The Story of Rosie Hackett, By Jeni Gartland

Jeni Gartland is the Labour Youth Equality Coordinator and a member of NUI Maynooth Labour 

Rosie Hackett was a trade unionist, a 1916 veteran and a woman who was far ahead of her time. She helped change the working conditions for thousands of women, as well as contributing to Ireland’s fight for freedom. She should be remembered.

Rosie, christened ‘Rosanna’ was born in Dublin in 1892. At the time of the 1911 Census she lived on Abbey Street with her mother, sister, stepfather, stepsisters and a lodger.

She joined the Irish Transport and General Workers Union when it was founded in 1909.

In 1911 Rosie was working as a messenger for the Jacob’s Factory. The conditions at the time were so bad for workers that Jim Larkin himself described them as ‘sending them from this earth 20 years before their time’. The male workers withdrew their labour in pursuit of better working conditions and Rosie was one of the first women to come out in sympathy with them.

Rosie Hackett with the Irish Women Workers Union

Rosie helped to galvanise and organise more than 3000 women in the Jacobs Factory to withdraw their labour in protest. The women were successful and they received better working conditions and an increase in pay. Rosie was just 18 years old at the time.

Two weeks later Rosie cofounded the Irish Women Worker Union, which was set up to protect women from the horrendous conditions which they were expected to work in.

In 1913, being actively involved in the trade union movement, she once again helped to organise the women in Jacobs to strike and protest against poor working conditions. Rosie was in the crowd that picketed O’Connell Street on Sunday the 31st of August and resulted in the infamous ‘Bloody Sunday’. This began the 1913 Dublin Lockout that lasted for more than four months. In the end, Rosie lost her job in Jacobs but played a huge part in the struggle for better working conditions. She then went on to train as a printer.

In 1916, Rosie joined the Irish Citizen’s Army in the fight for Irish independence from Britain where she fought alongside Constance Markievicz and Michael Mallin. She was among the small group that printed the 1916 Proclamation and gave it to James Connolly. They were able to print it off on a faulty printing press and they handed it to him amazingly, still wet.

She was also a part of the group that occupied the Royal College of Surgeons at Stephen’s Green. She was later sent to Kilmainam with her comrades.

After her release, she re-founded the Irish Women Workers Union with Louie Bennett and Helen Chenevix. The union organised over 70000 women. She then went on to work in the Eden Quay Co-Operative where she worked for over 40 years.

In 1970 Rosie was awarded with a gold medal for giving 60 years of her life to the Trade Union Movement. Rosie passed away in 1976, aged 84.

She dedicated so much of her life to Irish freedom and the trade union movement and yet, she has largely been forgotten.

You can follow Jeni on Twitter @JeniGartland

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