2024
The Office of Public Works (OPW) at Kilmainham Gaol Museum presents two special exhibitions to mark the centenary of the imprisonment of over 600 women during the Irish Civil War. ‘hearts ne’er waver’ explores the experiences of women imprisoned between November 1922 and December 1923 in Mountjoy Prison, Kilmainham Gaol and a special female political prison camp set up in the former North Dublin Union in Grangegorman.
The exhibition tells stories of hunger strikes, forced removals and escape attempts, as well as prison concerts, fancy dress parties and games of rounders played in the prison yards using a chair-leg as a bat.
Among the items on display are prison letters, diaries and autograph books, as well as items made by the women during their imprisonment such as a crocheted blouse, an embroidered pyjama case and a significant body of work created by the artist Grace Gifford Plunkett. She found herself a prisoner in Kilmainham Gaol in 1923, having previously married her husband Joseph Plunkett in the prison chapel the night before his execution in the Gaol following the 1916 Rising.
One of the highlights of the exhibition is a tricolour featuring the emblem of Cumann na mBan
which was made in Kilmainham Gaol by a group of women prisoners from Carlow. In the years that followed this flag was used to drape the coffins of these women as well as other veterans of the struggle for independence in Carlow. Following extensive conservation work, this flag is on display for the first time in over twenty-five years.
Running in parallel with ‘hearts ne’er waver’ is an exhibition of work by the artist Margo McNulty entitled ‘Voices’. This collection of paintings and prints hauntingly evokes the atmosphere of Kilmainham Gaol and offers glimpses of the personalities of the women prisoners incarcerated there during the Civil War. Much of the work is inspired by personal items that once belonged to the women prisoners which now survive in both public and private collections.
In 2022 Margo McNulty was a recipient of the Decade of Centenaries Markievicz Award which is given by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media to artists involved in the commemoration of the role of women during the Irish Revolutionary period.
The exhibition will be launched Tuesday 30 May at 6pm by Professor Laura McAtackney from the Radical Humanities Laboratory and School of Archaeology at University College, Cork. Among her many research
projects, she undertook a close and systematic survey of the graffiti in Kilmainham Gaol, much of which relates to the women held there in 1923.
More details *here*