“A Tale of Two Cities” Bibliography


Primary Sources:

Fagan, Terry. Dublin Tenements: Memories of Life in Dublin’s Notorious Tenements. Dublin, IE: North Inner City Publishing, 2013.

Kearns, Kevin Corrigan. Dublin Tenement Life: An Oral History. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2000.

Secondary Sources:

Carlett, Christian. Darkest Dublin: The Story of the Church Street Disaster and a Pictorial Account of the Slums of Dublin in 1913. Dublin, IE: Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 2008.

Crowe, Catríona. “Dublin 100 Years Ago: Death, Disease, and Overcrowding.” Fountain Resource Group. November 29, 2013. http://www.frg.ie/local-history/dublin-100-years-ago-death-disease-and-overcrowding/

Cullen, Frank. “The Provision of Working-And-Lower-Middle-Class Housing in the Late Nineteenth-Century Urban Ireland.” Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy: Archaeology, Culture, History, Literature 111C (2011): 217-51.

Devine, Francis, ed. A Capital in Conflict: Dublin City and the 1913 Lockout. Dublin, IE: Dublin City Council, 2013.

Moody, Janet. The Tenement Dwellers of Church Street, Dublin, 1911. Dublin, IE: Four Courts Press, 2017.

Prunty, Jacinta. Dublin Slums, 1800-1925: A Study in Urban Geography. Dublin, IE: Irish Academic Press, 2000.


Brown, Terrance. Introduction. Dubliners, by James Joyce, the Penguin Group, 1992, pp. vii-xlviii.

“Crime in the slums: Appalling housing conditions at the root of many problems.” Raidió Teilifís Éireann. 17 May 1913.

Dawson, Charles. “The Dublin Housing Question,–Sanitary and Unsanitary.” Raidió Teilifís Éireann. 1913.

Luddy, Maria. “‘Abandoned Women and Bad Characters’: prostitution in nineteenth-century Ireland.” Women’s History Review, vol. 6, no. 4, 1997, pp. 485-503.

Kearns, Kevin C. Dublin Tenement Life: An Oral History. The Penguin Group, 2000, pp. 184-220.

Republic of Ireland. The National Archives of Ireland. Ireland in the early 20th century: Poverty and Health. Dublin: Republic of Ireland. Web. 9 Nov 2018.

“The Tenements.” History Ireland: Ireland’s History Magazine. Sept/Oct 2011: Volume 19. Web. 9 Nov 2018.


Primary Sources:

Skinnider, Margaret. 2016. Doing My Bit For Ireland (Illustrated Edition). S.l.: Echo Library.

Secondary Sources:

McGarry, Fearghal. 2017. The Rising: Ireland: Easter 1916. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Wills, Clair. Dublin 1916 – the Siege of the Gpo. London: Profile Books, 2010.

Yeats, William Butler. “Cathleen ni Houlihan.” Plays in Prose and Verse, Macmillan Publishers, 1922, pp. 3-18.


Primary Sources:

Hamilton, Norway. The Sinn Fein Rebellion as I was it.

Secondary Sources:

“1916 Easter Rising | 1916 Rebellion Ireland | GPO Dublin.” Patrick Pearse | Leaders of the 1916 Rising –, www.gpowitnesshistory.ie/1916-easter-rising/.

Metscher, P. (2001). The Easter Rising: A Critical Assessment. Nature, Society, and Thought, 14(1), 187-202. Retrieved from https://proxy.geneseo.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1618936167?accountid=11072

Wills, Clair. Dublin 1916: The Siege of the GPO. London, Profile Books, 2009.


Primary sources:

Pearse, Patrick. “Patrick Pearse’s Graveside Panegyric for O’Donovan Rossa on 1 August 1915 at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin.” Easter Rising 1916 Ireland. Accessed December 13, 2018. http://www.easter1916.net/oration.htm.

Pearse, Patrick. “POBLACHT NA H-EIREANN THE PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT OF THE IRISH REPUBLIC TO THE PEOPLE OF IRELAND.” Easter Rising 1916 Ireland. Accessed December 13, 2018. http://www.easter1916.net/proclamation.htm.

Connolly, James. “The Slums and the Trenches.” Modern History of the Arab Countries by Vladimir Borisovich Lutsky 1969. Accessed December 13, 2018. https://www.marxists.org/archive/connolly/1916/02/slums.htm.

Secondary Sources:


Foy, Michael, and Brian Barton. The Easter Rising. Stroud: History Press, 2011.

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About Us

Get to know our research group!

