Lady Jane Wilde honoured with commemorative plaque

by Rachel Cunningham
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In a move that has been described as “long overdue”, poet, feminist and nationalist, Lady Jane Wilde, has been honoured with a commemorative plaque on Merrion Square, Dublin 2, writes Rachel Cunningham.

Born in 1821, Jane Wilde was a keen linguist who became a nationalist, and from 1846 contributed to The Nation, writing under the pen name Speranza. Living at 1 Merrion Square, Dublin, her weekly literary salons put her at the centre of Dublin’s cultural life.

She continued her salons in London, where she lived following the death of her husband, Sir William Wilde, in 1876. In 1848, her piece Jacta Alea Est (The Die is Cast), was seen by the authorities as so inflammatory that it led to the suppression of The Nation.

The plaque was unveiled by Lord Mayor Alison Gilliland at Wilde’s former residence in Merrion Square, now owned by the American College Dublin.

The Lord Mayor noted that the house is now the home of a college, commenting: “Many of the students in the building behind us are following courses in creative writing and I can’t help but think that Jane Wilde would be delighted that her drawing room is once again a hive of culture and creativity.”

Proposed by the American College Dublin, the plaque joins existing ones which commemorate her husband, Sir William Wilde, and her son, Oscar. President of the American College Dublin, Dr Joseph Rooney, remarked: “The plaque honouring Lady Jane Wilde Speranza is long overdue and we are proud that it will be displayed in such a prestigious manner at One Merrion Square.

“Jane was a hero to the Irish people during the 1840s and an important part of the Young Ireland movement. With her salons and other gatherings, Speranza created an open house within these walls for more than two decades and American College Dublin intends to continue this tradition.”

The decision to erect the plaque was made by the Dublin City Council Commemorations & Naming Committee, whose chair, Councillor Michael MacDonncha, highlighted that this is just the sixth of its commemorative plaques to honour a woman. He expressed his hope that the committee would see more applications for women in the future.

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