History is written by the powerful. It is unsurprisingly that the significant role of women in Irish culture and history has been confined to a limited and specific stereotype of caring mother and supporter. To say that women haven’t played a significant role, is to be blind to the centrality of strong women in Irish culture. Any one who read in school Táin Bó Cúailnge will remember Queen Medb; hardly a beacon of feminine grace and purity. Or the pirate Grace O’Malley. Gender blind history often over looks some of the passionate and independent women who bucked the ideals of confined ideals womanhood from as Countess Markievicz to the Gilford sisters, the incandescent feminist firebrands Hanna Sheey Skeffington and Kathleen Clarke. All leaders and innovators that challenged repression and inequality.
It is in this context that The Women’s Museum of Ireland is being planned, to be officially launched in early February. The creators of this idea plan to cover themes such as “women trade union leaders and agitators,” “the Cumann na mBánn,” and “women who defended castles.” Equally important to any true discussion of history is the negative consequences and the dark role that some women played in running the Magdalene laundries. Its not always a pretty picture, but the very idea of a Women’s Museum of Ireland is one step towards creating a more rounded concept of our past by highlighting the role played by women throughout Irish history.
For some more details of Irish women in history have a look at iGenders “Great Irish Women through History”