Women in Irish Prisons: Autographs of Prisoners in 1923

by Aedín Ní Bhróithe Clements, Irish Studies Librarian (retired)

Autograph books, nicely-bound books full of blank pages, have been popular for a long time — from schoolchildren’s record of classroom friendships to collections of famous people’s autographs. The Hesburgh Library recently added to its collection a small but powerful document of women’s involvement in Ireland’s politics one hundred years ago. 

Our new acquisition is the prison autograph book of Aoife Taaffe (MSE/IR 1101). The autograph book, signed by her fellow prisoners in 1923, documents the women, and also their dates and places of imprisonment during the Civil War of 1922-23.

Aoife Taaffe, Political Prisoner. Four Courts, Mountjoy, N. D. U., Kilmainham. 1922, 1923.

Information given on this page tells us that Taaffe was a prisoner in the Four Courts, in Mountjoy Jail, in the North Dublin Union, and in Kilmainham Gaol. The book is filled with the signatures of other women who were imprisoned during the Civil War of 1922-23, and their signatures are usually accompanied by information on imprisonment places and dates.

Like many women activists of her time, Aoife Taaffe is not well-known today. Information gleaned from various sources tells us that she was very involved in theatre both as an actor and a director, and she was also involved in many commemorative events for the 1916 Rising and the War of Independence during the 1920s and 30s. While in Kilmainham Gaol, she marked the seventh anniversary of the 1916 Rising by producing P. H. Pearse’s The Singer, with a cast of women prisoners. 

Autographs in the book include those of Margaret Buckley, Kid Bulfin, Eithne Coyle, May Gibney and Margaret Skinnider. In all, the book features the names and signatures of dozens of women prisoners.

The history of women’s involvement in the Irish War of Independence and Civil War is still relatively unknown. Sinéad McCoole’s No Ordinary Women: Irish Female Activists in the Revolutionary Years 1900-1923 (2003) is an important history, and a number of articles and podcasts on the website of Century Ireland provide interesting perspectives on women’s history of the period. A major primary source is the Military Archives, particularly the accounts of service provided by applicants for a pension.

Seven years ago, we mounted a centenary exhibition, Easter 1916: The Irish Rebellion, which featured books and documents on a small number of women. This autograph book encourages us to look more widely for sources of Irish women’s history, which is slowly being pulled from the shadows.

Upcoming Events: December 2023

Please join us for the following public events and exhibits being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:

Thursday, December 7 at 5:00pm | Italian Research Seminar: “Desire, Anxiety, Shame: Transatlantic (Re)Mediations and ‘Italian Culture'” by Loredana Polezzi (Stony Brook University).


The exhibition Making and Unmaking Emancipation in Cuba and the United States is now open and will run through the fall semester.

Tours of the exhibit may also be arranged for classes and other groups by contacting Rachel Bohlmann at (574) 631-1575 or Rachel.Bohlmann.2@nd.edu.


The December spotlight exhibits are Football and Community at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (August – December 2023) and TBD (December 2023 – November 2024).

Rare Books and Special Collections will be closed for Notre Dame’s Christmas and New Year’s Break
(December 22, 2023, through January 1, 2024).

We otherwise remain open for our regular hours during Reading Days and Exams, and welcome those looking for a quiet place to study.

Beat Generation Cookbook: Illustrated

by Rachel Bohlmann, American History Librarian and Curator

As a holiday centered around a meal, Thanksgiving includes some introspection, as we pause to reflect on the past year and give thanks before tucking in. 

This Beat Generation Cookbook, although not a particularly Thanksgiving-themed one, takes an irreverent and somewhat alternative approach to meals and cooking, and by implication, to national holidays like Thanksgiving. The Beats—a loosely comprised, countercultural community of writers, poets, musicians, artists, and free-thinkers—coalesced as a cultural phenomenon during the late 1940s.

