Shorter, Dora Sigerson (1866–1918), writer, was born in Dublin, elder daughter among two daughters and two sons of Dr George Sigerson (qv), physician, scientist, and Gaelic scholar and poet, a catholic from Co. Tyrone, and Hester Sigerson (née Varian) (1828–98), of Co. Cork, author of the novel A ruined race (1889). Her childhood home in Clare St., Dublin, was a popular meeting place for artists, musicians, and writers, from whom she picked up much of her knowledge of art and literature in lieu of a formal education. Demonstrating literary talents from an early age, she contributed verse to the Irish Monthly, United Ireland, the Pilot (Boston), Detroit Free Press, Young Ireland, Catholic Times, Derry Journal, and The Nation. Her first volume, Verses, was published in 1893, and was followed by numerous volumes of poetry, four books of tales and sketches, and two novels, The country-house party (1905) and Do-well and Do-little (1913). Her Collected poems, comprising 148 works, appeared in 1907.
Shorter's early poetry is distinctly melancholic and bleak, a characteristic much less evident in her later work. She wrote many narrative poems such as ‘The fairy changeling’ (1897), but in volumes such as Ballads and poems (1899) and As the sparks fly upwards (1903) she distinguished herself as a ballad writer. This aspect of her talent was much admired by George Meredith and Douglas Hyde (qv); the latter described her as ‘the greatest mistress of the ballad and the greatest story-teller in verse that Ireland has produced’ (Hyde, 144). She played a significant role in the early period of the Irish literary revival, and formed close friendships with novelist and poet Katharine Tynan Hinkson (qv) and poet Alice Furlong (qv). After her marriage (1895) to Clement K. Shorter, editor of the Illustrated London News (1891–1900) and the Sphere magazine (1900–26), she lived in London and occasionally at their country residence in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire. She was always an ardent Irish nationalist, and her republican sympathies became increasingly pronounced with age. Love of Ireland: poems and ballads (1916) was published both for general circulation and in a small privately printed edition, the latter including an additional section entitled ‘Poems of the Irish rebellion, 1916’. Sixteen dead men, published posthumously in America in 1919 and reissued as The tricolour: poems of the Irish revolution in 1922, contains elegies for each of the executed leaders of the Easter rising; an enlarged volume under the latter title, edited by Dan Barry in 1976, includes a portrait photograph. Other volumes of her work published posthumously include The sad years (1918), A legend of Glendalough, and other ballads (1919), and Twenty-one poems (1926). While writing throughout her career under the name Dora Mary Sigerson, after her marriage she sometimes published as Dora Sigerson Shorter. It is not recorded that she and her husband had children.
Besides her writing, she also devoted time to painting and sculpture. Her best known sculptural work is the 1916 memorial in Glasnevin cemetery, Dublin, which was carved and erected after her death to her design; she left a behest in her will for the purpose. Katharine Tynan, among others, attributed her demise to the anguish she suffered as a result of the failure of the 1916 rising. She died at her home in St John's Wood, London, on 6 January 1918; her remains were returned to Ireland for burial in Glasnevin.
Her younger sister Hester published poetry in Irish, British, and American periodicals, and succeeded on the death of Rose Kavanagh (qv) as ‘Uncle Remus’, author of a regular children's column in the Weekly Freeman. She married (c.1900) Arthur Donn Piatt, USA vice-consul in Dublin.