General Prisons Board: Suffragette Papers

Repository: National Archives of Ireland

Identity Statement

TitleGeneral Prisons Board: Suffragette Papers
Archive ReferenceIE 0625/GPB/SFRG/1
Web Link to this Entry
Creation Dates1908-1919
Extent Medium45 files


Creator(s): General Prisons Board; Chief Secretary’s Office

  • Administrative History ↴

    In 1912 women's suffrage campaigners in Ireland began to undertake a campaign of active violent resistance when a campaign of window breaking began. The leaders of the movement, including Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington and Margaret Palmer, were arrested and brought before the Petty Sessions, the precursor to the modern District Court, where they were found guilty and fined. Upon refusing to pay these fines, suffragettes were imprisoned. The campaign was initially concentrated in Dublin and prisoners were sent to Mountjoy Prison, but in 1913 the campaign escalated and spread to Belfast. Following a number of protests held outside Mountjoy Prison, a decision was taken in 1913 to send all suffragette prisoners to Tullamore, King’s County [County Offaly] where any attempt to organise would be more difficult and less likely to spread to the general prison population. Almost immediately after they were sent to prison, the suffragettes demanded to be acknowledged as political prisoners. In order to bring attention to their demands, suffragette prisoners organised a coordinated campaign of hunger strikes. The suffragette prison population in Ireland remained low but they used their imprisonment very effectively, and extensive coverage was given to the campaign in newspapers who monitored developments closely. The Representation of the People Act, which became law in February 1918, granted partial suffrage to women and the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act, 1918 allowed women to stand as members of parliament for the first time. Voting rights were granted to those over 30 years of age who were registered property owners or married to a registered property occupier with a rateable value of £5 or more. Universal suffrage for women over 21 years of age, regardless of property, was not introduced in Ireland until 1922 following the establishment of the Irish Free State, and the United Kingdom until 1928.
  • Archival History ↴

    Official Transfer
  • Immediate Source Acquisition ↴

    Official Transfer

Content & Structure

  • Scope & Content: General Prisons Board; Chief Secretary’s Office ↴

    These papers deal with the treatment of suffragette prisoners by the General Prisons Board (GPB), mainly during the period 1911-1914. The series consists of GPB files on individual and groups of suffragettes who were imprisoned for their activities in Mountjoy, Tullamore and Belfast Prisons, and of files created by the Chief Secretary’s Office, both on individual suffragettes and on the policy implications of their treatment in prison. There is much material on the hunger strikes embarked upon by suffragette prisoners, on the practice of forced feeding carried out by the prison authorities, and on the use of the ‘Cat and Mouse’ Act [Prisoners (Temporary Discharge for Ill Health) Act 1913] against hunger-striking suffragettes. There are also several petitions from individuals and groups in Ireland and Britain objecting to the imprisonment and treatment of Irish suffragettes. The series also includes material on persons who were not suffragettes but who went on hungers strike while imprisoned during the period 1912-1919, including James Connolly and Frank Moss of the Irish Transport Union, Francis Sheehy Skeffington in 1915, and political prisoners in the 1916-1919 period.

  • Appraisal Destruction ↴

    Permanent Retention
  • Arrangement ↴

    The collection is arranged chronologically

Conditions of Access & Use

Access Conditions Available to holders of a valid readers ticket
Conditions Governing ReproductionReproduction is at the discretion of the National Archives of Ireland
Creation Dates1908-1919
Extent Medium45 files
Material Language ScriptEnglish
Finding Aids The finding aid can be consulted both in the reading room and on National Archives, Ireland website. Archive Web Link →

Allied Materials

There are no Allied Materials

Descriptive Control Area

Archivist NoteAdapted by N Milne
Rules/ConventionsISAD(G): General International Standard Archival Description. 2nd ed. Ottawa: International Council on Archives, 2000. National Council on Archives: Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names. Chippenham: National Council on Archives, 1997. UK Archival Thesaurus (UKAT)
Date of Descriptions42036