The Irish Countrywomen’s Association was actually founded in 1910 by a Bree resident…Anita Lett.
Acutely aware of the poverty existing in Ireland at the time and the vulnerability of Irish women, especially those in rural Ireland, she set about empowering women by educating them in housekeeping skills, budgeting, health care, clothes making, reading skills and crafts. Anita Lett set up the organization known as the Society of the United Irishwomen in the old Community Hall in Bree, on the site that now is home to the beautiful, sensory and accessible commemerative ICA garden.
The aims of the society was to improve the standard of life in rural Ireland through education and co-operative effort and it definitely achieved these aims.
Due to political issues and concerns in 1935 the name of the organization was changed to The Irish Countrywomen’s Association, fondly known as the ICA. It should be noted that the title “Countrywomen’s” referred to all the women of the island of Ireland, and not just the women of rural Ireland. Currently there are branches, or Guilds, of the ICA in many towns and cities as well as all over rural Ireland.
Although it is not widely known, the ICA was instrumental in bringing Electricity to rural Ireland when, to reduce the fear of electricity existing at the time and to advertise the the benefits and labour saving aspects of electricity, the ESB enlisted the assistance of the ICA. A model of a farmhouse kitchen was made and fitted with electrical appliances and the ICA toured the whole country demonstrating and teaching use of the new appliances, no doubt bringing class and decorum to the whole venture!
The ICA also takes part in discussions and policy development with government departments on all issues concerning the welfare and betterment of Irish women and many laws and government decisions will have had ICA input and direction. The ICA continues to support women by introducing services, training courses and helplines to assist members and their families. They have also partnered with many Irish Businesses throughout the country to offer attractive discounts to ICA members.
Today the ICA continues to be a vibrant, spirited and inclusive organization where Irish women have fun, support each other, learn from each other and gain the skills to have a knowledgeable and rewarding life.