Published in 1961, this booklet appeared at a time when some Beat counterculturalism had crossed over into mainstream American culture. The recipes—of intentionally dubious origins and quality—are named for (and in some culinary way) connect to Beats who had achieved widespread notice, if not mainstream celebrity. The first recipe, naturally, is named for Jack Kerouac, author of On the Road (1957) and a core Beat figure. He was also one of the best known Beats by the early 1960s; and he loved milk. The “Kerouac Kocktail” a vile-sounding concoction of milk, yeast, sugar, and water, was fermented then refrigerated. The recipe promises that “[i]t beats instant coffee, and it’s effervescent!” 

A dessert recipe, “Billy’s Graham Cracker Pie in the Sky,” spoofed Protestant Evangelist Billy Graham’s successful New York City crusade at Madison Square Garden during the summer of 1957. A chocolate pie, the dish’s “appeal has spread to the barbarians and cannibals, partly for its austere simplicity and partly for its religious flavor” the Beat cooks claim. The recipe called for “¼ cup melted margarine (Protestant)” as well as “2 tablespoons water (Holy)” and “2 disengaged eggs.” It further directed the cook to “chill for Seven Days. Go directly to Hell. Do not pass Purgatory. Do not collect Novenas.” This silliness is paired with an illustration of a Pilgrim eating a slice. 

Hesburgh Library’s copy is missing its outer cover, which was bright yellow with the title in large, red lettering. Our copy also looks well-used–with food (and perhaps paint) stains on the cover as well as more food stains inside, particularly on the pages with recipes for Streetcar Pie and Dharma Buns (a play on Kerouac’s novel, The Dharma Bums). 

The Beat Generation Cookbook: Illustrated also includes recipes for a number of artists and writers the Beats considered important influences. Pablo Piccaso is included as is Kenneth Rexroth, a San Francisco-based poet who supported and helped launch the literary careers of a number of young Beats, including Allen Ginsberg. The Beat Generation Cookbook recognized Rexroth with Rex Broth: a very large, one-pot meal of meat (“beef, mutton, goat, or goose”), beans, barley, root vegetables, spices, and “1 cup Mr. Clean,” with which “to scrub the whole pot (& everything that’s in it).” 

Rare Books and Special Collections holds the Kenneth Rexroth Collection: a grouping of works by and about the artist, of which this tongue-in-cheek, cultural, and culinary masterpiece is a light-hearted example. The Rexroth Collection is part of a substantial RBSC collection of post-World War II small press and avant-garde literature published in the United States. 

Happy Thanksgiving!


Special Collections will be closed during Notre Dame’s Thanksgiving Break (November 23-24, 2023). We wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving 2022: Turkey for the People
Thanksgiving 2021: The Thanksgiving that Gave Us a Song, a Movie … and a Cookbook!
Thanksgiving 2020: Happy Thanksgiving to All Our Readers
Thanksgiving 2019: “Thanksgiving Greetings” from the Strunsky-Walling Collection
Thanksgiving 2018: Thanksgiving from the Margins
Thanksgiving 2017: Playing Indian, Playing White
Thanksgiving 2016: Thanksgiving Humor by Mark Twain
Thanksgiving 2015: Thanksgiving and football

On the Retirement of Aedín Ní Bhróithe Clements

by Erika Hosselkus, Associate University Librarian for Scholarly Resources and Services

Aedin Clements, Irish Studies Librarian

Aedín Clements joined Hesburgh Libraries in 2005 as the organization’s first dedicated Irish Studies Librarian. During her tenure, Aedín has developed world class research and special collections in Irish literature, history, and adjacent fields. These include the near-comprehensive Irish Fiction Collection, the Jonathan Swift collection, a large Irish broadside ballads collection, and the Captain Francis O’Neill Irish music collection, among many others. A native speaker of Irish, Aedín has also envisioned and developed Hesburgh Libraries’ substantial Irish-language holdings. 

