Maude Gonne was a nationalist
and political activists she was the founder in 1900 of Inghinidhe
na heirren (Daughters of Ireland) and in 1905 was one of the founders
of Sinn Fein. She was born
in Surrey England to an Irish Colonel and his English wife, she
moved to Ireland in 1882. She rapidly became one of Irelands most
colorful nationalist figures of the time.
In 1887 Gonne went to Paris
to be with her lover Lucien Millevoye, with whom she had two children
George (1890-91) and Iseult (1894-1954) the couple parted in 1899,
throughout her period in France she campaigned and raised funds
Gonne met W
B Yeats in 1889, the two became lifelong friends, he composed
his most nationalist play in 1902 'Cathleen ni Houlihan' for her
to act in at the Abbey Theatre. It is said she refused Yeates' offer
of marriage several times. In 1903 she married Major John McBride,
whom she divorced soon after the birth of their son
Sean, who was later to become famous in his own right.
In August 1902 Maude Gonne wrote
a letter to W B Yeates describind a children's excursion she had
organised to Tata.
"Our children's excursion was a great success,
and everybody enjoyed the day immensely. Briscoe had prepared an
enormous bonfire to be lighted in honour of the King of England's
coronation. We felt it would serve a better purpose if burnt in
honour of an independent Ireland so lighted it and sang A Nation
Once Again. The constabulary didn't like it at all and danced and
jumped with rage - they added greatly to the fun."
At the outbreak of the first
world war she served in France with the ambulance corps, she returned
to Ireland after the execution of her former husband John for his
part in the Easter Rising of 1916. She then for the first time adopted
her husbands name. She was imprisoned for nationalist activities
in 1918. After the formation of the Irish Free State, she became
active in the Women's Prisoners Defense League.