Grace Evelyn Gifford Plunkett

(04/03/1888 - 13/12/1955)

Grace Gifford Plunkett, born on 4 March 1888 in Dublin was an artist and political activist who married Joseph Plunkett and lived in the Plunkett family home at Larkfield, Sundrive Road in the immediate aftermath of the 1916 Rising.

Raised in the affluence of Rathmines, Dublin, Grace was the second youngest of twelve children born to Frederick Gifford, a solicitor, and Isabella Julia Burton Gifford, of mixed religious backgrounds.  Grace’s artistic flair emerged early, leading her to the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art at 16 under the tutelage of Irish artist William Orpen. Her caricature skills blossomed, and she continued her artistic journey at the Slade School of Art in London in 1907.

Returning to Dublin in 1908, Grace faced financial struggles but persisted in her pursuit of a career as a caricaturist. Her work graced publications such as The Shanachie, Irish Life, Meadowstreet, and The Irish Review. Notably, she developed a connection with Joseph Plunkett, the editor of The Irish Review, whom she married in a clandestine ceremony in Kilmainham Gaol on 4 May 1916, just hours before his execution for his role in the Easter Rising.

Grace’s engagement to Joseph in 1915 marked her conversion to Catholicism, deepening their bond. Despite parental disapproval due to Joseph’s frail health, they wed as history-changing events unfolded around them. The execution of her brother-in-law Thomas MacDonagh in 1916, alongside other leaders, intensified the personal toll on Grace.

Post-Rising, Grace dedicated herself to Sinn Féin, participating in their executive in 1917. The death of her sister Muriel in 1917 added familial responsibilities, caring for Muriel’s children alongside her sister Katherine.

The Irish Civil War saw Grace’s arrest and internment at Kilmainham Gaol in 1923, where she immortalised her cell with paintings, including the famous ‘Kilmainham Madonna.’ Released in May 1923, she faced social ostracism, relying on her artistic talents for income, contributing to various publications and designing costumes for the Abbey Theatre.

Grace’s health declined in the late 1940s, leading to her death on 13 December 1955, in her South Richmond Street apartment. Buried with full military honours near her husband’s grave in Glasnevin Cemetery, Grace’s legacy endures in cultural depictions, including the poignant song “Grace,” a tribute to her unwavering love and sacrifice.

Her life, marked by artistic brilliance, love against the odds, and enduring commitment to Irish independence, secures Grace Gifford Plunkett’s place as an iconic figure in Ireland’s history.

Person Photo
Connection with area: Artist and cartoonist who lived in Larkfield House on Sundrive Road after her husband was executed after the 1916 rising