Along with her collection development activities, Aedin has worked extensively to support students, faculty, and visiting researchers and dignitaries interested in Irish Studies and Irish Language and Literature. As part of her broad outreach, Aedin has curated exhibitions on the writings of the Irish diaspora, Irish children’s literature, the Easter Rising of 1916, and Irish book arts. In 2018, she developed the Keough-Naughton Library Research Award, a partnership between Hesburgh Libraries, the Keough-Naughton Institute, and Notre Dame International offering research fellowships that enable external scholars to utilize the Libraries’ rare Irish collections. Most recently, Aedín collaborated with Hesburgh Libraries’ and Irish Studies colleagues to develop an app-based tour of Dublin featuring connections to materials in our Irish collections.

Aedín has built Hesburgh Libraries’ Irish collections and forged critical connections with campus partners and a global network of researchers. In anticipation of her retirement, we asked colleagues to reflect on her impact and the importance of her work at Notre Dame.

Sarah E. McKibben (Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Irish Language and Literature, University of Notre Dame):

Aedín was a simply marvelous colleague and we will miss her so much! She was so responsive and helpful whenever I located a text I thought we should acquire. She was always full of ideas for my own or my students’ research. She was eager to show my students around the library or teach a research methods session with them, or to help them find the perfect text for their final presentations. In fact, she was so enthusiastic, creative and inspiring that I know she helped many students fall in love with their topics and even pursue further work in Irish Studies.

Since she retired just a week ago, I keep thinking “oh I must email Aedín about this”…I must say, I’m a bit lost without her. She was one of the best hires ND has ever made in Irish Studies.

Aedín receiving a tune written for her by Seán Doherty, a lecturer Dublin City University and one of the recipients of the Keough-Naughton Library Research Award in Irish Studies in 2023.

Natasha Lyandres (Curator, Rare Books and Special Collections, Hesburgh Library, University of Notre Dame):

Almost a year ago, Aedín Clements, our dear colleague, started an epic countdown to her retirement. At the end of October she left the Hesburgh Libraries after serving as Irish Studies Librarian for almost twenty years. Aedín has had an incredibly successful career at Notre Dame. It’s been a real honor to work with her over the past ten years in Rare Books and Special Collections. 

Aedín contributed to the significant growth of Irish Collections by bringing major acquisitions and expanding the reach and impact of her collections through fruitful collaborations with the Keough-Naughton Institute, Notre Dame International, and with the Department of Irish Language and Literature. From teaching numerous classes and supporting graduate and undergraduate students, to installing exhibits and writing blog posts, to launching the Library Research Award in Irish Studies, to welcoming numerous visitors, to assisting scholars from all over the world with their research on campus, Aedín has been the driving force behind the Rare Books and Special Collections’ success and wide international recognition of our Irish collections.

We will miss Aedín’s infectious enthusiasm for Irish Studies, her cheerful personality, her dedication to the Libraries and the University, and also the beautiful sound of the Irish language echoing through the department. Congratulations, dear Aedín, on your retirement. You will always hold a very special place in our hearts.

We thank Aedín for her service, contributions, and collegiality and wish her the best in retirement.

A Revised Martyrology for 16th Century German Catholics

by Alan Krieger, Theology and Philosophy Librarian

Hesburgh Libraries has just acquired the first edition of an extremely rare German-language Catholic Martyrology that was edited by the famed Jesuit scholar-saint, Peter Canisius (1521-1597). The work, Martyrologium: der Kirchen-Kalender, darinnen angezeiget werden, die christlichen Feste und Heiligen Gottes beyder Testamente (Dilingen, 1562), was apparently undertaken by one Adam Walasser, who enlisted Canisius’ help while the latter was in Augsburg. Canisius’ name appears prominently on the title-page, while Walasser only takes credit in the dedication leaf—probably because Canisius was becoming well known by this time.

