Kathleen Clarke (née Daly) was the first female Lord Mayor of Dublin 1939-1941. It wasn’t just her sex that stood her apart from her predecessors but even refusal to caring on unquestioned traditions such as wearing the Lord Mayor’s Chain which came from King William of Orange. Instead she wore this chain of the President of the Court of Conscience.
Kathleen was born into the Daly family, a prosperous Fenian family from Limerick City, in 1878. Her uncle John Daly shared a cell with another Irish revolutionary named Thomas Clarke. Upon his release, Kathleen and Thomas Clarke began a correspondence and later a relationship. They moved to New York and were married before returned to Dublin in 1908 with three children.
Kathleen became a founding member of Cumann na mBan, an Irish Republican women’s organistion in 1914. Although both her brother Edward and her husband Thomas Clarke were executed following the 1916 Easter Rising, she provided support for other families involved by setting up the Irish National Aid Fund. She was imprisoned in Holloway Women’s Prison 1918-1919 but she didn’t stop there.
Over the next twenty years Kathleen Clarke would have an active political career. She went on to become a judge in the Republic Courts. She was a TD and a senator during the 1920s and became a founding member of Fianna Fáil. However, in 1937 she disagreed with Eamon de Valera’s new Constitution and its anti-woman attitudes. In 1939 she began two terms as Lord Mayor of Dublin. She retired on the grounds of ill-health. She remained active on various boards and committees. She spent the last seven years of her life living in Liverpool with her son Emmet and her two grandchildren. She died in 1972, aged 94.