Curiosity is a powerful feeling. It is why we know the Earth is round and weighs 5 974 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 kilograms. Or why a group of wizzkids invented a Google algorithm that gave that answer in less than a second. It is also what makes ADC go around, driving students and teacher from all over Europe to enroll with our Internship Programmes. So let's celebrate curiosity in all its quizzical glory! Over the next few months we will introduce seven curious people who changed the world. It is time for our fifth chapter: Rosie Hackett.
Rosie Hackett was a famous trade union leader and founder of the Irish Women Workers’ Union. Her defiance against injustice and fight for workers’ rights has secured her place in history, making her an important symbol of the Dublin working class and fight for Irish independence.
Born into a working class neighbourhood, where she grew up with a widowed mother, Hackett joined her first union in 1909 at 17 years of age. This marked the beginning of a 60 year struggle to establish good working conditions, many of which Irish people reap the benefits of today. At the time, Hackett was working as a messenger for the Jacob’s Biscuits Factory, where the conditions were so terrible that the social activist and trade union leader Jim Larkin described them as from a different era. Hackett helped urge and organise the 3000 women working in the factory to take action and in 1911 they went on strike, securing pay rises and better working conditions. Two weeks thereafter, she founded the Irish Women Workers’ Union with Delia Larkin, Jim Larkin's sister.
Hackett also played a pivotal role in the 1913 Dublin Lockout, a major dispute between 20 000 workers and 300 employers concerning - among other issues - workers’ rights to unionise. The lockout lasted for five months and created huge hunger and poverty among the strikers and their families. Hackett set up a soup kitchen in Liberty Hall and worked hard to help the afflicted, a sacrifice that got her fired from her job at Jacob's Biscuit Factory.
Instead Hackett, now 22, trained as a printer and started working more actively for Irish independence with the Irish Citizen Army and helped print the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic. The story goes that she handed it to the famous revolutionary James Connolly with the ink still wet, due to a faulty printing machine. During the fights of the Easter Rising, Hackett occupied Stephen’s Green with a small group of activists - including famous figures like Constance Markievicz and Michael Mallon - and was after their surrender brought to Kilmainham Gaol prison for ten days, until freed on general release.
A year later, on the anniversary of James Connolly’s death, a sign that read “James Connolly, Murdered May 12th, 1916” could be seen hanging from Liberty Hall. It was immediately removed by the police and Hackett and three other female activists decided to put up another sign. They climbed the roof of Liberty Hall and barricaded themselves in, nailing the doors shut and filling the windows with coal. Hackett later bragged that it took 400 policemen several hours to bring four women down. The sign remained in place until six in the evening and the police didn’t push charges to avoid public embarrassment.
In the years following the Easter Rising, Hackett once again set up the Irish Women Workers’ union, at its peak organising over 70 000 working women. In 1970, she was awarded a gold medal for 60 years of service within the trade union movement and in 2014, 38 years after her death, a Dublin bridge was named in her memory.
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