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Dublin: 7°C Monday 12 April 2021

The forgotten women of Irish history might finally be remembered

A new project will see them sharing their stories.

WHEN YOU WALK down the street in any Irish city, you never know what history it holds.

Who lived in that house? Who used to amble down this street on a Sunday? Who brought up their children here; who fled to fight a war; who came home to a forgotten family; who broke records?

Finding the women

You can still see the scars of the 1916 Rising on Dublin’s streets, but what you can’t always see is the history of the women who made the capital their home.

It took until 2014 for one bridge to be named after a woman – trade unionist Rosie Hackett – and the statues of real-life women number two: Countess Markievcz and religious martyr Margaret Ball.

The young women of the Women’s Museum of Ireland (WMI) want to address this lack of gender parity, and shine a spotlight on the forgotten – by dint or design – women of Ireland’s past.

Now they are calling on people around the country to help put women back on Dublin’s map – literally. They have received funding to create a map that will draw attention to the sites round the city connected to women’s history and notable women’s stories.

The plan is to broaden this out and to bring the idea to the rest of Ireland, but first they are focusing on the capital. Building on their website’s treasure trove of women’s stories (females like Eva O’Flaherty, Achill’s forgotten heroine; Kathleen Mills, the ‘Inchicore invincible’), they are calling for people to submit their women’s history sites.

This will all become a physical map available to pick up or print out, created by two female designers.

“A lot of people are using the hashtag,” one of the museum’s founders, Jeanne Sutton, told TheJournal.ie a few days after its launch. One urban explorer has even gone back to add the tag to his photos of the city.

“We’ve had nearly 100 suggestions [as of] early yesterday. Some of them are really, really good - one person sent in about a person named Oonah Keogh, the first female member of a stock exchange in Dublin in 1925.”

All of the contributions will be fact-checked before they are shortlisted to be included on the map. The idea came from WMI member Kate Cunningham, and led to funding being sought from the Society of Social Entrepreneurs Ireland.

A Fundit campaign will be set up to gather the money for printing costs, while more grants will also be applied for. “We want to just get this done, get it out there and get people to use it,” said Sutton.

They also want to introduce an interactive online element to the map.

Women in Irish society

The map comes at a time when the role of women in many parts of Irish society are being celebrated – from Sinead Gleeson’s forthcoming collection of Irish women’s short stories, The Long Gaze Back, to Tramp Press’s rediscovered voices series.

For Sutton and the other women involved in the WMI, their project is a way of focusing on different aspects of Irish history, parts that they didn’t hear discussed in school.

Though there can be pressure to get projects up and going quickly, Sutton said she is glad the WMI waited all summer to get the #WomenofDublin project up and going.

With so much focus on social media, it can be “hard for young women to take your time” on the internet, she said.

Future steps

The idea for a women’s museum came after she visited one in Vietnam. For now, they are focusing on the website and exhibitions, but a physical museum is very much on the long-term agenda.

“We have a list of ideas – it’s just finding the time and resources,” said Sutton. “I think before gunning for space you should build up a collection first.”

They want the site to become a hub, and part of that is harnessing the power of the aforementioned social media sites that people – particularly young women – gravitate towards.

“Without social media, the WMI wouldn’t have the same reach or impact it currently has,” pointed out  Zoe Coleman, its digital communications manager.

We chose to run this campaign through social media as we have such a strong community of engaged followers, who have greatly helped us with contributions in the past. We wanted to reach out to that community again, and we hope if this project succeeds that we will look into the possibility of rolling out a nationwide map.

Social media is “central to the success of everything that we do with the WMI”, she added.

The call for submssions is open until August 24 using the #WomenofDublin hashtag, or by email at info@womensmuseumofireland.ie.

Read: ‘It’s time Constance Markievicz gets the recognition she deserves’>

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