With International Women’s Day taking place on 8th March, you might think of famous Irish women who have made a huge contribution to or impact on Irish society. Women like Mary Robinson, Mary McAleese, Sinead O’Connor, to name just three that spring to mind. But have you heard of these other Irish female trailblazers?
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In celebration of International Women’s Day, Tesco Ireland is partnering with the Women’s Museum of Ireland, to curate a new exhibition celebrating noted Irish female trailblazers.
The five pioneering Irish women include the mother of Irish cookery, the first Irish woman to be called to the bar, a professional motor racing driver, a Dublin firefighter and an award-winning surgeon.
I have to admit, I had only heard of one of them!
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Five Irish Female Trailblazers
The first Irish woman to hold a Michelin Star
Born in Cork in 1924, Myrtle Allen became famous during her lifetime as the Mother of Modern Irish Cooking. Founder of the Ballymaloe dynasty, her focus was on local produce and an ever-evolving menu, updated to reflect changing seasons – this was revolutionary for the time.
She also made history by becoming the first Irish woman to ever hold a Michelin Star, which she was awarded from 1975 to 1980. She taught generations of Irish people how to cook via her weekly newspaper columns in The Farmers Journal. She was a trailblazer on behalf of Irish producers and Irish women.
One of the first women ever to be called to the bar in Ireland or the UK
Averil Deverell was born in Dublin in 1893. She drove an ambulance in France during the first World War. Then, in 1919, the law changed to allow women to become barristers and – following studies in Trinity College – she was admitted to Kings Inns.
In 1921, she became one of the first female barristers ever to be called to the bar in Ireland or the UK, along with another Irish woman, Frances Kyle. She continued to make history throughout her career and was the first woman to ever appear before the Privy Council in London.
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The first Irish woman to break into the world of professional motor racing
Born in Dublin in 1937, Rosemary Smith was first taught to drive by her father when she was just 11. Her passion for driving saw her break through the gender barrier to win races and rallies all over the world.
A female pioneer in a notoriously male-dominated sport, she drove in the Monte Carlo rally eight times, winning the Coupe des Dames on numerous occasions. In 1965, Rosemary won the Tulip Rally outright, beating all the male drivers to the finish.
One of Ireland’s first ever full-time female firefighters
In 1994, Celina Barrett broke the mould by becoming one of Ireland’s first ever full-time female firefighters. Throughout her career Celina has been a champion of women in the industry.
She is now one of two chief fire officers in Ireland. Women are still underrepresented in the fire service, with only 2 percent of women firefighters in the country. Last year, Celina set up the Women’s Fire Service Network to support women in the fire service and encourage others to join.
Dr Emily Winifred Dickson
The first woman to hold a fellowship at the Royal College of Surgeons in in Ireland
Dr. Emily Winifred Dickson was born in Co. Tyrone in 1866. Rejected by the medical school in Trinity College because of her gender, she instead applied to the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland. The only female student, she shone academically, winning the silver medal for surgery. Emily went on to become the first woman to hold a fellowship there (in 1893). She was refused a position at the Rotunda Hospital because of her gender.
Undaunted, she practised as a gynaecologist, ultimately at the city’s Richmond Hospital. Throughout her life she was also deeply committed to women’s emancipation. Her personal lobbying helped to gain females admission to the British Medical Association, of which she became one of the first women members in 1892.
Women’s Museum of Ireland Installation
In partnership with the Women’s Museum of Ireland, a virtual museum that promotes the formal recognition of the role of women in Irish history, the stories and unique achievements of the five women will be brought to life across Tesco stores throughout the country ahead of International Women’s Day this Sunday 8th March.
The exhibition will run in Tesco stores around the country from today until Sunday 8th March. After the installation ends you can visit the Women of Ireland website, where each of the trailblazers are profiled with more about their stories, with videos and podcasts.
The museum hopes to encourage the continuation of these successes in a new generation of women in Ireland and abroad.
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Over to you now. Had you heard of these 5 Irish female trailblazers? Tell us in the comments below.