De Valera, Sinéad (1875–1975), teacher, folklorist, and writer, was born Jane Flanagan , 1 June 1875, in Ballbriggan, Co. Dublin, one of three daughters and four children of Laurence Flanagan, a carpenter, and Margaret Flanagan (née Byrne). When she was seven the family moved to Munster Street, Phibsboro, Dublin, following her father's appointment as clerk of works during the building of St Peter's church, Phibsboro. Educated locally, she proved to be a talented student, and went on to study at the Baggot Street Training College, from where she qualified as a national school teacher. She began her teaching career in a school on Dorset Street.
An enthusiastic Celtic revivalist, she gaelicised her name as Sinéad Ní Fhlannagáin and spent much of her spare time learning Irish through the Gaelic League in Dublin and in the Mayo Gaeltacht; she also became a member of Inghinidhe na hÉireann. She was involved in amateur dramatics, performing in a production of ‘The tinker and the fairy’, a one-act play by Douglas Hyde (qv) in May 1902. On asking George Moore (qv), in whose garden on Ely Place the performance had been given, whether she should consider a career in acting he responded: ‘Height, five foot four; hair, red; name, Flanagan; no my dear’ (Coogan, 40). Taking his advice she continued to teach, and, having gained a fluency in Irish, began giving classes for beginners at the Gaelic League's college in Parnell Square. One of her pupils was Eamon de Valera (qv), with whom she spent the summer of 1909 at the Irish College at Tourmakeady, Co. Mayo. They were married the following January, after which she gave up her career and concentrated on rearing their family of five sons and two daughters.
The months after the 1916 rising proved particularly difficult for her. Pregnant and without an income while her husband was in prison, she was forced to return to the family home in Phibsboro and care for her invalid sister and mother. After the family's finances improved, she settled in Greystones, Co. Wicklow, but throughout much of the ensuing political upheaval she saw little of her husband, who was either imprisoned or on the run. In 1920, however, she met him in America, thanks to the provision by Michael Collins (qv) of a false passport for her. During the civil war her home was frequently raided by Free State troops. She made a policy of speaking to them only in Irish. Rumoured to be pro-treaty, she made no public comment on politics.
In her later years, with her family grown up, she began writing. She adapted old Irish stories, translated European fairy tales into Irish, and wrote several plays for children. Her best-known works include Coinneal na Nodlag agus sgéalta eile (1944) and Áilleacht agus an beithidheach (1946). During her husband's presidency (1959–73) she made few public appearances, but continued to attend Gaelic League functions and children's drama competitions. After his retirement they moved into a private Dublin nursing home. She died 7 January 1975 in Dublin and was buried at Glasnevin cemetery.
More information on this entry is available at the National Database of Irish-language biographies (Ainm.ie).