Nell Regan

Helena Molony: A Radical Life, 1883-1967


9781851321650 paperback

9781851321667 hardback

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Helena Molony is one of the most fascinating activists in twentieth-century Irish history, and also one of the most allusive, so this first biography, Helena Molony: A Radical Life, 1883–1967, is timely. Historian Nell Regan, who pioneered research on Molony, sheds light not only on Helena Molony, but on the many causes and characters she worked with during her long public career.


Of all the many figures whose political and personal lives have been re-assessed during the decade of commemorations, Molony stands out as one of the most compelling and worthy of further research … She was a feminist, a republican, a socialist, a trade union activist and an actress and the publication of this biography represents a welcome and important development in our understanding of Molony’s life and times … It is a book about Molony’s political life, but it is also a book about friendships and about the endurance of networks of love and support across the decades … The account presented in these pages is not always flattering, but it is an honest and enlightening depiction of a remarkable – and radical – Irish life.

– Senia Pašeta

Helena Molony was one of the most important female activists of the Irish revolutionary era yet she has never been the subject of a major biographical study until now. Nell Regan’s book more than makes up for past neglect. It charts her life as a campaigning journalist, an Abbey actress, one of James Connolly’s closest confidantes in the Irish Citizen Army during the period leading up to the Easter Rising, and her time as general secretary of the Irish Women Workers Union during the crucial period after 1916 when it almost collapsed. She would go on campaign for workers and women’s rights in an increasingly conservative society that was intolerant of dissent. Her refusal to conform to the social, sexual or economic mores of her day took a heavy toll on her health and later career.

– Pádraig Yeates

Nell Regan is an award-winning poet and non-fiction writer. Her collections include One Still Thing (Enitharmon Press, 2014), Bound for Home(Arlen House, 2011) and Preparing for Spring (Arlen House, 2007). Her biographical article on Helena Molony appeared in Female Activists: Irish Women and Change, edited by Mary Cullen and Maria Luddy (Woodfield Press, 2001). She has been an International Writing Fellow at the University of Iowa, recipient of an Arts Council bursary and, most recently, a Patrick and Katherine Kavanagh Fellow.