Emily Meyer is a senior history major and art history minor at SUNY Geneseo. She has an academic background in European, with an interest in the British Isles, and Latin American history, with a special interest in cultural history. She plans to go on to get her Master’s in Public History, with hopes of acquiring skills in archival work, museum studies, and preservation. For her individual research project, Emily focused on Dublin’s tenement buildings, specifically those in the Church Street district, and the community and culture that emerged as a result of the extreme poverty of tenants.

Cathrine McNeil is a senior history major at SUNY Geneseo.  She has concentrated her studies in American and Islamic history.  She is interested in Irish studies to better understand her family lineage and corresponding Irish history.  Cathrine plans to go to law school after finishing her studies at Geneseo in the spring. For her class research project, Cathrine focused on women in the rising with an in depth look at Margaret Skinnider and her participation in the 1916 Easter Rising.

Robby Billings is a high school graduate and current freshman at SUNY Geneseo. He is currently a history major with hopes of earning a teaching certificate. For his individual research project, Robby explored the lives and struggles of women living in urban poverty, primarily in Dublin’s notoriously inhumane tenements.

Lauren Lambie is a history and adolescent education major at SUNY Geneseo. She is currently a sophomore and plans to attain her masters so that she can teach history at the high school level. For her individual research project, Lauren focused on how the landscape of Dublin at the beginning of the 20th century played into how the 1916 Rising played out and how the rebels used it to their advantage.

Joey Saxton is a high school graduate and current freshman at SUNY Geneseo. He is currently undecided but has interests in psychology, he is also part of the Geneseo track and field team. For this project Joey focused on the political leaders and their views that played a role in the 1916 Rising, more particularly that of James Connolly and Patrick Pearse.

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Tenement Landscape

Tenement cottage on Townsend street

Notorious for inhumane conditions, Dublin’s tenement districts were “deemed the worst slums in Europe.” Tenement houses, while having been considered to be a necessary evil in the city due to the growing number of poorer citizens, were not always a major component to the urban landscape. Starting in 1801 with the enactment of the Act of Union, causing the dissolution of the Irish Parliament and the exodus of the upper class, the empty Georgian homes were converted into multiple family tenement-style housing for Dublin’s poorest populations. Once it became clear that the upper classes were not returning, their “houses purchased for £8,000 in 1791 were sold for a paltry £500 in the 1840s.” Low-income housing became the “solution” for the growing issue of lower-class homelessness and over-inundation within the population. Therefore, multiple styles of low-income

Interior of a Tenement in the Coombe district

housing, such as “the tenement house, third class houses, and cellar dwellings” were found dotting the city. While all of these were not adequate choices for raising healthy families, the cellar dwelling was deemed to be the worst out of the three. Being that they were constructed underground, the rooms would perpetually be damp and cold, causing not only respiratory diseases and disorders, but also lacked a healthy amount of sunlight, meaning that smoke from the fireplace, used for cooking and for warmth, as well as candles, would be poorly ventilated. As Mary Conner remembered, “The ones down in the basement were the worst of all, they were stinking. Old people who had no one belonging to them alive lived in them. The people in the house overhead of them looked after them. It was poor looking after the poor…the worst place in a house people could live in as they were dark, cold, and moldy” This could cause disease to sprout and fester, and since the environment was not warm to begin with, overcoming illness became extremely difficult for all tenants, but especially for those who lived in cellar rooms.

Interior of a Tenement Room (Newmarket Street)

Death and disease was an ever-present reality for those living in tenements. As the physical deterioration of the houses themselves, it became a breeding-ground for fatal diseases such as tuberculosis and cholera. The area around the tenement houses helped to foster the breeding of such fatal illnesses. Most tenements had small outdoor areas behind the building, but some of these areas were contaminated with “ manholes with sewage flowing out of them in the backyards where children played.” Many children that grew up in the tenements remembered how “the environment was littered with slaughter houses and piggeries while horses, cattle, and sheep were always being driven down the street. Animal dung was splattered in cobblestone crevices and bugs, vermin and rats infested every tenement house”

The bleakness of the situation continued to grow and fester up until the time of the Lockout in 1913. With the high unemployment and tensions between employers and employees running high, workers joined various labor unions in an attempt to protect their rights and their jobs. The most common working class union in Dublin was the ITGWU, the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union, led by James Larkin, a believer in using militant methods, such as the

1913 Lockout Protest In Chaos

sympathy strike, in order to secure the rights of unskilled workers, many of whom lived in the tenements. Larkin became a very popular figure for the working class, especially after the ITGWU had gained average wage increase of 25% earlier in 1913. On the other hand, William Martin Murphy, the primary employer for much of the working classes, owning not only the Irish Independent and the Evening Herald, but also was the head of the DUTC, or the Dublin United Trade Council, was adamantly anti-unionist. The Lockout thus began on August 15, 1913, when Murphy laid off 40 men and 20 boys from the Irish Independent’s delivery department when they refused to give up their membership to the ITGWU. On August 21, 100 tramway workers were faced with the same situation, leave the ITGWU or lose one’s job.

