On Sunday 12 March 1881 a pastoral letter from Archbishop McCabe of Dublin was read out in all the churches of the diocese. The letter condemned the Ladies’ Land League as an attempt at ‘degrading the women of Ireland’ by men who had ‘drawn the country into its present deplorable condition’.1 Although the letter was intended to terminate the Ladies’ Land League before it got fairly started, McCabe’s intemperate language, seemingly contrived to give the greatest possible offence to pious Irish women and their defenders, had just the opposite effect. In the furore that followed the publication of the pastoral letter, the Ladies’ Land League received both a blast of favourable publicity and the stamp of approval of the popular archbishop, Thomas Croke of Cashel.
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