Article on Freedom Machine

freedom machine by GPO

#VC19DublinCase: The Freedom Machine


06 Mar, 2019

Author: Dublin City Council

“I think the bicycle has done more to emancipate women than any one thing in the world. I rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a bike. It gives her a feeling of self-reliance and independence the moment she takes her seat; and away she goes, the picture of untrammeled womanhood.”

American civil rights leader, Susan B Anthony, 1896

1918 was the first time Irish women were permitted by law to vote and stand in parliamentary elections.  1918 was also the year in which the first woman was elected to the British Parliament at Westminster.  Countess Markievicz, who represented Dublin’s St. Patrick’s constituency, never took her seat at Westminster. Instead, she joined the revolutionary first Dáil, becoming the first female TD.

2018 marked the centenary of women’s suffrage in Ireland.  To celebrate the important historical role of bicycles for suffragettes and the emancipation of Women, the theme for the Dublin Cycling Campaign’s 2018 contribution to the St. Patricks Day Parade was the Freedom Machine.  It was conceived and developed by Artist Donna Cooney who is an avid cyclist and campaigner.

The project involved participants making replica suffragette sashes and banners in honour of Irish suffragettes.  Workshops took place in Tailors Hall which is a three-hundred-year old historical building in the constituency of Countess Markievicz.  Donna Cooney coordinated the project with the assistance of Artist Laragh Pittman and Gary Brady. The hash tag #FreedomMachine with images of women joyfully astride their bicycles trended and took over or reclaimed the hash tag from a popular motor cycle brand.

The pageant involved over 100 women, of all ages on bicycles in suffragette attire in the Parade promoting ‘Women on bikes, Votes for Women, Votes for Bikes’.  The participants carrying hand crafted original designed banners, sashes and placards, were followed by family and supporters on bicycles and cargo bikes. Meteorologist Joanna Donnelly and Senator Ivana Bacik both keen cycling advocates rode up front on their vintage ‘High Nelly‘ freedom machines.
Participation of Dublin Cycling Campaign in the St. Patricks Day Parade is supported annually by Dublin City Council.  The parade itself attracts half a million spectators and is televised live on national television. It is also heavily publicised worldwide giving access to an even wider global audience.

Freedom Machine events were organised throughout 2018 by Ms. Cooney including a tour on the East Coast cycle trail during national Bike week and a cycling tour and talk to commemorate the centenary of the election of Countess Markievicz and connection with the bicycle.  Many participants had not cycled in many years and through the organised events gained confidence to get their freedom back on their bicycles.

As a member of the Dublin Cycling Campaign committee Ms. Cooney has a role in cycling advocacy. The Freedom machine project aims to increase participation of women in cycling; in Ireland women account for only one in every four cyclists. The Freedom Machine has been selected as an oral presentation at Dublin Velo-city 2019 in session 11c – Cycling & Gender on June 27th 3.30pm. Also watch out for the Freedom machine cyclists who will participate in the Dublin Velo-city Bike Parade on the 26th June.


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