Louie Bennett

Life
1870-1956; b. and brought up at Temple Hill, N. Dublin; ed. Dublin, London and Bonn, where she studied singing; became journalist; helped establish the Irishwoman’s Suffrage Federation, 1911, closely involved in 1913 Lock-Out Strike; elected 1st woman President of Irish Trades Union Conference, and elected to executive of Labour Party, 1927; resisted Labour Party support for Fianna Fáil, also 1927; issued novels incl. Prisoner of His Word (1908), on Thomas Russell; founder Irish Women Workers’ Union; close friend and colleague of Helen Chenevix; latterly resisted proliferation of nuclear energy and advocated establishment of joint council with Northern Ireland to deal with these and other problems; d. 25 Nov. 1956, at her home, St. Brigid’s, Killiney. DIW DIH IF OCIL WJM

[ top ]

Works
The Proving of Priscilla (London: Harper 1902); A Prisoner of His World: A Tale of Real Happenings (Dublin: Maunsel 1908), 240pp.; Prisoner of His Word (Dublin: Maunsel; rep. 1914), 240pp.; Ireland And A People's Peace: Paper Read by Miss Louie Bennett at a Joint Meeting of the Irishwomen's International League and the Irish Section of the Union of Democratic Control, Feb. 27, 1918 (Dublin/London: Maunsel and Co. 1918), 16pp.

[ top ]

Criticism
R. M. Fox, Louis Bennett: Her Life and Times (Dublin: Talbot Press 1958), 123pp. [infra]; Diane Tolomeo, ‘Modern Fiction’, in Recent Research on Anglo-Irish Writers, ed. James F. Kilroy (MLA 1983), [q.p.]; Margaret Ward, ‘Nationalism, Pacificism, Internationalism: Louie Bennett, Hanna-Sheehy Skeffington and the Problems of “Defining Feminism”’, in Anthony Bradley and Maryann Gialanella Valiulis, ed., Gender and Sexuality in Modern Ireland (Massachusetts UP 1997) [q.p.]; Rosemary Cullen Owens, Louie Bennett [Radical Irish Lives Ser.] (Cork UP 2001).

See also Christina Murphy, The Women’s Suffrage Movement and Irish Society in the Early Twentieth Century (Brighton: Harvester Wheatsheaf 1987); Karen Steele, Women, Press and Politics During the Irish Revival (Syracuse UP 2007).

Bibliographical details
R. M. Fox, Louis Bennett: Her Life and Times (Dublin: Talbot Press 1958), 123pp., ded. to Helen Chenevix; CONTENTS, Author’s Note [7]; Early Years [9]; Keynote [19]; Going Forward [33]; Suffrage, Peace - and Connolly [40]; Baptism of Fire [52]; Shouldering the Burden [64]; Impact of War [74]; Peace Offensive [83]; Leadership [96]; Work and Vision [113]

[ top ]

Commentary
See remarks on A Prisoner of His Word (1908), infra.

[ top ]

Quotations
A Prisoner of His Word (Dublin: Maunsel 1908): ‘A Lambart had married a Puritan maiden of humble original (her grandfather had fought in the ranks of the Ironsides, and had fallen on the field of Naseby) … the strange revolutionary outbreak on the part of the heir of their house. For generations the Lambarts had served the kings of England in war and peace … their pleasant home in Hertfordshire, a long, high house on the slope of upward-sweeping meadow lands.’ [45]. ‘To Ross Lambart it was as if the French Revolution tore veils from his eyes … In the first flash, he saw nothing but the evil of his own country [46 ...] Wilberforce, Clarkson, Granville Sharp, were names to bring a glow to the heart … [while in].the Methodist movement, vivified by the Wesleys, Ross recognised a working of spirituality in the prevailing materialism. … England was not dead, though sunk so deep in the slough of materialism. [47; cont.]

