What’s the racket about Rosie Hackett?
What’s the racket about Rosie Hackett?
Dublin City councillors are scheduled to vote this Monday on whom to name the new bridge over the Liffey after. The Irish Women Workers Union, you won’t be surprised to read, is backing one of its founding members and early activists, Rosie Hackett.
Rosie was a trade unionist and 1916 veteran who helped change the working conditions for thousands of women, as well as contributing to Ireland’s fight for freedom. She, and the many other women who contributed so much during this remarkable period in Ireland’s history, should be remembered. Naming the bridge for Rosie would help to do this.
Christened ‘Rosanna’, she was born in Dublin in 1892 and at the time of the 1911 Census she lived on Abbey Street with her mother, sister, stepfather, stepsisters and a lodger.
She was one of the first women to join the Irish Transport and General Workers Union in the period after it was founded and in 1911 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 prominent amongst the women who came out in sympathy with them. She subsequently helped to galvanise and organise women in the factory to withdraw their labour. They won better working conditions and an increase in pay. Rosie was just 18 years old at the time.
Two weeks later Rosie was a founding member of the IWWU, which was set up to protect women from the horrendous conditions which they were expected to work in and she was soon helping to lead the women in Jacobs out on strike again, this time in a dispute that played a key part in the early days of the 1913 Lockout.
Rosie was in the crowd that picketed O’Connell Street on Sunday, August 31st and resulted in the infamous ‘Bloody Sunday’. This too was to prove pivotal to the start of the Lockout which lasted for more than four months.
In the end, Rosie lost her job in Jacobs but she continued to play a huge part in the struggle for better working conditions. Initially, she then went on to train as a printer and in 1916 she was in Liberty Hall when the 1916 Proclamation was printed. She subsequently told family members of handing it to James Connolly still wet.
By then, she was a member of the Irish Citizen’s Army and she fought for it alongside Constance Markievicz and Michael Mallin as part of the group that occupied the Royal College of Surgeons at Stephen’s Green. After the Rising she was sent to Kilmainham with her comrades.
Following her release, and with the support of Connolly, she helped to relaunch the Irish Women Workers Union with Louie Bennett and Helen Chenevix. At its height, the union organised over 7,000 women and amongst its achievements was the establishment of the entitlement for all workers to two weeks annual holidays.
She subsequently spent some 40 years working in the Eden Quay Co-Operative, underlining her deep association with the area in which the new bridge is currently being constructed.
In 1970 Rosie was awarded with a gold medal for giving 60 years of her life to the Trade Union Movement. She passed away in 1976, aged 84, having dedicated so much of her life to Irish freedom and the trade union movement.
Until recently, she was in danger of being forgotten but we are now asking the elected representatives of the people she devoted her life to helping to ensure that her name lives on as a symbol of all the women and workers in Dublin who worked tirelessly to make it a better city for their fellow citizens to live in. Incredibly, she would be the first woman to be accorded such an honour by the city.
Some councillors have already declared their support for Rosie and have said they will vote for her when the decision is taken, quite possibly on September 2nd (Labor Day in the United States) and many other politicians, writers, trade unionists have lent their weight to the campaign.
Rosie, though, is up against Willie Bermingham, Bram Stoker, Kay Mills and Frank Duff so your support is needed if we are to win this final battle for her. You can help by writing to, emailing, calling, tweeting at your local (or any other for that matter) Dublin City councillor and letting them know that you want them to support Rosie at their forthcoming meeting.