The purpose of this Martyrology seems to have been two-fold: first, the authors wanted to appeal to the German Catholic population in the German language, especially since Protestantism had been making significant inroads using the vernacular language; second, the authors recognized the need for a scholarly revision of Martyrological texts in order to conform more accurately with known historical facts. In this respect, Canisius anticipated the call for similar revisions by the Council of Trent (which would conclude the year after the publication of this work)—by the end of the 16th century, other revised Roman Martyrologies had been published.

We have found no other North American library holdings of this edition.

Demon Horses and How to Tame Them

by Sara Weber, Special Collections Digital Project Specialist

This year’s Halloween post brings you tales of the Pooka:

“an avil sper’t that does be always in mischief, but sure it niver does sarious harrum axceptin’ to thim that deserves it, or thim that shpakes av it disrespictful.”

Broadly speaking, the Pooka (also referred to as a púca or puca) is a mischievous creature found in Celtic, English, and Channel Islands folklore—its name is the root of Shakespeare’s Puck in the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Although a shapeshifter capable of a variety of appearances, in our story the Pooka takes one of its more common forms, that of a black horse with fiery eyes and blue, flaming breath.

The volume this story comes from is Irish Wonders: the Ghosts, Giants, Pookas, Demons, Leprechauns, Banshees, Fairies, Witches, Widows, Old Maids, and other marvels of the Emerald Isle by D. R. McAnally, Jr. We hold both American and British editions of this text from 1888, both illustrated by H. R. Heaton. The title page describes the book as “Popular Tales as told by the People.” The stories and storytellers are integrated in the narrative, with storytellers represented as local characters. The Hiberno-English, or English as spoken in Ireland, is represented in the spelling and dialogue shown above.

“Taming the Pooka” tells two brief stories of interactions with the spirit before settling in to the longer tale of how King Brian Boru tamed the beast. Click below for a PDF of the entire tale. Enjoy!


Happy Halloween to you and yours
from all of us in Notre Dame’s Special Collections!

Halloween 2022: A Halloween Tale: “John Reardon and the Sister Ghosts”
Halloween 2021: A Welsh Witch in the Woods
Halloween 2020: Headless Horsemen in American and Irish
Halloween 2019: A Halloween trip to Mexico
Halloween 2018: A story for Halloween: “Johnson and Emily; or, The Faithful Ghost”
Halloween 2017: A spooky story for Halloween: The Goblin Spider
Halloween 2016: Ghosts in the Stacks

Upcoming Events: November 2023

Please join us for the following public events and exhibits being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:

Thursday, November 2 at 5:00pm | Italian Research Seminar: “The Dilemmas of Friendship in Dante’s Italy” by Elizabeth Coggeshall (Florida State).

Thursday, November 9 at 5:00pm | Book Presentation: La vita dell’altro. Svevo, Joyce: Un’amicizia geniale by Enrico Terrinoni (Affiliate of the Center for Italian Studies). Terrinoni will be joined by Sara Boezio, Charles Leavitt, and Clíona Ní Ríordáin for a roundtable discussion of his book. This event is co-sponsored by the Center for Italian Studies and the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies.

Thursday, November 30 at 4:30pm | Making and Unmaking Emancipation in Cuba and the United States: A Panel Discussion.

A tour of Hesburgh Libraries’ Fall 2023 exhibition, Making and Unmaking Emancipation in Cuba and the United States, precedes the panel discussion (4:30 – 5:00pm). A reception will follow the panel discussion, in the Hesburgh Libraries Scholar’s Lounge.

Free and open to the public; no tickets required.


The exhibition Making and Unmaking Emancipation in Cuba and the United States is now open and will run through the fall semester.

A curator-led tour, open to the public, will be held noon–1:00pm on the following upcoming Friday: November 17. Tours of the exhibit may also be arranged for classes and other groups by contacting Rachel Bohlmann at (574) 631-1575 or Rachel.Bohlmann.2@nd.edu.


The November spotlight exhibits are Football and Community at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (August – December 2023) and Path to Sainthood: Brother Columba O’Neill (October – November 2023).

RBSC will be closed during the University of Notre Dame’s Thanksgiving Break, November 23 – 24.

