Irish Countrywomen's Association

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Irish Countrywomen’s Association (ICA) are an Irish community based organisation for women founded in 1910 by Anita Lett in Bree, Co. Wexford. For generations the ICA has been a source of education, support, friendship and is Irelands largest network of local women’s groups. Members meet regularly to learn and advance skills in cooking, art, handcrafts, digital photography, and self-improvement along with others. The ICA is and has been non-denominational and non-party political since its beginnings.

Objectives[edit]

To provide a welcoming and fun organisation for women which offers support, friendship personal development, education and learning. To provide opportunities to share and exchange skills, support and contribute to charitable action benefiting women families, the community and society. To build on over 100 years of nourishing Irish culture and language, excellence in crafts ad lifelong learning To be a voice for and of women and families on issues affecting them and their local communities, regionally, nationally and internationally.

Structure and membership[edit]

Guild: The guild is the unit or basis form witch the ICA as a movement has grown. The guild hold weekly meetings in their area annually electing a president, secretary and treasure. There are over 650 guilds around Ireland with over 11,000 members.

Federation: The County Federation consists of all the Guilds in the county. Federation meetings are held quarterly and open to all Guild members in the County. Guild appoints one member to be its voting delegate.

History[edit]

The ICA was founded in May 1910 by Anita Lett in Bree, Co Wexford. It was originally called the Society of the United Irishwomen (UI), its aim was “to improve the standard of life in rural Ireland through Education and Co-operative effort” In 1935, due to political issues the then called UI changed its name to the now known Irish Countrywomen’s association (ICA). Around this time the ICA also let go of just improving rural lives and began focusing on all areas of Ireland. Contrary to popular belief the “country” within the ICAs name stands for the country of Ireland as a whole, as opposed to “country” as in rural areas. Most of the ICA’s biggest guilds today are in urban areas such as Blanchardstown Co. Dublin, which is their biggest guild.

Since its beginnings, the ICA has been heavily involved in campaigns designed to improve people’s lives. The ICA was the first organisation to provide access to adult education, well before the VEC. In its very early years, the then UI focused a project based on the health system in Ireland, due to the fact that women and girls were being sent to England to do basic nursing courses. The UI used what they called “Demonstration Cottages” where classes were held on health care, nutrition and hygiene. These classes also provided care to the sick. In 1954 An Grianán was gifted to the ICA. Since then this has been used as an adult education centre teaching an ever changing wide range of courses.

In the 1950s they campaigned for “better living”, which called for the access to electricity and safe clean water across Ireland. In the 1950s there was still limited access to electricity in some parts of Ireland. To rectify this, the ICA joined up with the ESB to help promote the use of electricity. To do this they made a model of a traditional farmhouse kitchen fitted with all the latest electrical appliances. This was then shown later that year at the ICAs spring show. In 1958 the kitchen model toured the country, now fitted with a dishwasher and microwave, showing people what was possible. In the 1960s some homes still did not have water within their homes and relied on an outdoor pump. To improve this, the ICA began the “turn on the tap” campaign which involved an exhibition and a conference aimed at educating people on how to take action on bringing water into their homes.

In the recent years the ICA introduced a counselling service and helpline, offering confidential help and support to its members and their families. They have promoted easier access to breast and cervical cancer screening for all women. They opened “the Sanctuary” in An Grianán offering quiet getaways. They helped lobby to make Irish the 25th recognised language within the EU. They have also joined forces with other organisations aimed at improving lives such as SOS, See Change, COFACE with their most recent goal being to reduce the levels of depression within Ireland.

An Grianán[edit]

The ICA acquired An Grianán as an Adult education college near Drogheda, Co. Louth in 1954. The ICA was the first organisation to introduce adult education and summer schools in Ireland. Throughout a calendar year the college provides over 200 courses for students home and abroad and today can accommodate 82 visitors on a residential basis alongside the six self-catering bungalows for anyone who wants to experience An Grianáns many facilities or simply to enjoy the countryside of the north east.

Activities[edit]

The ICA prides itself on keeping alive traditional art and crafts such as crochet, lace and basket weaving, The ICA also provide class’s in cookery, computing, digital photography, self-improvement and many others.

Presidents[edit]

Mrs Harold Lett 1910-1912

Lady Fingall 1912-1942

Lucy Franks 1942-1952

Alice Ryan 1952-1955

Oliva Hughes 1955-1958

Dorothy Smith 1958-1961

Kit Ahearn 1961-1964

Nora Burton 1964-1967

Peggy Farrell 1907-1970

Oonagh Corbett 1970-1972

Josephine Carroll 1972-1974

Bea Trench 1974-1976

Patsy Lawlor 1976-1979

Camilla Hannon 1979-1982

Mamo McDonald 1982-1985

Ina Broughall 1985-1988

Kitty Harlin 1988-1991

Monica Prendiville 1991-1994

Bridin Twist 1994-1997

Sally Ward 1997

Eva Coyle 1997-2000

Brenda Raggett 2000-2003

Anne Murray 2003-2006

Carmel Dawson 2006-2009

Anne Maria Dennison 2009-2012

Liz Wall 2012-Present

External links[edit]