James Larkin Giving Speech at a Lockout Protest

Essentially, Murphy was locking out working class men from their jobs due to their union membership. Conflicts ensued over the next few days, finally boiling over on August 30, when the police forces baton-charged on a riot that had formed, killing James Nolan and James Byrne. Then, on August 31, police charged on civilians walking home from Sunday Church, injuring over 600 people. Later that night, police stormed into working class tenements on Corporation Street, began to beat the tenants, going as far as beating “John MacDonagh, who was paralyzed…as he lay in his bed, and when his wife intervened, she too was beaten”, and destroy the few possessions the tenants owned, targeting religious items specifically.

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Authors: Emily Meyer and Robby Billings

Tenement Community

Children playing in the yard behind Forbes’ Cottages

For those living in tenement districts, life was especially harsh. Conditions were hazardous and individual families were crammed into one small room, with multiple families living in one modest tenement house, practically stacked on top of one another within the houses themselves. Buildings often fell into disrepair, often injuring or killing tenants as a result. The tenement community had been a constant component of the

It was common for tenement houses to only have one restroom facility in the backyard

Dublin landscape since the late eighteenth century, increasing in “popularity” after the Potato Famine in the 1840s. By 1913, over “one-third of the overall population of Dublin lived in tenement districts” Those who were born or forced to relocate to the tenements rarely were able to rise out of poverty, and thus, generations of families remained stuck within the same cycle of poverty. For those living in the most horrendous conditions, an overall sense of community and shared struggle became vital for survival.

The social landscape of the tenements was an important aspect to daily life.

Women chatting in the doorway of a tenement house on Sean McDermott Street (1940s)

These buildings were festering with disease and death lurked around every corner. The architectural layout of tenement house itself became the main mechanism through which the community flourished. The tenement community accepted and embraced all those who came through the doors, from “the old, the infirm, the blind, the insane, and the dispossessed”, everyone could find a sense of belonging. While there certainly was not an affluent commodity culture in the tenements, “it was a sort of unwritten moral code of the tenements that neighbors look after one another in times of need” The system relied on the interdependence families had on one another.
Women would habitually clean the communally used areas of the house such as the hallways and the stairways. Having a clean home was a sign of pride and respectability, even for those in poverty. As Mary Connor, remembers:
“The houses in the area were filthy, smelly, and full of rats. People did all they could to keep them clean. The women were always on their knees scrubbing out the hall doors but it was a hard thing to do as the hall doors to the front of the house were always opened…the smell of urine, shit in the hall was dreadful, and in the morning time, the people who lived on the ground floor would have to come out and clean out the hallway…the smell in the hallways never went away because for years upon years, they had been used as toilets and there was dirty black stains around the walls in the hall…”

This shows that while the tenants were not materially wealthy, they took pride

Interior of a Tenement in the Coombe district

in what they were able to obtain. A clean house was not only a matter of pride, but also an attempt to feel as if they owned their tenement room. In reality, their claim to the room was only on a week-by-week basis, even if they had been living there for years. Eviction was a common facet to tenement life, and tenants could lose their room for any reason, ranging from late rent payments, rumors about a family’s immorality, or just simply because the landlord raises the rent to get the current tenants out knowing that they can’t pay it. Being that the tenants could be evicted with little to no notice, and since there was always a need for tenement houses, the community would band together to clean in an attempt to keep their homes. If one family was evicted, it was a fear that their neighbors might be next. Everything, including food and clothing, in the tenements was shared. When one family felt pain, such as eviction, unemployment, or death, the community felt it too. In many ways, the tenement communities themselves were representative of a larger family forged from the hardship of their living conditions.

Children play while their mothers watch from their doorways

The tenements were a place of bustling life, where children played on the streets and told ghost stories on the stairs, where wives and mothers talked with one another in the doorways while gently rocking their shawl-bundled babies, where men discussed the political news of the day, and where community was forged from even the most desperate of situations. At times, people would sing and dance in the streets near the tenements. The young were taught to help the old up and down the stairs from the basement rooms so they, too, could enjoy being social with neighbors. As Mary Connor, who lived on Parnell Street, remembers, “as children, we all played on the streets near the houses swinging on the lampposts…our mothers were always standing at the doors, talking, or looking out the windows as we played games of hide and seek and chasing…”

The community of one single tenement building was often very large. The average family having between six to twelve children, some having over sixteen children. With multiple families living together in a relatively tint space, the sense of community in the tenements grew very strong, especially when the neighbor children grew up and married one another, moving to other tenement buildings and forming their own community.

