Theresa May has told the British Parliament that it should honor Irish republican heroine Countess Constance Markievicz next year for the centenary of her election.
Most British women were granted the right to vote and stand for election to the House of Commons by the Representation of the People Act 1918 after the Great War and Markievicz was the sole women to be elected in that year’s General Election.
As a Sinn Féin MP she refused to take her seat in Westminster, choosing instead to sit in Dublin along with colleagues who formed what they called the First Dáil.
Asked at Prime Minister’s Questions by a colleague, Nicky Morgan, about the upcoming centenary, May said, “Can I say to my right honourable friend, that I think it is important that we mark the centenary next year and recognise the role that women have played in this House and in their time in the area of public life.”
MPs "should have due care & attention to the way.... we refer to other people and should show women in public life the respect they deserve" pic.twitter.com/WbAcZYoha9— Daily&SundayPolitics (@daily_politics) October 25, 2017
Neither Morgan or May mentioned Markievicz by name and, unlike in Ireland where she is a household name, it’s possible that the pair were unaware that an Irish republican was the first woman to be elected to serve in the House of Commons.
After her election Markievicz was appointed Minister for Labor in the rebel Government of the Irish Republic and played a prominent role in Cumann na mBan (the Women’s IRA) during the War of Independence and Civil War.
If the idea of honoring such a fearsome foe of the Crown is too much for the British Conservative party to handle then the centenary of Lady Nancy Astor’s election in 1919 offers an alternative: like Markievicz she was married to a peer but that’s really where comparisons end. Astor was elected for Plymouth Sutton in 1919 and crucially took her seat, loyally serving in the House of Commons for over two and a half decades.