Voices of Irish Women Political Prisoners

a documentary
by Melissa Thompson

























press/ reviews


Slí na mBan series web site & interview transcripts

order a copy / contact































THE ROAD OF WOMEN - VOICES OF IRISH WOMEN POLITICAL PRISONERS - a documentary directed, produced & edited by Melissa Thompson

  • music by Kíla & Charlie Engstrom
  • camera: Lea Aylett and Barbara Henkes
  • assistant producers: Mary McAuliffe and Gráinne Close


“...One of the most important records of the issue of women prisoners in the history of the Irish Troubles... The affirmation of the experience of women exprisoners who have been marginalised was welcomed by the women exprisoners in the audience and by their community. This event was very well attended, and we have received many requests to screen it again.”

Michele Devlin
Belfast Film Festival

“A clear and harrowing account of the role played by women political prisoners in the Irish struggle for freedom. Some of the history outlined in this film will be familiar to progressive American audiences, some, less so. What is quite new is the portrait of the women themselves. In plain, quiet voices they describe the conditions they faced, how they felt and how they resisted. What emerges is a sharp sense of how their courage served the purpose of human progress: progress for all women prisoners in obtaining dignity and better treatment at the hands of our jailers, and progress for the Irish republican cause. I am grateful to Melissa Thompson for making this film, and by doing so, making a record of the accomplishments of these women. By documenting their suffering and how they were able to turn it into a weapon against their enemies, Thompson also helped me make sense of my own history as a US political prisoner, and where that history fits into a wider human and political experience.”

• Laura Whitehorn
Former US Political Prisoner and Prison Rights Activist

“Though there have been books written about Irish women republican prisoners, this may well be the first documentary where women prisoners are the exclusive focus...”

Dylan Foley
The Irish Voice


"This is the road we’re on. None of us created this road. This road was here when we were born..." - Interview with Roseleen Walsh, internee and writer

"Everything that took the political prisoner into prison is there with them morning, noon, and night. So whatever fear might be there you have the added help and strength of everything that’s behind you in your history and your counry’s history, and the people before you that did it, and God help us the people after you who may have to do it." - Interview with Ella O’Dwyer, exprisoner

"Don’t be worrying, Mummy, as this is one fight we aren’t going to lose." - Letter from 17 year old woman hunger striker

Voices of Irish Women Political Prisoners take us on a journey to Northern Ireland, a journey into and out of prison, a journey of personal and political struggle and growth. The landscape of these voices is represented by archival footage - of the Troubles, internment, the rise of the republican movement, the hunger strikes, the peace process - and contemporary footage of the prisons where women have been held. Personal stories are foregrounded to explore the complexities of the conflict in ways journalism has not. What does it feel like to grow up in a war zone patrolled by a foreign military? What are the sounds and textures of prison? Women’s letters smuggled out of prison, originally written on small squares of toilet paper, are presented as text superimposed on the prison walls, marking the space with women’s unflinching words. Women interviewed include Martina Anderson and Ella O’Dwyer (who together spent 14 years in prison and successfully campaigned for major structrual and human prison reforms in England), Rosie McCorley (exprisoner support worker, Coiste na n-Iarchimi), Roseleen Walsh (internee and writer), Mary Nelis (community activist and Sinn Fein representative), and Bernadette Devlin McAliskey (legendary human rights activist).

THE ROAD OF WOMEN is an important testimony to political activism. It speaks to a wide range of audiences - community organizations, film and cultural festivals, Irish and women’s studies conferences, university classes, prison reform advocates - and anyone interested in human rights.

THE ROAD OF WOMEN is part of the Slí na mBan documentary series and online archive on Irish women activists.

Visit Slí na mBan to read transcripts with all the women interviewed in this and other parts of the documentary series, watch preview clips and find links to related resources.


Please stay tuned to find out how to purchase a copy of the video online. In the meantime, please email me if you'd like to obtain a copy or have questions about the documentary. - Melissa Thompson