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Women of the Cuala – Maire ‘Molly’ Gill

On This Day in 1891, Maire ‘Mollie’ Gill was born and to mark Women’s History Month 2021, we have another blog post in our Women of the Cuala series. Maire ‘Mollie’ Gill (1891-1977) was born in Murphystown Co. Dublin to James and Jane Gill on the 24th of March 1891. Maire’s older sister Jane worked at Dun Emer Industries and in 1908, when Jane left to get married, seventeen-year-old Maire took her place, working under Elizabeth C. Yeats (1868-1940) in the newly formed Cuala Press. Gill was now at the center of the Cultural Revival, meeting W.B. Yeats and Maud Gonne (1866-1953). Gill became a member of Inghinidhe na hÉireann, the women’s organization founded by Maud Gonne. Through her involvement with Inghinidhe na hÉireann, Gill became increasingly politicized and was one of the first members of Cumann na mBan. She was also on the executive committee of the Irish Republican Prisoners’ Dependent Fund and was later awarded a medal for her part in the War of Independence. 

On 23 March 1923, during the Civil War, Gill and her coworker Esther Ryan (1889-1961) were arrested for being in possession of a notice for a meeting of the Irish Republican Prisoners Dependents’ Fund and a copy of a Cumann na mBan magazine. They spent several months in Kilmainham Jail. When she was released, Gill returned to work at the Cuala Press as the main typesetter and assistant to Elizabeth Yeats; by the 1930s she was a principal compositor. In 1940, Elizabeth Yeats died but the Cuala Press continued to publish under the management of George Yeats (1892-1968) whose husband W.B.Yeats had died a few years before. In 1942, the Cuala Press moved to Palmerstown Road, the home of George Yeats; the embroidery section had ceased when Lily Yeats died in 1949 and from 1946 the continuous production of cards and prints kept the Press in existence. 

The employees had now outlived their original employers but continued the work of the Press. During the 1950s, one by one the staff of Cuala began to retire and leave the press. In 1961, Esther Ryan died, leaving Maire Gill as the sole member of staff. Gill continued the work of the Press by herself in a room alongside the kitchen in 46 Palmerston Road. In August 1968, Gill went to collect her weekly salary and found George Yeats dead in her sitting room. Maire Gill died in 1977 and is buried in Glencullen Cemetery, Co Dublin. She was dedicated to the ethos of the Cuala Press and to the Yeats sisters throughout her life and is an important figure in Irish cultural history.  

 Ciara Daly

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