Inspirational Irish Women in History
Updated: May 22, 2021
True to form, these Irish women have shown tenacity and groundbreaking grit through the years.
I think we could all use a good dose of inspiration right about now. In closing out Women’s History Month, we felt that this group deserved some major recognition. As St. Patty’s Day wasn’t given a fair shake this year, consider this a virtual celebration. Grab a Guinness, a whiskey, or a hot cuppa tea and tip back, relax and soak it all in. Slainte!
Grace O’Malley has been immortalized in Irish folklore as a valiant woman who defied gender expectations and fought for Ireland's independence. Born into a wealthy seafaring family when local chieftains ruled much of Ireland, O’Malley commanded raids on merchant ships and rival clans. She was a fearless leader and skilled diplomat and eventually became known as the “Pirate Queen” of Connacht. A thorn in the British side for many years, she was so renowned that she was able to secure a meeting with Queen Elizabeth I in 1593.
After looking at the planets through her father’s telescope as a child, Agnes Clerke fell in love with the stars. From then on, she became dedicated to studying astronomy. She wrote many articles about astronomy and became much more known after authoring her book, A Popular History of Astronomy During the 19th Century. Trailblazing her way into the field, she won numerous awards for her book, many of which were once reserved for men. Clerke certainly left her mark on the field of astronomy, so much so that in 1981, nearly 75 years after her death, NASA named a crater on the moon in her honor.
Jennie Wyse Power
One of the most prominent female figures in the 20th century due to her political affiliation, Jennie Wyse Power dedicated her life to Ireland. Not only was Power an activist, businesswoman, and feminist, but she was also a founding member of Sinn Féin, the oldest political party in Ireland. After being appointed to the First Seanad, she used her power to advocate and campaign for women's rights.
Rosie Hackett dedicated her life to improving Ireland for Irish women. A working-class woman, Hackett played a notable part in the 1913 Lockout. An infamous part of Ireland’s history, the strike caused her to lose her job. After that, Hackett became a founder of the Irish Women’s Workers Union and vigorously campaigned on behalf of the union’s 7,000 members. Years later, she and her broader vision for the country were honored after a Dublin bridge was named after her in 2014.
One of the most influential figures in Irish history, Dorothy Price, was a driving factor behind the government’s decision to introduce Tuberculin testing and BCG vaccinations. This move resulted in the ending of the Irish tuberculosis epidemic of the 20th century. Despite facing resistance from just about everyone and increased chaos brought on by the start of WWII, Price continued to push onward. In 1937 St Ultan’s Hospital for Infants, where Price worked for years, became the first hospital in Ireland or Britain to use the vaccination.
After making her start in public relations and moving into journalism, Veronica Guerin became an acclaimed writer after her exposé on the activities of Irish drug criminals. As a tenacious crime reporter, she pursued each story deliberately and directly to the source, no matter the danger at hand. Even after her home was shot at, she pursued her stories. After Guerin was shot and subsequently killed, likely due to the stories she was pursuing, the country began to set up the Criminal Assets Bureau and crack down on organized crime.
Joanne was born with Total Amelia, a medical condition that results in being born without any limbs. O’Riordan challenged the Irish Government in 2011 when they planned on cutting the budget for people with disabilities. At only 16 years old, Joanne’s courageous actions earned her an invitation to speak at the United Nations in New York. She spoke about the leading women in STEM and how technology transformed her life.
Written by Casey Lauer