The publication in 1986 of Anna Parnell's The Tale of a Great Sham
, scrupulously edited and annotated by Dana Hearne, was a landmark event in Irish women's history. For the first time the general reader was able to read an account of the land war written by the woman who at the time had been hailed as the Irish 'Joan of Arc'. She was now impoverished and disillusioned but remained acutely sensitive to Irish political developments.
Her version of the past was, as Hearne recognised: 'a searing attack on the male leadership of the Land League and a penetrating critique of its major political strategy - the strategy which came to be known as "Rent at the Point of the Bayonet". It is also a painfully revealing account of the inability of most key Nationalist men to work on an equal footing with Nationalist women.' Long out of print, this welcome re-publication - with a compelling overview of the period by leading feminist historian Dr Margaret Ward - will enable a new generation to decide for themselves whether the strategy developed by the male leadership, explained and criticised with such forensic precision by Anna, succeeded in producing no more than the 'ridiculous mouse' of the 1881 Land Act, which she believed supported landlord power and reinforced an ineffectual parliamentary path to political change in Ireland, rather than the radical mass movement she favoured.
Anna was a pioneering feminist and nationalist activist who challenged male authority and is a beacon to all who followed in her footsteps. The Tale of a Great Sham
is history in her words. Read, know, and celebrate Anna Parnell.
Tale of a Great Sham