Women in UCC re­call cen­te­nary of suf­fragettes

Irish Examiner - - News - Olivia Kelle­her

More than 70 women dressed as suf­fragettes to take part in a pa­rade around UCC’s iconic quad to com­mem­o­rate the 100th an­niver­sary of the vote be­ing given to women in Ire­land.

The pa­rade, led by Sabina Higgins, re­mem­bered the women, who were aged over 30 and with prop­erty, who went to the polling booths for the first time in De­cem­ber 1918. Aca­demics from UCC played the part of prom­i­nent suf­fragettes in­clud­ing Em­me­line Pankhurst, Hanna Sheehy-Sk­efff­in­g­ton, and Con­stance Markievicz.

Mrs Higgins said they were “strong” and “as­sertive” and paved the way for groups such as women’ s rights ac­tivists of the 1970s.

Speak­ing in the A ula Max­ima, Mrs Higgins stressed the im­por­tance of cel­e­brat­ing and un­der­stand­ing our his­tory. She ex­pressed con­cern about moves to re­move his­tory as a core sub­ject of the Junior Cer­tifi­cate.

She said: “Ev­ery­one in the coun­try, I think, ac­knowl­edges how lit­tle we knew of the his­tory of the early 20th cen­tury un­til it came to the cen­te­nary of 1916. It hadn’t hap­pened for the 50th an­niver­sary in 1966. I suppose there was so much more knowl­edge avail­able be­cause of tech­nol­ogy. All the won­der­ful books that came out. And peo­ple had been ex­cluded or ig­nored from his­tory. They were re­stored to his­tory.”

She said women who had been “air­brushed out of his­tory” dur­ing that pe­riod, such as Elizabeth Far­rell, were rightly re­mem­bered for their role.

She said we should not for­get the work car­ried out by our fe­male pre­de­ces­sors to get us to where we are to­day, and that the onus is on women to con­tinue to cam­paign for is­sues such as the en­vi­ron­ment.

Mrs Higgins was pre­sented with a pro­ject on suf­frag­ism which was com­pleted by stu­dents at St Mary’s Sec­ondary School in Mac­room.

Fi­nola Doyle O’Neill, of the UCC School of His­tory, said Ms Markievicz was hugely ag­i­tated at the fact the vote was ini­tially only given to women over 30.

“She felt en­raged that young women weren’t al­low- ed to vote,” said Dr Doyle O’Neill. “She let her thoughts be known in the Dáil cham­bers in 1922. She was a for­mi­da­ble woman. When they got the vote, then came the Ir­ish Con­sti­tu­tion in 1937 and there was a strong sense then that women were firmly put back in to the home. There was a sense of disen­chant­ment and dis­ap­point­ment.”

On his­tory in schools, Ms Doyle O’Neill said: “If we don’t know where we came from we don’t know where we are go­ing to. With the ad­vent of Brexit we re­ally can­not en­trench our­selves. We re­ally need to know what our his­tory is. “

He­len Whel­ton, head of UCC’s Col­lege of Medicine and Health, said medicine was one of the first pro­grammes on of­fer at the cam­pus when it opened in 1849. The course was only avail­able to men. How­ever, 40 years be­fore that, Cork woman Margaret Buck­ley moved to Ed­in­burgh and stud­ied medicine there.

“But the only way she could study medicine was to be dis­guised as a boy,” said Prof Whel­ton. “This dis­guise she kept up for 56 years un­til her death. What is truly ex­tra­or­di­nary is that she got into the Bri­tish Armed Forces and they never picked it up.”

Pic­tures: Michael Mac Sweeney/Pro­vi­sion

Clock­wise from main: Dr Jean van Sin­deren-Law as Con­stance Markievicz in the Aula Max­ima, Univer­sity Col­lege Cork, dur­ing a cel­e­bra­tion of women’s suf­frage; Sabina Higgins ad­dresses the event; UCC aca­demics and staff play­ing the parts of well-known suf­fragettes.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.