When we think of suffragettes and the campaign for the right to vote in Europe between 1914 and 1918, we are often bombarded with photographs of Emmeline Pankhurst and her followers. This is not to demean the name of Emmeline Pankhurst, it is simply how history remembers these women and what imagery we associate with the suffrage movement. However, there were other “uffrage Fronts” across Europe, particularly in Ireland. During WWI Ireland was still ruled by Great Britain, so establishing both women’s suffrage and a Home Rule parliament became pertinent to the Irish Suffrage movement. This divided Irish Suffragettes along Nationalist and Loyalist lines (those loyal to Great Britain).
One such Suffragist was Raicheal Bell Moran (1884 – c.1970s, and the great-grandmother of Junior Girl Rachel Sayers). Raicheal is the Irish version of Rachel and can be pronounced either “Raw-shale” or “Rackel” dependent on what variation of Irish was spoken. Raicheal lived in County Down in the North of Ireland, and in County Cork in the South of Ireland. She campaigned on her bike in rural County Cork for the Irish women’s right to vote; albeit from a Loyalist political stance. Raicheal may have worked for the Irish Women’s Franchise League (I.W.F.L.) but no evidence has been found to prove this. However, Raicheal campaigned in both Irish and English, as Irish was her first language. Additionally, Raicheal felt that by campaigning in both languages that she could reach a wider variety of women. It is unclear to what extent she went in her Suffrage Campaign, although we do know that she was not a militant suffragette as there are no family records of her smashing windows!
Raicheal continued to campaign for women’s rights in both the North and the South of Ireland after the Partition of Ireland in 1921. Unfortunately, due to political troubles her Irish language skills were not passed down to her daughter or granddaughter. Subsequently, the Irish language is not spoken in her family today, although Junior Girl Rachel Sayers is taking Irish language classes to be the first Irish speaker in the family in nearly forty years! Raicheal Bell Moran can be an inspiration for young girls and women alike to always fight for what you believe in and never give up. Junior Girl¬†Rachel was named after Raicheal, and her inspiration has rubbed off, with Rachel proudly calling herself a feminist and women’s rights activist!