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Famous Irish Women

Famous Irish Women

Ireland is the land of mystique. They have the leprechauns that guard their pots of gold, they have the wishing wells and they also have what's called 'Irish luck'. These famous women, however, have come up against all odds, to become legends, on par with all the other Irish myths.
Historyplex Staff
Last Updated: Sep 5, 2018
Famous Women from Ireland
Grace O'Malley
Irish tomboy, Gráinne Ní Mháille, was always better known as Grace O'Malley, the infamous pirate queen. This notorious lady boasts of having commanded 3 galleys, 20 ships and over 200 men. She was born in the 1530's in County Mayo, Ireland. She was a feared sea pirate, an adept seafarer, a shrewd trader and a knowledgeable Chieftain.
Her crew respected her for her knowledge and fighting ability. This twice widowed and twice imprisoned woman, was also a mother. She won many battles against the British and yet it was Queen Elizabeth I, who pardoned her death condemnation.
It is the stuff of legends in Ireland, how this pirate went alone to visit the British Queen and not only got herself pardoned, but also earned in her, a good friend and ally. Even today, Ireland has many a song on her life, that continues to make her immortal, with even the coming generations.
Catherine Hayes
Catherine was an international opera and concert singer in the 19th century, who was born on 29 October 1818 in Ireland. She was the first ever Irish-born opera diva and the first ever opera star to tour Australia, in those days. Born in Ireland, in a place called Limerick, Catherine is the classic rags-to-riches success story.
In her lifetime, she sang in a number of concerts. She, however, lived only some 43 years, from 1818 to 1861, which is too short a time to enjoy the kind of success that she had earned. She traveled the globe, riding on the success of her passion-filled songs.
Her biography boasts of her receiving an encore from Queen Victoria and her 500 odd guests, when she performed in Buckingham Palace, London, in 1849. There are many books written on her success and some of her biographies are still in the list of all time best-sellers.
Katharine Tynan
Katharine was born on January 23, 1859 in Dublin, Ireland. This daughter of a cattle farmer, started writing poetry on her farms, in her teens. About her, it is said that she could write one novel in one month. There is hardly anyone who can claim such an ability.
She has two anthologies, 105 popular novels and countless newspaper articles. She has even given 16 poetry collections, 5 plays, 7 devotional books, a book on her dogs and twelve short story collections. Her work can be easily distinguished from others, for the unique blend of Catholicism and feminism. This unparalleled writer passed away in 1931, in London.
Some of her honorary works are: Irish Love-Songs, Miracle Plays, The Way of a Maid, An Isle in the Water, A Girl's Song, A Birth-Night Song, A Gardener-Sage, A Daughter Of The Fields, The Cabinet of Irish Literature, The House of the Crickets, Ireland, Heart O' Gold or the Little Princess, Lord Edward: A Study in Romance and A Mad Marriage.
Mary Robinson
Mary Burke, born in County Mayo of the North Western Ireland, to two physician parents and went on to become the famous Mary Robinson, the first female President of Ireland. She held the highest position in Ireland, at a time when only two other females in the world, accompanied her in the elite 'Head of State' league.
Born on 21st May, she worked hard to become a barrister. She took office in December 1990, as the seventh President of Ireland and resigned on 12th September 1997, eleven weeks prior to her completion of term. She did this in order to accept the post of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, a very prestigious and powerful job.
She was better known for the humanitarian and women rights changes she brought in Ireland. She visited the famine stricken Somalia, in 1990 and also went to Rwanda, in the aftermath of its infamous genocide.
She was acknowledged with a special CARE Humanitarian Award in 1993 for all the prolific causes she took up to fight. She is always the first name in Ireland, when it comes to fighting for the disadvantaged and the polishing of Ireland's international profile.
"I was elected by the women of Ireland, who instead of rocking the cradle, rocked the system." - Mary Robinson.
Mary McAleese
Mary McAleese is the second woman to lead 'The Republic of Ireland'. She became the 8th president of Ireland on November 11, 1997 and led the nation till November 10, 2011, by winning two consecutive presidential elections.
Mary was born in 1951 in Northern Ireland, in a Catholic Belfast family. She spent her childhood in a Protestant area, near Ardoyne, and later moved to Dublin (in 1975) to take up professorship at Trinity at just 24 years of age. After 4 years at Trinity, she changed her profession to that of a reporter on the 'Frontline' and 'Today Tonight'.
The television programs helped her transition, from barrister to journalist. Her impressive resume consists of the following jobs: Pro Vice Chancellor of QUB, Director of Channel 4 television, Director of Northern Ireland Electricity and Director of the 'Royal Group of Hospitals Trust'.
Apart from these, she is also the founding member for the 'Irish Commission for Prisoners Overseas'. She assumed Presidential office for 14 years, and became the longest serving elected woman, following Sri Lanka's Chandrika Kumaratunga's retirement.
"We are a vibrant First World country, but we have a humbling Third World memory." - Mary McAleese.
Sister Sarah Clarke
This Irish nun was better known as the 'Joan of Arc' of the English prisons for her dogged investigations of human rights abuses in British prisons. She is famous in the world for freeing all those wrongly convicted in the cases of Birmingham Six, Guildford Four, Maguire family and Judith Ward.
She fought against the abuse of both, the prisoners as well as their families. Sister Sarah was born in Eyrecourt, County Galway and joined the 'La Sainte Union Sisters' in 1939. She relentlessly fought for justice, for all those wrongly arrested in Britain under the 'Prevention of Terrorism Act'.
Her more than 25 years of straight talking, vehement arguing and inexhaustible patience gave her many victories. She died on 4th February, 2002, in London. Her 82 years, will always be fondly remembered by the people she saved and their generations to come.
Good or bad, these legendary path breakers were all passionate about bringing some change and went about getting them, by whichever means available. Today, they are inspirations for all those women, who keep hitting glass ceilings and wondering if they are really emancipated. They have proved that women cannot be freed, they can and must, free themselves.