Rosamond Jacob was born on the 13 October 1888, South Parade, Waterford City. She was the youngest of three children. Elizabeth Hannah Jacob (1879'1884), the eldest who was known to family and friends as 'Betty', died aged four years and three months. Her only brother, Thomas Fredrick Harvey Jacob (1885-1959), would later become Rosamond's comrade in local political clubs.
Jacob's parents Henrietta Harvey Jacob (1849'1919) and Louis Jacob (1841'1907) were both from orthodox Quaker backgrounds, although they later became agnostic. 1 Her mother was a native of Waterford and her father hailed from Clonmel. Jacob's parents meet when Henrietta's bother married Louis sister. Louis would later work for his brother in law in a stock broking business in little George's street, now known as Gladstone's street.
The Jacob's lived in the Newtown area of the city. Rosamond attended an all girls Protestant school in Ferrybank. Jacob finished her formal education at sixteen years of age as was somewhat common among women of her generation, although she continued to educate herself on Irish history and Irish language through membership of the Gaelic league. Jacob also had a keen interest in art and perused this interest to taking up jewellery making in Parnell Street College, which she refers to as the 'Tech' in her diaries. It was in her late teens that Jacob would become more politically active in her native Waterford. 'In 1906, both she and Tom were founding members Waterford's Sinn Féin club and canvassed for the first Sinn Fein candidate to run for Waterford Corporation'. 2 Indeed both Jacob and her brother Tom were founding members of Waterford's first Sinn Fein Club, an accomplishment which she has never been given any recognition for.
Throughout her lifetime Jacob was involved in a number of women's political groups, specifically Cummann na mBan which she was secretary of. However, the group was not as active as some of the other groups established around the country and the group ceased to exist. Jacob's anti Englishness lead to a split in the group between the loyalists and nationalist women. Right up until the war of Independence Jacob was staunchly anti' English, a sentiment that did not sit well with many of the Redmonite followers in the city. The IPP held a procession on 12 March during which she hung out of the drawing room window, which caused her to injure herself. She records in her diary how:
'A lot of them come in and hurled themselves against the door and yelled & shouted, and put up a torch to burn the flag, I pulled it in just in time & they threw the torch in after it, but it went out as soon as it fell. My face & blouse were drenched with paraffin & the drawing room smelt of it for days. They also threw a stone through the fanlight. 3'
Jacob left Waterford in 1919 to move to Dublin where she was more involved in the women's movement and the political situation of the day. It was in Dublin where she met some of her lifelong friends such as: Hanna Sheey Skeffington, Dorothy McArdle, Lucy Kingston, and Kathleen Lynch to name but a few. She also began a relationship with Frank Ryan in the 1920s. Jacob met Ryan while taking Irish lessons. They both shared a passion for the Irish language and Republicanism.
Jacob was a professional writer; indeed her death cert lists her profession as an author. During her lifetime Jacob's books did not have a lot of success. Her books tended to deal with complex Irish history, which can be appreciated for their depth, knowledge and understanding of the complex nature of Irish politics during the 1920s such as in The Troubled House (1938). Her most successful book was published in 1937, The Rise of the United Irishmen 1791'1794, receiving wide acclaim. Jacob received a nomination for Book of the Year from the Women Writers' Club. Other books include: Callaghan (1920), The Rebel's Wife (1957), and The Raven's Glen. Jacob's novel's all feature strong female characters.
Jacob's view of the Ireland she lived in is in no way simplistic. Her diaries and novels provide an insight into life in Ireland, from her own perspective. She conveys through her diaries and novels what it was like to be a woman, living through the war years, as well as the enormous political change taking place in Ireland, after independence was achieved. Diary entries record her thoughts on suffrage, nationalism.
Jacob was no ordinary woman, in fact she was extraordinary. This is displayed in her interests in the latter years of her life, which extended outside the confines of Ireland. Her worldly views on peace and feminism can be seen through her membership of the Women's international League for Peace and Freedom, the Friends of the Soviet Union as well as the International Disarmament Declaration Committee. 4 Jacob's membership of these various organizations shed light on her as a human being. One can see from her membership of these committees that she advocated for humanitarian issues.
The Jacob Collection is housed at the National Library of Ireland, and contains a substantial amount of material in relation to Jacob's literary career, political career, and personal life, as well as family correspondence, including some dating as far back to the nineteenth century, in relation to the Contagious Diseases Acts. Further information on Rosamond can be found in Leeann Lane's biography of Jacob called Third person
1 Damien Doyle, 'Rosamond Jacob,' in Mary Cullen and Maria Luddy (eds), Female Activists: Irish Women and Change 1900'1960 (Dublin: Woodfield Press, 2001), pp.169-170.
2 Damien Doyle, 'Rosamond Jacob,' in Mary Cullen and Maria Luddy (eds), Female Activists: Irish Women and Change 1900'1960 (Dublin: Woodfield Press, 2001), pp.169-170. Doyle, p 171.
3 RJD 12 March 1918 Ms (33), Quoted in Lane p. 133
4 Ibid, p. 184.
Source: Ursula Hughes, 2014
Author: Chrissy O'Connor Knight & Eddie Cantwell