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1920s ireland

Can you help identify these pioneering 1920s Irish science students?

They were students at UCD in 1920. Was one of them a relation of yours?

ucd science students Female science students at UCD Isabelle McCarthy Isabelle McCarthy

WITH THEIR BOBBED hair and dropped-waist dresses, it’s clear the women pictured above were captured having fun in the 1920s.

But the jovial photograph doesn’t hint at their remarkable achievement of being one of the first classes of females to ever study science in University College Dublin (UCD).

It goes without saying that the 1920s were a very different time for women compared to now, but these women’s achievement highlights exactly how different it was. Only a few years earlier, in 1918, they would have been finally allowed to vote alongside men, after a long fight by suffragettes for equal rights.

Just a few years before this, women were finally allowed to enter Irish universities, like University College Cork in 1885 (the first female professor was also in Cork, in 1910), and Trinity College in 1904.

And even then, women at TCD were subjected to very strict rules, and weren’t even allowed to join major societies or remain on campus grounds after 6pm.

Women involved in traditionally ‘male’ fields of study faced many social obstacles – the British Medical Journal had questioned in 1870 whether the female mind was intelligent enough to study in the area of medicine.

The latter half of the 19th century saw debate on the ‘woman question’, and women’s role across many aspects of society. To see women studying science showed that some questions had been answered.

Today, gender parity in studying science in Ireland is very close: men account for 57% of third-level graduates in Science according to CSO figures.

So the photo above is both a lovely snapshot of friends enjoying a sunny day, but also an Ireland where society was changing – and women’s role with it.

Do you recognise any of these women?

Finola Cahill posted the photo above on the UCD Alumni Facebook page to ask if people could identify the other women in the photo with her grandmother, Isabelle McCarthy.

The University said:

It is lovely to receive early photos like this. The photo will sit on our UCD Memories website, which is extremely popular with our alumni. They spend hours reminiscing about their days in UCD by browsing photos, anecdotes and essays that have been submitted by fellow UCD graduates.

The University is also looking for more material to include on the site. UCD Memories website launched in June and is dedicated to memories of UCD through the decades.

Read: These are the main differences between men and women in Irish society>

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