This exhibition at EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum reflects on the role and influence of Irish educators across the globe over the centuries.
The Irish had an important role in early Catholic colleges in France, Spain and Belgium. Later, education in Ireland itself was revolutionised with the establishment of the National Schools’ system in 1830, the development of convent schools, and from 1892, the compulsory education of all children aged 6–14. While many children continued to fall through the cracks, there was a notable increase in girls’ educational attainment from 1870 onwards, creating a new generation of educated and ambitious women. By 1911, Ireland was second only to Finland in the proportion of women attending university. The combination of these factors led many Irish women to train as educators.
Some of those featured in the exhibition include Dublin-born Sr Gabriel Hogan, who founded the first Catholic school for the deaf in New South Wales; Limerick’s Dr Pamela O’Malley, educator and part of the communist resistance against the Franco regime; Donegal-born Sr Julia McGroarty, who founded one of the first women’s colleges in the USA, as well as schools for immigrant and African-American children; Belfast man Revd Frederick O’Neill, who established girls’ schools in China and was honoured by the emperor for his services to the Chinese Labour Corps during World War I; and Scotch-Irish man William Holmes McGuffey, who authored a textbook that sold 120 million copies in the USA.
This exhibition highlights Ireland’s long history of exporting male and female educators to work with communities all over the world – a tradition that continues today.