A Prisoner of His Word (1908) - cont.: ‘[In Ireland] he had doubts of England’s civilising methods. His ideal of civilisation was not the popular one; and it seemed possible to him that semi-barbarism might be more tolerable than the corrupt civilisation in which he had hitherto lived. Some misgivings he had at being cut off in Ireland from intellectual interests … And at the moment when his passion for ideas was awakening new energy, he fell under the [48] influence of Thomas Russell, then one of the most interesting a fascinating men in Ireland … Caught up in the sanguine enthusiasm of this fine dreamer, Lambart’s soul stretched wings of longing towards that great future and burned to accomplish something to hasten its coming. [49; cont.]

A Prisoner of His Word (1908) - cont.: ‘Now he saw clearly the horrors towards which he and she were drifting; he saw revenge as a sin; he saw how terrible a force it was, and to what crimes it might lead them. And the nobler emotions of his heart reasserted themselves. All that he had seen an suffered in those few hours of freedom slew forever the unreasoning hopefulness and reckless enthusiasm of youth. But for what he thus lost, he gained in wisdom, in broader charity, in calmness of spirit. And all the lore and learning and poetry with which, to the scorn of his family, he had fed his youth, now stood him in good stead, comforting his dark hours and giving him strength and courage to endure inaction.’ [139; cont.]

A Prisoner of His Word (1908) - cont.: ‘He had learnt to doubt the wisdom of rebellion; he could not feel that Ireland would gain anything by a further stirring up of strife. Only the healing and teaching power of time could avail to bring to his adopted country redress of grievances and a measure of prosperity.’[146] ‘[...].Surely men were now beginning to learn that the growth of wisdom and knowledge would finally effect what hot heads and hot hearts had striven in vain to attain by force. … that the spirit of humanity, a broad humanity, was spreading liven leaven, and eventually, after patient waiting and quiet work, it would accomplish all the reforms men dreamed of and desired. That the desire existed was proof that fulfilment must come. Desires are subtly pervasive, subtly effectual; often they work unseen until the moment of fulfilment. [147] (For longer extracts, see Ricorso Library, “Authors”, infra.)

[ top ]

Musings’: ‘Her beauty and her sorrows make men mad. The madness of her lovers! The tenderness of her lovers in her poets - How I came to know her [/...] A review of Ireland in recent times. Union - O’Connell - Pearse - Sinn Féin - Literary Renaissance - Gaelic League - Language movement. All giving a personality to the world to help it to understand. Rebellion - now what? Study. Thought. Knowledge. - All those others like flowers or mountain springs - spontaneous, natural outflowings. But now Ireland has grown self-conscious, articulate. A new era for her. What will she be in the world. Thought. Knowledge. [...]’ (‘musings’ under the heading “Kathleen Ni Houlihan”, quoted in R. M. Fox, Louie Bennett: Her Life and Times, 1958, p.122.)

English feminists: ‘We Irish women must all resent the independent interference of any English organisation in our political affairs. English suffragists cannot do any work for us in Ireland unless they co-operate with us and allow themselves to be guided by our more intimate knowledge of the Irish people and Irish affairs.’ (The Irish Citizen, 20 Sept. 1913; quoted in Margaret Ward, ‘“The Suffrage Above All Else!”: An Account of the Irish Suffrage Movement”, in Irish Women’s Studies: A Reader, ed. Ailbhe Smyth, Dublin: Attic Press 1993, p.35.)

[ top ]

References
James M. Cahalan, The Irish Novel: A Critical History (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1988), cites Diane Tolomeo in, ‘Modern Fiction’, in James F. Kilroy, ed., Recent Research on Anglo-Irish Writers (MLA 1983) [bibliography].

University of Ulster Library holds a copy of R. M .Fox, Louis Bennett, Her Life and Times (1958).

[ top ]


Notes
See note on four autograph letters of 1955 discussing the impact of a pamphlet by a ‘Mr. Duggan’ on readers in Northern Ireland under George Chester Duggan [supra].

[ top ]