‘Blazing a Trail: Lives and Legacies of Irish Diaspora Women’ had its official launch at an event in the CHQ Building.
The new exhibition runs at EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum until Sunday 25 November. The exhibition is then set to travel to Irish embassies and consulates around the world over the coming years. It celebrates the lives and legacies of 21 pioneering Irish diaspora women of the 19th and 20th centuries who blazed a trail in a wide range of fields. The exhibition is a collaboration between EPIC, Herstory and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Ahead of the launch, Minister of State for the Diaspora and International Development Ciarán Cannon, said: “Particular thanks is due to Dr Angela Byrne, who led in developing this exhibition in her role as the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, historian in residence. The funding of the historian in residence position at EPIC is a new and innovative project for the Department and we very much look forward to future collaborations.”
Mervyn Greene, Managing and Museum Director of EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum, opened the event: “It’s exciting to see the ‘Blazing a Trail’ exhibition come to life after so much hard work by Dr Angela Byrne and all involved. It’s the support of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade that has made this project possible, ensuring it will be enjoyed by an Irish diaspora audience around the globe for years to come.”
Ann Derwin, Director General, Global Irish Services, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, welcomed the audience, expressing the huge interest there has been from Irish embassies and consulates around the world in the exhibition, and that ‘Blazing a Trail’ not only tells the story of the challenges of emigration but also the opportunities.
Blazing a Trail marks the centenary of partial women’s suffrage, the right of Irish and British women to vote in elections. Individual Irishwomen across the globe struggled for their own professional recognition, and for justice and equality for others.
Melanie Lynch, Founder of Herstory, announced an exciting flagship RTÉ television series which will focus on Irish women’s histories, that has received sponsorship from EPIC.
Dr Angela Byrne, DFAT Historian-in-Residence at EPIC and curator of ‘Blazing a Trail’, thanked those who contributed to the formation of the exhibition including the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Herstory, also mentioning Hungarian artist Szabolcs Kariko, who created original portraits for the exhibition, who flew in to Dublin to attend the launch.
Dr Byrne said: “I’ve learned so much from the 21 women. To paraphrase Eva Gore-Booth’s love poem to Esther Roper: their stories, and their example, “make glad the gloom” of the former shape of Irish history, no longer to be dominated by the deeds of ‘great men’ but to be more receptive to other voices.”
Relatives of several women featured in the exhibition were in attendance, in particular the extended family of Sr Dr Maura Lynch, the Catholic medical missionary who championed African women’s healthcare for much of her life.
Dr Mary McAuliffe of University College Dublin officially launched ‘Blazing a Trail’ with a speech lending historical insight to Irish women’s history, and wished the exhibition well: “Long may she enlighten and educate around the world”.
‘Blazing a Trail’ is free and open to the public at EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum in the CHQ Building until 25 November 2018 from 9.30am-6.30pm. On November 24th and 25th, there will be a Story Collecting Weekend at EPIC to gather new and previously unheard stories of women migrants.
Blazing a Trail has several themes, including suffrage, the arts, humanitarian work, sport and STEM. The full list of Irish women featured includes: Mabel Cahill, tennis champion; Fanny Durack, Olympic swimmer; Lady Mary Heath, athlete and pilot, Aleen Isabel Cust, veterinary surgeon; Professor Dame Kathleen Lonsdale, X-ray crystallographer and pacifist; Cynthia Longfield, entomologist; Kay McNulty, computer programmer; Eva Gore-Booth, suffragist, trade unionist, poet, and mystic; Mary Agnes Lee, women’s suffrage campaigner; Nellie McClung, suffragist and writer; Dame Ninette de Valois, Founder of the Royal Ballet; Eileen Gray, lacquer master, furniture designer and architect; Fanny Isabel Parnell, poet and Irish nationalist; Lola Ridge, poet, anarchist, labour activist; ‘Amma’ Amy Carmichael, missionary; Lady Dufferin, philanthropist, author, Vicereine of India; Dr Ida Mitchell, medical missionary; Sr Dr Maura Lynch, medical missionary; Annie Besant, secularist, politician, theosophist; Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, activist and president of American Communist Party; ‘Mother’ Jones, activist, and trade unionist.