A picture of Constance Markievicz (1868-1927), the first woman elected to the House of Commons, has been gifted to the UK Parliament by the Irish Parliament (Houses of the Oireachtas).
At an event in the Houses of Parliament last night, Speaker John Bercow accepted the picture on behalf of the House of Commons from Seán Ó Fearghaíl, the Ceann Comhairle of Dáil Éireann.
The picture, which is a reproduction of a 1901 oil painting of Markievicz owned by Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane, will be on display in Parliament’s landmark ‘Voice and Vote’ exhibition until 6 October. It will then be transferred to Portcullis House for public display.
The Representation of the People Act 1918 gave the vote to some women in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. It was followed by the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act 1918, which allowed all women over 21 to stand for Parliament.
In the December 1918 General Election 8.4 million British and Irish women were eligible to vote for the first time. 17 women also stood for election. Constance Markievicz, standing for Dublin St Patrick's division, was the only women to be elected.
As a member of Sinn Féin, Markievicz did not take her seat in the House of Commons. After the creation of the Irish Free State, she became a dedicated parliamentarian in the Dáil Éireann and was appointed Secretary for Labour – making her the first woman to hold a ministerial position in Western Europe.
The gift of the Markievicz picture is just one of the ways in which the Houses of the Oireachtas and the UK Parliament are marking the centenary of the Representation of the People Act 1918, and other important suffrage anniversaries, throughout this year.
Image: Detail of 'Portrait of Constance Countess Markievicz' by Boleslaw von Szankowski (1873-1953), oil on canvas, 1901. Collection: Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane. Permission to reproduce granted by the Estate of Boleslaw von Szankowski.