International Women’s Day is a time to celebrate achievements of Irishwomen, writes Gerry Breen
International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated throughout the world on the 8th of March every year. It is a focal point in the movement for women’s rights, and in many countries it is an official holiday. Even in countries where it is not a public holiday, it is still widely celebrated.
This global women’s event has been held for well over a century, with the first International Day gathering in 1911 supported by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. To commemorate the 100th anniversary in 2011, events were held in more than a hundred countries.
In 1977, the United Nations General Assembly invited member states to proclaim 8th March as the UN Day for women’s rights and world peace.
In Ireland, it’s an occasion to renew the call to action for accelerating gender equality and it is also a splendid opportunity to mark the extraordinary accomplishments of women before and since the foundation of the state. The social, cultural, sporting, economic and political achievements of Irishwomen have been truly remarkable and deserve to be celebrated.
Let’s take a look at some of them. Back in 1909, Mary Ryan, from Cork, was named Professor of Romance Languages of the now University College Cork. This was certainly not a routine academic appointment. Mary Ryan was actually the first female professor of a university in both Ireland and Great Britain.
She served as a professor of the institution for about thirty years, frequently sending students to the Sorbonne in Paris to complete their postgraduate studies. For this reason and because of her published writings, she was awarded a Doctor of Letters by the University of Paris and ‘Ordre national de la Legion d’Honneur’ by the French government, the highest merit a civilian could attain in France.
Hannah Moylan, from Galway, who was born in 1867, was the first woman to get a degree in science in Ireland.