For those in the lower classes, family was the central component around

Children playing off Townsend Street

which life revolved. While the father was legally deemed as the head of the household and was responsible for providing the family with financial income, it was the mother who was the heart of the household, providing the family with food, clothing, and other essentials. The family worked together as a unit, with the father filling the role as the breadwinner and the mother as the nurturer; if this unit fell into dysfunction, the whole system would unravel. Once a woman became a wife and a mother, she was expected to stay within the confines of the house unless it was to get essentials for the family or attending mass at the local Catholic Church. Anything else was deemed as immoral and reflected poorly on the family’s reputation.

Mothers were considered to be the keepers of a family’s morality as well as the parent that most children remembered fondly since she was an ever-present figure in the home. As Bridie Kelly remembered, “I always remember my mother, she always had a child wrapped up in her shawl with her old skirt and apron on and maybe two broken shoes. She had a big head of black hair tied up in a bun and we would always be playing around her.” Parents strove to provide the best life possible for their children, and families would often save all-year long for Christmas. Women would often be in charge of the family’s financial savings, and thus, it became her responsibility to ensure that there was enough saved for each child’s First Holy Communion and Confirmation, as well as future weddings and holidays such as Christmas and Easter. In poorer, urban neighborhoods, there would often be an early version of a community savings bank, in which, wives would deposit “a few pennies or shillings each week assured mothers that, come Christmas, they would have enough money for the pudding, dinner, and a few simple gifts for the children.”

Women would also obtain additional income by pawning or selling items at the local pawnbroker. The presence of the pawnshop was a quintessential establishment in any tenement neighborhood. For some families, a weekly trip to the pawnshop afforded them enough money to get through the week. “Pawn day” became such a crucial component to tenement life that the day was often treated as a large social event. Not only did the pawnbrokers themselves treat “their customers with friendliness and dignity”, but the women also treated the space as an alternative space outside of the tenements to converse and share the daily gossip.

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A Tale of Two Cities: Dublin at the Turn of the Twentieth Century

General Post Office, O’Connell Street (prior to the 1916 Rising)

The landscape of a city, with the physical placement of vital thoroughfares and important landmarks as well as varying disparity of the physical conditions of neighborhoods, can help to foster a revolutionary environment. Revolutions are often inspired by events that occurred many years prior to the initial start to the rebellion. In the case of the Easter Rising of 1916, both political and economic situations helped to inspire the revolutionary leaders. While historical martyrs, such as Robert Emmet and Theobald Wolfe Tone, inspired the leaders of the Rising, the immediate political relationship between Ireland and England, as well as the economic disparity within Dublin, served as the final spark that ignited the Revolution.

With enactment of the Act of Union

Dublin Bread Company (post 1916)

in 1801, and the subsequent dissolution of the Irish Parliament, Dublin’s Parliamentary members left their Georgian town-homes for London’s political circles. By the 1840s, the once opulent homes were modified into tenement houses to accommodate multiple lower-class families. As more rural families, seeking to escape the Famine, internally migrated to urban centers, the need for housing increased, resulting in overcrowding and steady decline of tenement neighborhoods. As the economic and physical state of tenement neighborhoods steadily declined, along with a growing discontent with the political relationship with England, various leaders throughout the city began to take notice of the civil unrest and acted upon their dissatisfaction, both with respect to the economic conditions in Dublin and British control over Ireland as a whole.

St. Stephens Green (early 1900s)

The Rising leaders utilized the landscape of Dublin to work on their side in their fight against the British. They planned to physically take control of major landmarks such as the General Post Office (GPO), St. Stephen’s Green, the Four Courts, St. James’ Hospital, Shelbourne Hotel, and Dublin Castle. While the Rising did not unfurl as planned, and was ultimately defeated, the Rising still serves as a symbolic emblem of what Revolution represents. The occupation of these major landmarks, most of which were symbolic markers of British control of Ireland, is intrinsically connected to the strategy of using landscape to convey Revolutionary ideals and symbolic gestures.

Thus, the city of Dublin was a city of duality: the city of the tenements and the city of politics. While these two components had been in contact with one another on various occasions such as the 1913 Lockout, it was in 1916 that the two truly collided, forming a new city: Revolutionary Dublin.

How to Navigate: Click on the purple or red points on the map to explore pages

Map Key: Purple Points (pre-1916); Red Points (1916 Rising)

Meet the Group!

Authors: Emily Meyer, Robby Billings, Lauren Lambie, Joey Saxton, and Cathrine McNeil

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