Alice Stopford Green: High Priestess o f the Irish R evolution Limerick C it y Library
Overview: Links and Intersections
as African activist / philanthropy
as Irish nationalist
problematic position within Irish history.
Background / Context
b. 1847 into a Protestant family in Kells
Seventh child of Archdeacon Edward Stopford.
Access to her father’s library taught herself Greek, German and metaphysics.
Aged 16 she went temporarily blind. Attended lectures in the College of Sciences in Dublin.
John Richard Green 1837-1883
In 1877 Alice married the Oxford historian John Richard Green and became her husband’s research assistant until his death in 1883.
A short history of the English people (1874)
First social and cultural history of England.
32,000 copies sold in the first year.
Influential throughout British Empire and America.
Professionalization of History
J.R. Green was a co-founder with James Bryce of the English Historical Review .
Professionalization of history can be considered as an example of how knowledge was supplanting power at end of 19 th c.
Alice Green’s Network
As a result of her marriage Alice meets many leading historians and intellectuals of her day.
Gained reputation as an intellectual and robust conversationalist.
Her home became a meeting place for scholars, politicians, social and political activists.
An independent historian
After her husband’s death Alice writes two histories as an independent historian.
1888 – Henry II .
1894 – Town Life in the Fifteenth Century .
A.S. Green as historian
Reacted against notions of professional history capable of scientific methodology. She saw all history as subjective / political.
Experimental with sources: considering landscapes, poetry and song, language etc. as an important part of historical evidence.
The liberal network
Through her marriage and engagement with world of letters she built up exceptional network of influential women and men.
Networks served this knowledge-power nexus.
Early writings about women:
‘ Woman’s place in the world of letters’, Nineteenth Century , 1897, vol. xli, 244, 964-74.
Times , 19 May 1897, Letter re: University Degrees for Women
‘ Growing bureaucracy and parliamentary decline’, Nineteenth Century , 1900, vol. xlvii, 279, 839-46.
Green: an advocate of Women’s Rights?
1889 – Green was one of the signatories of ‘Appeal against female suffrage’.
Why did Green initially oppose suffrage?
How did she conceptualise woman’s place in society?
Woman’s transcendent role
Green saw women’s role outside the political sphere as social reorganisers, as influencing politics by serving beyond its parameters.
Her work for Africa and her support for Irish nationalism became space for realising this vision.
Mary Kingsley & Alice Green
From 1895-1900 Mary Kingsley and Alice Green become closely associated and Kingsley inspires Green’s interest in West Africa.
Women’s work as philanthropic endeavour.
Correspondence held in the National Library of Ireland.
Pan-African movement starts in 1900 and various figures involved in both ventures namely E.W. Blyden.
From African Society Green encouraged other campaigners, notably E.D. Morel & Stephen Gwynn.
The African Society
Green establishes African Society following death of Kingsley in 1900.
On the surface it might be understood as a tool of empire, amassing knowledge on Africa. Membership inclusive of many professions associated with Africa.
Beneath the surface it might be understood as a seed bed for anti-colonial interactions.
Journal of the African Society
Longest surviving publication in the West specializing in African affairs.
Catalysed a new discussion on Africa.
Transcends political difference.
Changing views on Africa
Finances the setting up of the West African Mail.
Invites African chiefs and elders to London.
Through Africa she tries to transcend political impotency.
Roger Casement to A.S.Green 24 April 1904: “ the claim of the Congo people must appeal to every sincere and genuine Irish national: the more we love our land and wish to help her people the more keenly we feel we cannot turn a deaf ear to suffering and injustice in any part of the world.”
Alice Green and Irish Nationalism
Strongly opposed to the Boer War.
Irish nationalist sympathies encouraged by her husband, found new impetus through Gaelic revival and especially Gaelic League and language renaissance.
A nation is its past?
Speaking Out on Ireland’s behalf
‘ It has been the object of English instruction in Ireland to keep the people in ignorance of their own history. This evil is intensified when their ignorance is exploited to depress them yet further by the repetition of calumnies which have done political service for centuries …’
Freeman’s Journal – 11 March 1905
Books on the history of Ireland
The making of Ireland and its undoing 1200-1600 (1908)
Irish Nationality (1911)
The Old Irish World (1912)
The Government of Ireland (1921)
The History of the Irish State to 1014 (1925)
Studies from Irish History (1926)
Irish Nationality (1911)
Most influential work in moving the mind of young Ireland since the essays of Thomas Davis.
28 Feb 1911 Yorkshire Observer described Green as the ‘most important Irish writer of the day.’
Irish language revival and promotion of medieval scholarship.
Historical Polemics (Graveyard at Durrow, use of Tara by Lord Aberdeen)
Cumman Na mBan.
London Committee of the Irish Volunteers.
Defence of Roger Casement.
Vol 1:3, 21 Feb 1914
It was in her home in Grosvenor Road the decision was taken by Green, Casement, Childers, Figgis to run guns in to Ireland.
Green chaired the private committee which financed the gun-running.
Royalties from A Short History of the English People paid for the guns.
Molly Childers & Mary Spring-Rice Asgard July 1914
Dedication on the Senate casket
No real history of Ireland has yet been written. When the true story is finally worked out – one not wholly occupied with the many and insatiable plunderers – it will give us a noble and reconciling vision of Irish nationality. Silence and neglect will no longer hide the fame of honourable men.
African Society Anti-Boer War Pan-Africanism Suffrage Cumann na Ban Howth gunrunning Irish Nationalism Gaelic League Irish Volunteers Philanthropy Congo Reform Assoc. White Cross Society Resistance In Interaction
Why is Green problematic?
Proximity to the centre of power (Political and intellectual).
Association as a Protestant revolutionary.
Use of history for ‘political’ purposes.
Strategy to join up resistance.
Rachel Barrett for her research assistance.
Staff of the Limerick City Library, and particularly Mike Maguire.
Disclaimer: the views expressed in this lecture are not necessarily the views of the library!