Jacob, Rosamund (1888–1960)

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Jacob, Rosamund (1888–1960)

Irish journalist, author, and campaigner on feminist, nationalist, pacifist and humanitarian issues. Name variations: Rose or Rosa Jacob; (pseudonym) F. Winthrop. Born Rosamund Jacob in 1888 in County Waterford, Ireland; died in Dublin on October 11, 1960; never married; no children.

Selected writings:

Callaghan (1920); The Rise of the United Irishmen (1937); The Rebel's Wife (1957); The Raven's Glen (1960).

Born in 1888 into a County Waterford Quaker family, Rosamund Jacob inherited a tradition of social concern, a strong sense of justice, and independence of mind. Arriving in Dublin in the first decade of the 20th century, she was quickly drawn into the multiplicity of movements which characterized the city during those years. As a convinced feminist, she was inevitably attracted to the suffrage campaign, becoming a member of the militant Irish Women's Franchise League, founded in 1908 by Margaret Cousins and Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington , and contributing regularly to the IWFL journal, The Irish Citizen. Simultaneously, Jacob developed an enthusiasm for the revival of Gaelic music and culture, and became involved in nationalist politics. She was a prominent member of the nationalist women's organization, Cumann na mBan, and of the separatist nationalist party, Sinn Fein, and was a leading defender of feminist claims to equal representation within an independent state. As one of the few women delegates to the Sinn Fein Convention of October 1917, Jacob was instrumental in achieving a tacit commitment to female suffrage, which was honored when in 1922 the Irish Free State guaranteed political rights on an equal basis to all citizens.

With the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921, there was a split in the nationalist movement between those who accepted, and those who opposed, the agreement. On the outbreak of civil war in 1922, Jacob was selected as a member of a women's peace committee which met representatives from both the government and anti-Treaty sides in an unsuccessful effort to achieve a ceasefire. She was resolutely opposed to the Treaty and in early 1923 was briefly imprisoned for her republican activities.

The defeat of the anti-Treaty forces left Rosa disillusioned with mainstream nationalist politics, and from the mid-1920s she devoted herself to republican causes and to other campaigns, including the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), which had been founded in 1915 with the objective of abolishing war and promoting peaceful cooperation between nations. With her longtime friend and colleague Lucy Kingston , Jacob represented Ireland at the 1921 International Congress of WILPF in Vienna and, as secretary of the Irish branch, played a leading part in the organization of the fifth International Congress, which took place in Dublin in July 1926. As the first international gathering to be held in the Irish Free State since independence, the conference succeeded in drawing together the opposing parties in Ireland, when the Taoiseach (prime minister), W.T. Cosgrave, and the anti-Treaty leader, Eamon de Valera, both attended its opening session, the first occasion on which the two had appeared together in public since the outbreak of the civil war.

Throughout the following decades, Jacob was associated with a range of feminist, humanitarian, animal welfare and radical causes. She was, for instance, a member of the Irish Women Citizens' Association (IWCA), founded in 1923 to monitor the condition and status of women in the new Irish state, and was involved in Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington's short-lived women's political party, the Women's Social and Progressive League. As a member of the IWCA and of the Irish Housewives Association (IHA), with which the IWCA merged in 1947, she lent her support to campaigns for improved health care for women and children, equal pay, and the encouragement of women in public life. During the 1957 General Election, she canvassed vigorously in her own area on behalf of a candidate nominated by the IHA. Though unsuccessful, the experience has been described by the historian of the association as a valuable experience, which "drew attention to the need for representation of women by women and the gross imbalance of the sexes in government."

In addition to these commitments, Jacob maintained a career as a journalist and author. In 1920, she published her first novel, Callaghan, under a pseudonym, F. Winthrop; two other works, The Rise of the United Irishmen (1937) and The Rebel's Wife (1957), dealt with events in Irish history. The former was described by the critic Stephen Gwynne as "a work of real importance" which "no student of the period … can neglect," while The Rebel's Wife, the story of Matilda Tone , made a useful contribution to the slender body of writing on Irish women's history.

The Raven's Glen (1960) was a children's book set in the Dublin mountains. The book reflected her love of children and of the area, where she often went on walking expeditions. Among those whom she befriended was the young Owen Sheehy-Skeffington, Hanna's son. A noted liberal himself, Owen was later to acknowledge Jacob's influence, describing her as "a realistic romantic, unafraid to see nobility in human beings, undismayed by human turpitude."

In 1959, Rosa Jacob suffered a deep personal loss when her beloved brother Tom died. Not long afterwards, on September 25, 1960, she was hit by a car while walking in Dublin and died in the hospital on October 11. The large attendance at her funeral included delegates from the many groups and individuals with whom she had been associated, as well as an emissary of President Eamon de Valera. It was, as Lucy Kingston noted, an appropriately "representative" farewell for one whose life had been given to so many causes, but which had been consistent in its moral integrity and in its commitment to public service.


Sheehy-Skeffington, Andree. "A coterie of lively suffragists," in Writers, Raconteurs and Notable Feminists. Edited by Alf MacLochlainn and Andree Sheehy-Skeffington. Dublin: National Library of Ireland Society, 1993.

——. Skeff: The Life of Owen Sheehy-Skeffington. Dublin: Lilliput Press, 1991.

Swanton, Daisy Lawrenson. Emerging from the Shadow: The Lives of Sarah Anne Lawrenson and Lucy Olive Kingston. Dublin: Attic Press, 1994.

Tweedy, Hilda. A Link in the Chain. Dublin: Attic Press, 1992.

Ward, Margaret. In Their Own Voice: Women and Irish Nationalism. Dublin: Attic Press, 1995.

Rosemary Raughter , freelance writer in women's history, Dublin, Ireland

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