Margaret Cousins established the Irish Women’s Franchise League with Hannah Sheehy Skeffington. She campaigned for women’s suffrage attending rallies in Ireland and England and was imprisoned in Holloway prison and in Tullamore Prison for a month on both occasions. The descriptions in the book of conditions are extremely interesting. Later she moved to India and continued her equality work there. She established the first All India Women’s Conference, a democratically elected body composed of Indian women delegates from throughout the subcontinent.
She launched the All-Asian Women’s Conference in India which now has 200,000 members and 500 AWCI Centres. She was also involved in the establishment of a ‘Child Welfare and Maternity Centre in India. She was the first non-indian woman magistrate in Indian history and she had an observer seat at the League of Nations.
As Cathaoirleach of Roscommon County Council (2017-2018) , I initiated the Vótáil 100Roscommon Commemorative Lecture Programme which was held in the magnificent King House, Boyle in April 2018. This event celebrated the centenary of women’s suffrage and reflected on Margaret Cousin’s legacy and the pioneering work of the irish Women’s Franchise League. It was at the Votail 100 event that I met Dr Keith Munro’s and heard about the publication he was then working on “Through the Eyes of Margaret Cousins – Irish & Indian Suffragette”.
Thank you Dr. Munro for bringing Margaret’s legacy back to Boyle, for reminding Boyle and County Roscommon of this great pioneering women’s contribution so she can be heralded in her own place. A plaque was unveiled at her birthplace in the Crescent, Boyle in 1994 - this book I believe can act as a catalyst to further recognition of Margaret Cousins in Boyle, in Roscommon and in Ireland.
It seems most appropriate and touching that Dr Helen Pankhurst great granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst and granddaughter of Sylvia Pankhurst has commended the book:
“Dr Munro’s great-aunt, Margaret Cousins, jointly founded the irish Women’s Franchise League in 1908 and collaborated with my great grandmother, Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters on the quest for
suffrage, suffering a period in Holloway Prison as a result. Mrs Cousinsemigrated to india in 1915 and played an important role in indian women’s fight for the vote, subsequently devoting her life to the education of indian
women and striving for their equality with men in all things. She was also a vegetarian and a Theosophist who lived a long and purposeful life, dying in india in 1954. My thanks to Dr Munro for bringing Margaret Cousins’ life and work out of the shadows, sharing her story primarily through her diary records and those of her husband James. So many women fought to make a difference to the lives of others and yet their contributions are being, or have been, forgotten. Hopefully this book will ensure a better fate for Margaret ‘gretta’ Cousins.”
Photo credit: Dermot Leyden
Press cuttings: Most recent edition of Roscommon Herald