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Teresa Deevy

Waterford's Revolutionary Women 1916-1922

19. Teresa Deevy
Landscape, Passage b1884 - d1963

Teresa Deevy was born in 21st January 1894 at Landscape, Passage, Waterford, the youngest of thirteen Children to parents Edward Deevy and Mary Feehan Deevy.  In 1914, while training to become a teacher the young women developed Meniere's disease and as a result began to lose her ability to hear. Teresa was forced to leave college due to her hearing loss, and progressively became profoundly deaf. The Deevy family sent their daughter to school in London school where she learnt to lip read. While living in London she discovered a passion for theatre and was a regular visitor to the great plays of the day. 

In 1919, Teresa Deevy returned to a turbulent Waterford in the midst of a War for Independence and quickly became involved in the Nationalist cause.  According to Martina O'Dorherty, 1995 her grandfather "Thomas Feehan, was a Land League activist who was censured by his bishop and incarcerated in Maryborough Jail during the 1882 wave of coercion. His intense nationalism had a strong influence in Deevy's adult life and in her writing.  This sense of nationalism led to a tremendous admiration for Countess Markievicz and inspired her to join the Waterford branch of Cumann na mBan". Around this period Teresa Deevey mixed in nationalist circles and against the approval of family visited republican prisoners in Ballybricken Jail. She also at this time began submitting her writings for publication both locally and nationally.  In mid-twenties she began submitting plays to the Abbeys theatre in Dublin and in 1930 the first of six plays over a seven year period 'The Reaper' opened at the Abbey.

By the mid 1930's Teresa Deevy was becoming one of Irelands leading playwrights, living in Dublin with her sister Nellie.  Deevy's plays portray the political and religious repression of Irish women in a censored and conservative Free State. In the late 1930's, the Abbey Theatre began rejecting her plays and she turned to radio as an outlet for her work. Teresa Deevy was elected to the Irish Academy of Letters in 1954 and the same year following the death of her sister and companion Nell she returned to Waterford.  On 19th January, 1963 Teresa Deevy died in May Park Nursing Home, Waterford, with her achievements as a successful playwright almost unknown to the Waterford people. In recent years her work has been rediscovered and in 2010 the Teresa Deevy Project rescued one of Irelands leading playwrights from obscurity and returned her to New York's theatrical limelight. In 2013, she was finally honoured by the city of her birth with a Waterford Civic Trust Blue Plaque erected at Landscape, Passage Road. 

Martina O'Dorherty, Decies (51) (LI) (Waterford: Waterford Archaeological and Historical Society, 1995, p109 2-6.
Mint Theatre

Author: Chrissy O'Connor Knight & Eddie Cantwell

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