Maud Gonne Mc Bride was born in December 1865, into a privileged English family. Her mother died when Maud was six. Her father was a colonel in the British army and spent a large part of his career in Ireland before dying in 1885.
Maud reputed the political ideals of her family in favour of fighting for the 'Irish Cause'. In doing so, she played a pivotal role in fighting for women's rights also and was one of the founding members of organisations fighting for Irish Independence and the oppression and exclusion of women in Ireland. Among her many achievements were the Women's land leagues in the 1800's and the foundation of Inghinidhe Na hEireann which not only impacted Ireland's political history but also Social and Cultural history.
During Ireland's early history, women were very much oppressed and largely excluded from all Nationalist groups and organisations. Maud's commitment and persistence led to an Ireland where women's views were taken into account and subsequently played a major part in Ireland's fight for freedom and advocating for the oppressed in Ireland.
In the 1800's, during the women's land league, her aspirations to fight for the Irish cause brought her to Donegal, where evictions were taking place. Her work here included building land league huts, nursing the sick and the dying, raising funds and writing letters to the press. The Donegal tenants called her 'The Woman of the Sidhe' after the mythical fairy guardians. However she was forced to flee to France after a warrant for her arrest.
She was a major influence in the 1900's founding the Celtic Literary Society and the Patriotic Children's treat committee. She hoped to entertain a large part of the 30,000 children they believed would be eligible. Following this, Maud Gonne founded Inghinidhe na hEireann in an effort to form a permanent National Women's Committee with its aims of re-establishing the complete Independence of Ireland, encouraging Irish language and discouraging English Literature. Had Inghinidhe na hEireann not existed, a whole generation of women would never have developed the self confidence to enable them to stand on their own as a voice among men. Through Inghinidhe na hEireann and the Celtic Literary Society and Irish theatre evolved which led to the formation of the abbey theatre.
Throughout her lifetime, many men were to fall in love with her. She married John McBride in Paris in 1903, had their son Sean in 1904, separated in 1905 where McBride returned to Ireland. She remained in France until 1917 as she was afraid the McBrides would sue for custody of Sean if she were to return to Ireland. Her most famous admirer was W.B. Yeats who based many poems and plays on her and who indeed himself had dreams of setting up and Irish theatre. She refused his proposal of marriage but remained good friends.
Maud died in April 1953 after devoting 60 years of her life to Irish causes during which she had many achievements, culturally, socially and politically.