by ehistoryadmin on February 14, 2018

In this year of commemoration of Women’s Suffrage it is nice to see Brigid extolled in 1888 as an example to all, reminding us of the long struggle toward freedom and democracy.


Kildare Observer, 23/6/1888.
(450 TO 525)
Out of the mists of miracle there looms before us, thirteen centuries ago in Ireland, the figure of a mighty woman – Brigid (or Bridgett) of Kildare. A woman who, without any doubt, impressed her personality upon her time and country, but whose character and actions can only be outlined by the uncertain light of the traditions of miracle and legend which both conceal and reveal her life.
In whatever way the stories strike us that a globe of fire hovered over the place where Brigid was born; or that the frighted mother came home from the fields on day to find her cottage all ablaze, and to the baby lay laughing with rosy cheeks unscathed amidst the flames; or that a pillar of light shone over the head of the maiden when she took her vows; – believe we these things or believe we them not, they mark one unmistakeable truth – they point to a life of no common order.
Through the halo of these and the many other legends which surround her, Brigid appears a type of all that is best in the character of Irishwomen. We see her first as a bright, assiduous child, sharing all she has with the poor; then as an earnest girl, striving to fulfil her filial duties under difficult and complex conditions; finally, as the self-sacrificing, devout woman, who felt that throughout all her life in all things she has the help of an angel of God while she spent her life for others, teaching and healing their quarrels as well as their diseases.
That her father was of noble birth all the accounts agree. The earlier narrative relate that her mother was a bond-woman, a second Hagar. May it not be that the difficulties brought to her earlier years by the unequal conditions of her parents aided to develop in Brigid that universal sympathy for all living creatures which she seems to have possessed-she not only fed the starving dog, but the wild boar from the woods, rushing down on the swine she was watching, at a word from her became tame. The wild fowl at her call came hovering round, and let her fondle them.
Whether a temporary and opportune blindness really came to her aid in the matter or not does not alter the fact that she overcame the plans her father had made for the marriage of his beautiful and attractive daughter, and early devoted herself to a religious life.
The great apostle of his age and country, St Patrick, received her as his daughter, and became to her as a father. What the great council of bishops was which sought her opinion is not apparently clear, nor the occasion of the visit paid by seven bishops to the saint at Kildare, but these references to her opinion show that her judgment was valued, and that she inspired confidence in the best minds of her time.
Her birthplace was at Fochart, in County Louth but her childhood and youth were passed partly in the west, partly in the south. When her fame grew the inhabitants of Leinster besought her to return to them, and she, seeing in their wishes a diving call, fixed her place of abode under an oak which she much loved-the henceforth famous Kildare (Church of the Oak), where in after years a holy fire was kept perpetually burning on her shrine. There, during her life, both a monastery and nunnery grew up under her rule, with on church in common. At Kildare she was buried, and thence about 1185 her remains were translated to the tomb of Saint Patrick and Saint Columba, that the remains of Ireland’s three greatest saints might rest side by side. There are churches to her honour in many lands, and many places have sought to be connected with her. She is said to have dwelt for a time in the Isle of Man. Abernethy in Scotland, Glastonbury in England have claimed to be her place of burial, the fame of lesser Brides being absorbed in the light of this greatest Bride, Brigid, or Bridgett,
Who rode on the waves of the world,
As the sea-bird rides upon the billow,
Strong in affection, ready in pity, clear in judgment, bright in spirit,-long may Brigid be the type of the daughters of Erin. – H. B. in Womens Suffrage Journal.

A short article from the Women’s Suffrage Journal on St. Brigid of Kildare, reprinted in the Kildare Observer newspaper in June 1888.


originally reprinted on the Grey Abbey Conservation Project site in 2008


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