April Badass Goddess

Grace O’Malley

(c. 1530 – c. 1603; also Gráinne O’Malley, Irish: Gráinne Ní Mháille)

Ageism is out to shame

As ageism in society, particularly attitudes to older women, comes under greater scrutiny today, Grace retained her status as a woman of power, influence, diplomacy and experience and remained actively involved, by land and sea, right to the end of her long life, makes Grace O’Malley an original symbol of positive aging and a Badass Goddess.

Grace O’Malley the legendary Irish noblewoman who spent the majority of her life at sea on the White Seahorse. Wife, mother, divorcee, lover, widow, grandmother, great-grandmother. She was a fearless leader by land and by sea, political pragmatist and tactician, rebel, pirate and matriarch, a successful independent business woman, a ruthless plunderer, a mercenary, a rebel, and the protective matriarch of her family and her tribe.

Grace O’Malley


She was the most notorious woman in all the coasts of Ireland.

At 15 she was married and on her way to having 3 children. She married Donal O’Flaherty, son of the Clan O’Flaherty chieftain in Connemara and ally of the O’Malley. In his company she learned and polished the art of boarding ships. When her husband was killed fighting ashore, Granuaile, aged 23, took over his castle and fighting ships. Then she returned to Mayo with many male followers.

When her father died she inherited his large shipping and ‘trading business’ and became Queen of Umaill, chieftain of the Ó Máille clan.


After she gave birth to her son, Tiobóid from her second husband, Risdeárd an Iarainn (“Iron Richard”) Bourke. It was at sea, and within an hour, when her galley was boarded by Algerian pirates, she, wrapped in a blanket, appeared on deck leading her ships into battle and so her crew, rallied again, captured the pirate vessel.

She also had control on several castles including Rockfleet in Clew Bay, Doona on Blacksod, Kildavnet on Achill Island and the O’Malley Castle on Clare Island was her stronghold.


When she met Queen Elizabeth the 1st at Greenwich Palace, Granuaile refused to bow before Queen Elizabeth because she was herself a Queen, and not a subject of the Queen of England. The two women spoke in Latin and came to an agreement. Queen Elisabeth I released her sons Tiobóid Burke and Murrough O’Flaherty, and her half-brother, Dónal na Píopa, while Granuaile put an end to piracy against England.

Despite her life full of adventures Granuaile lived to an old age. She died in 1603 at Rockfleet Castle and was buried in the Cistercian Abbey on Clare Island. After her death, she became an Irish folk hero of almost legendary status.

Glenda Benevides  musician, storyteller, activist, good human

April Badass Goddess


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