Kelly, Anna (1891–1958), journalist, was born Annie Christina Fitzsimmons on 8 January 1891 in Ballysadare, Co. Sligo, one of four children (two daughters and two sons) of James Fitzsimmons, RIC constable (stationed at the time in Cavan town) and latterly a farmer, and Mary Fitzsimmons (née McDonald). At some point the spelling of her surname was changed to ‘Fitzsimons ’, a form also used by her brothers, both of whom became doctors (and one a Harley St. specialist). Educated in a convent school, she moved to Dublin (c.1910) and secured temporary secretarial jobs through an employment agency. One of her first assignments was as stenographer and typist to novelist George Moore (qv), who generously raised her wages from the 10s. paid by the agency to £2 per week. Through him she met many of the prominent figures of the literary revival. She also worked for the Maunsel publishing house. A member of Cumann na mBan (notwithstanding the disapproval of some family members), she served in the GPO during the 1916 Easter rising. In 1917 she joined the office staff in Sinn Féin headquarters at 6 Harcourt St., Dublin, working as secretary and general assistant to the party's general secretary, Patrick (‘Paudeen’) O'Keeffe (qv). She kept minutes of many meetings, including those of the party ard-comhairle (central council), and prepared the notes for the inaugural sitting of the first Dáil Éireann (21 January 1919). A secretary to Michael Collins (qv), she prepared briefings for foreign correspondents, and assisted in composition of the Irish Bulletin (1919–21), the typed and mimeographed news-sheet of the dáil department of publicity, produced daily without fail throughout the hazardous, underground circumstances of the war of independence. Known throughout the independence movement as ‘Miss Fitz’, she retained lifelong the nicknames ‘Fitz’ and ‘Fitzie’ among friends and associates. During the civil war she worked on production of the anti-treaty organ Republican War News, until her arrest by Free State authorities late in 1922. Incarcerated in Mountjoy, Kilmainham (where she took part in a hunger strike), and the North Dublin Union, she escaped with several other women prisoners, but was soon rearrested (May 1923). She was released after the ceasefire.
She had married during the truce (23 July 1921) Francis M. (‘Frank’) Kelly, a fellow member of the Sinn Féin headquarters staff. English-born of Irish ancestry, while working in the post office in London he had befriended Collins and Padraic Ó Conaire (qv), who recruited him into the Gaelic League and possibly the IRB. Moving to Dublin in 1916, Frank Kelly joined the Irish Volunteers ‘Kimmage garrison’, served in the GPO during the rising, and was interned. He assisted Collins in effecting the escape of Éamon de Valera (qv) from Lincoln jail (February 1919), and helped arrange his subsequent escape to the USA. An opponent of the treaty, he briefly edited Republican War News before being captured and imprisoned. A talented artist, he executed portrait sketches of many of the celebrated figures of the era.
For a time after the civil war the Kellys had a poultry farm in Bray, Co. Wicklow. After the election of Fianna Fáil to government in 1932, Frank Kelly became a civil servant in the Department of Local Government and Public Health. Anna Kelly, after working at freelance journalism through the 1920s, joined the Irish Press on its launch in 1931 as the first women's page editor in Ireland. Also a features writer and regular columnist (‘Kelly's corner’), she reviewed social events with an impish eye. Dispatched as roving reporter through southern counties, she wrote a popular series of well-observed, often wry, profiles of towns and villages (early 1930s). She frequently went to Geneva to cover meetings of the League of Nations, and as informal aide to the Irish delegation under de Valera. She resigned from the Press in 1935 in protest over the issues leading to the departure of Frank Gallagher (qv) from the editorial chair, but soon returned. In 1938 she visited Germany and interviewed Adolf Hitler. Increasingly disillusioned with de Valera's policies, initially over the executions of IRA volunteers during the emergency of the early 1940s, she was sacked by the Press after an especially vitriolic attack on the 1951–4 Fianna Fáil government. Thereafter she worked for the Sunday Express and other newspapers.
A tenacious worker, Kelly was noted for her biting wit and sharp, salty tongue. She and Frank Kelly had two daughters, Nancy (who was adopted) and Ruth, a journalist with the Irish Press and RTÉ Guide, who married Dick Walsh (qv) (1937–2003), journalist with the Irish Press and Irish Times. Anna Kelly lived with her family at several Dublin addresses, latterly at 17 Rathgar Avenue, where she died of cancer 14 June 1958.