National Women’s Football League Collection

by Greg Bond, Sports Archivist and Curator, Joyce Sports Research Collection

The 1972 Official Program for the Toledo Troopers football team introduced the squad to readers by reprinting a local newspaper story about two reporters watching a typical practice:

What seemed so incomprehensible about it all was what they were hearing and seeing was no ordinary football team. There were some telltale signs, such as a pigtail here and there, a high-pitched shout or two, maybe a trace of lipstick on a jersey sleeve; and once the helmets came off, there was no mistaking… these were girls, women who at first glance seemed so removed from the kitchen, so totally removed from all the things that the so-called “weaker sex” usually does.

The 1972 Troopers program is part of a small recently acquired National Women’s Football League (NWFL) Collection that documents the history of the NWFL and the history of women’s professional football. The Troopers, one of the earliest—and the most successful—professional women’s tackle football teams in the country, first took the field in 1971 and were a founding member of the National Women’s Football League in 1974.

Women’s football was part of the larger women’s sports revolution of the 1960s and 1970s that both came before and was fueled by Title IX legislation in 1972. Despite the changing social mores, women football players still frequently encountered discrimination, stereotypes, and skepticism—even from sympathetic observers like the reporters in Toledo. Nevertheless, women’s football carved out a following. During the heyday of the National Women’s Football League in the mid-1970s, games attracted thousands of fans.

The new collection documents both the NWFL and an earlier barnstorming period when the best women’s football teams played irregular schedules with few formal league structures. A 1972 New York Fillies vs. Midwest Cowgirls scorecard is representative of the pre-NWFL material.

In 1974, the National Women’s Football League regularized competition between the top women’s football teams and stretched from Ohio to Texas to California. The new league attracted increased attention and provided stability to the sport for several seasons. The NWFL collection contains several game programs and yearbooks from teams like the Toledo Troopers and the Detroit Demons.

Some representations of women’s football players in these publications, like the cartoon below from the 1972 New York Fillies scorecard, relied on stereotypes and sex appeal. But most images in NWFL publications showcased the athletes’ football skills as seen in these pictures of Troopers and Demons players in game action and in practice .

Financial difficulties, long travel distances, and declining attendance, however, forced several of the NWFL’s best teams, including the Toledo Troopers, to go out of business after the 1979 season. By the early 1980s, the National Women’s Football League only had franchises in the states of Michigan and Ohio. The league ceased operations in 1988. 

To read more about the history of women’s football, see: Hail Mary: The Rise and Fall of the National Women’s Football League by Britni De La Cretaz and Lyndsey D’Arcangelo; and We Are the Troopers: The Women of the Winningest Team in Pro Football History, by Stephen Guinan. Both of these titles are available at Hesburgh Libraries.

The National Women’s Football League Collection is open and available to researchers. We also welcome additional donations of material that document the history of women’s professional football.

Converting Irish-speaking Catholics to Protestantism

by Aedín Ní Bhróithe Clements, Irish Studies Librarian

Tyrone-born clergyman John Richardson (c. 1669-1747) was a strong advocate of publishing Irish-language religious works as a means of converting Ireland’s Catholics to Protestantism. The Hesburgh Libraries recently acquired a copy of his 1711 book of sermons, Seanmora ar na Priom Phoncibh, na Chreideamh or Sermons upon the Principal Points of Religion, Translated into Irish. The book was published in London by Elinor Everingham.

In the same year that he published this book, Richardson presented a petition to the Lord Lieutenant, the duke of Ormond, calling for the publication of testaments, prayer books, catechisms and sermons in Irish, and he also published A Proposal for the Conversion of the Popish Natives of Ireland to the Establish’d Religion. Our book of sermons represents an early part of his campaign to provide printed sermons.

Richardson makes the case for his project in the book’s dedication to the Duke of Ormond.

