Former EU Commissioner Launches Path Breaking Women at NUI Galway

Launching the new exhibition ‘Path Breaking Women of NUI Galway: 1912-1922 and Beyond’ this week were Professor Niamh Reilly, Principal Investigator on the project; Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, former EU Commissioner; and NUI Galway President, Dr Jim Browne.
Mar 10 2017 Posted: 10:04 GMT

Exhibition Showcases 12 Remarkable Women of the University 1912-22

NUI Galway this week launched the exhibition ‘Path Breaking Women of NUI Galway: 1912-1922 and Beyond’. This visual history project, led by Professor Niamh Reilly, School of Political Science and Sociology, is supported by the Irish Research Council New Foundations Scheme 2015 as part of the Decade of Centenaries. The Exhibition foregrounds 12 women, each a former faculty member or student of NUI Galway, who have made remarkable contributions, across the arts, sciences and political life, in the years around 1916, or subsequently in the first decades of Irish independence.

The keynote address at the official launch was by Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, formerly TD for Galway West and first female cabinet minister in the state, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science from 2010 to 2014 and, most recently, Chairperson of a national review of gender equality in higher education institutions.

Speaking at the event, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, said: “The exhibition focuses on the campaigns for social reform that animated Ireland in the early twentieth century – and how they led to women’s rights and a modern Ireland that would have been unimaginable when these women were starting out on their student days. The position of women has radically changed. But hasn’t changed enough.

This exhibition reminds us all – and I hope particularly younger women – of the power of passion and persistence. Of the importance of education, and the equal importance of doing something with that education.”

Women profiled in the Exhibition include:

  • Alice Perry (1885-1969), the first woman to earn an engineering degree in Ireland or the UK
  • Mary Donovan O’Sullivan (1887-1966), first Professor of History in University College Galway, appointed in 1914, aged 27
  • Ada English (1875-1944) prominent in Cumann na mBan in Galway, lecture in Mental Diseases at UCG, and reforming doctor in Ballinasloe asylum
  • Emily Anderson (1891-1962), acclaimed linguist and scholar of the personal letters of Mozart and Beethoven
  • Síle Ní Chinnéide (1900-1980), Irish language revivalist and one of UCG's first lecturers in History through Irish
  • Margaret Heavey (1908-1980), multilinguist, classics scholar and influential shaper of her discipline and the university
  • Maureen O’Carroll (1913-1984), past student, first female Labour TD and mother Brendan and Eilish O'Carroll
  • Celia Lynch (1908-1989), graduate, first woman Fianna Fail chief whip and longest serving woman TD at the time of her retirement
  • Máirín de Valera (1912-1984), scientist and founder of Botany at UCG
  • Nora Niland (1913-1988), graduate, instrumental in promoting the association of Yeats with Sligo and building the Niland Collection at the Model arts centre in Sligo
  • Caitlín Maude (1941-1982), graduate, acclaimed sean-nós singer and first actress to perform the leading role in the Irish Language play about unmarried mothers, An Triail (1964)
  • Lorna Reynolds (1911-2003), an influential literary critic, life-long champion of progressive causes and leading biographer of the novelist Kate O'Brien.

Professor Niamh Reilly, Principal Investigator on the project, commented:  “The Path Breaking Women exhibition celebrates the exceptional but little-known achievements of 12 women associated with NUI Galway over the last 100 years.  It is a beginning, an invitation to find out more and raise awareness of these and other path-breaking women who have contributed so much to our university and wider society.”     

The Path Breaking Women project is also supported by the School of Political Science and Sociology, the Centre for Global Women’s Studies and the Moore Institute for Research in the Humanities and Social Studies, NUI Galway in association with the Gender ARC research network and University Women’s Network at NUI Galway. Contributing researchers are Mary Clancy and Dr Muireann O’Cinneide.

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