It is too manifest to be denied that the many dreadful Calamities with which that unfortunate Island hath been miserably Afflicted since the Reformation, are in a great measure owing to the unhappy differences of Religion in it. To prevent them for the time to come, several Laws have been made to weaken, and at last to Extinguish Popery in that Kingdom; and there seems to be only one thing wanting, one thing very becoming the Professours of Christianity, in order to attain this happy End, which is, that proper Methods be used to Instruct the Natives in the true Religion, and to Convert them from their Errours.

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The first sermon, by Richardson, is headed with a Bible verse on the necessity of godliness. This is followed by a sermon by John Tillotson, the Bishop of Canterbury, preached in the presence of the King and Queen at Hampton Court in April 1689. The translator of this sermon, Pilib Mac Brádaigh (c.1655-1720), is said to have been a Catholic priest who “embraced the aristocratic religion of the State, for which he handed down his name to posterity as Philip Ministir” (John O’Donovan).

The final texts are three sermons given by Bishop William Beveridge, Bishop of St. Asaph, and are translated to Irish by Seón ó Mulchonri, or Seán Ó Maolconaire. 

The printed text uses many contractions, and these are almost, but not all, listed in the key at the back of the book. The key displays the Irish alphabet of eighteen letters, the symbols for contractions of common letter-combinations, and a display of the lenited consonants, each one with an overhead dot.

We know of six other copies of this book in the U.S.

An Account of Three Jesuits Martyred During the English Civil War

by Alan Krieger, Theology and Philosophy Librarian

Hesburgh Libraries has recently acquired the first edition of Ambrose Corbie’s Certamen Triplex (Antuerpiae, 1645), a rare and important contemporary account of the martyrdoms of Thomas Holland (1600-1642), Ralph Corbie (1598-1644) and Henry Morse (1595-1645), who were Jesuit priests executed during the English Civil War while conducting missionary activities in England. The author (1604-1649) was the brother of Ralph Corbie and himself a Jesuit priest.

Holland, Corbie and Morse were captured and executed between 1642 and 1645 by parliamentarians after the English Civil War erupted. Holland was born in Lancashire and after studying at the Jesuit college at St. Omer and the English College, Valladolid, he joined the English mission in London, where he was apprehended in 1642.

Corbie was born, as the Certamen Triplex tells us, “in the vicinity” of Dublin (p. 43) after his parents fled county Durham in the northeast of England in the wake of being persecuted for recusancy. After studying at various Catholic institutions on the continent, he joined the English mission and was based in his ancestral home of county Durham where he was caught in July 1644.

The best known of the three martyrs was Morse, the “priest of the plague”, who ministered to the sick—both Protestant and and Catholic—during the plague epidemic of 1636. His courage, as many of the Protestant clergy fled the city, caught the attention of Charles I’s Catholic wife, Henrietta Maria. After Morse was arrested in 1637, Henrietta Maria interceded on his behalf and saved him from execution. Following a few years as chaplain to the English troops in Flanders, he returned to England in 1643. Morse was subsequently captured and, with his royal protector having fled to France in 1644, was executed in February of 1645 at Tyburn on the original charge from eight years earlier.

As Susannah Brietz Monta explains in her book Martyrdom and Literature in Early Modern England (Cambridge University Press, 2005, p. 217-218):

“The martyrs of the 1640s found themselves embroiled in the struggles between Charles I and Parliament. Earlier, in the 1630s, Charles’s reluctance to prosecute priests on charges of treason and his pro-Spanish foreign policy deepened suspicions that he was not fully committed to the Reformation and angered those who felt England should aid continental Protestants in their struggles against Catholic powers. The fear that Charles was betraying the Protestant cause at home and abroad directly affected the fate of Catholic priests. As conflict between king and Parliament flared, Parliament demanded that Elizabethan treason legislation be put into effect and proclaimed that all priests were to leave the country by 7 April 1641 on pain of death. The Irish Catholic rebellion further invigorated prosecution of the Elizabethan statutes.”

We have identified only eight other North American library holdings of this edition.