women / Women on a MISSION

Irish Eyes Are Smiling ~ Famous Irish Women in History


Since today is Saint Patricks Day celebrated in many parts of the world, I thought it fitting to highlight four famous Irish Women in HERstory. Each of these women made an impact on the world in one way or another. Truly they epitomize Women on a Mission.

MARY MCALEESE, President of Ireland

On 11th November, 1997, Mary McAleese was inaugurated as the eighth President of Ireland, and second female elected to that position. Mary McAleese was re-elected on Friday 1st October 2004 being the only validly-nominated candidate. She is a barrister and former Professor of Law. Born on June 27th 1951 in Belfast, she is the first President to come from Northern Ireland. She is married, since 1976, to Dr. Martin McAleese, an accountant and dentist. They have three children, Emma, born 1982 and twins Justin and SaraMai, born 1985.

The eldest of nine children, President McAleese grew up in Northern Ireland through the violent times that have come to be known as ‘The Troubles’. Her family was one of many adversely affected by the conflict. She graduated in Law from the Queen’s University of Belfast in 1973 and was called to the Northern Ireland Bar in 1974. In 1975, she was appointed Reid Professor of Criminal Law, Criminology and Penology at Trinity College Dublin and in 1987, she returned to her Alma Mater, Queen’s, to become Director of the Institute of Professional Legal Studies. In 1994, she became the first female Pro-Vice Chancellor of the Queen’s University of Belfast.

President McAleese is an experienced broadcaster, having worked as a current affairs journalist and presenter in radio and television with Radio Telefís Éireann. She has a longstanding interest in many issues concerned with justice, equality, social inclusion, anti-sectarianism and reconciliation. The theme of her Presidency is ‘Building Bridges’

MARY ROBINSON, 1st Female President of Ireland – 1990 ~ 1997

President Robinson was born Mary Bourke to two physicians in County Mayo in northwestern Ireland, the only daughter among five children.

Born on 21 May, 1944, in Ballina, County Mayo, Mary Robinson is a barrister by profession and was appointed Reid Professor of Criminal Law in Trinity College Dublin when she was 25 years of age. With her husband, Nicholas (married 1970) she founded the Irish Centre for European Law in 1988.

Born in Ballina, County Mayo, Ireland on May 21, 1944, Mary Robinson was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, where she received a Master of Arts degree in 1970. She also earned a Barrister-at-Law degree from the King’s Inns, Dublin, and a Master of Laws degree from Harvard University.

At the age of 25, Mrs. Robinson was appointed Reid Professor of Constitutional and Criminal Law at Trinity College, where she also served as lecturer in European community law. With her husband Nicholas, Mrs. Robinson founded the Irish Centre for European Law in 1988. From 1969 to 1989, Mary Robinson was a member of Seanad Ãireann, the Upper House of Parliament. She has also served on the Dublin City Council and the International Commission of Jurists.

In December 1990, Mrs. Robinson was inaugurated as the seventh president of Ireland. not only was she the first woman president of Ireland, she was, at the time, one of only three female heads of state in the world. As president, she represented her country internationally, developing a new sense of Ireland’s economic, political, and cultural ties to other countries and cultures. Linking the history of the Great Irish Hunger to today’s nutrition, poverty, and policy issues, she articulated a special relationship between Ireland and developing countries.

The Robinson presidency was characterized by inclusiveness and a concerted effort to use the office not only to improve the situations of marginalized groups within Ireland but also to draw attention to global crises. Mrs. Robinson was the first head of state to visit famine-stricken Somalia in 1992 and also the first to go to Rwanda in the aftermath of the genocide there.

In recognition of her efforts in Somalia, Mrs. Robinson received the Special CARE Humanitarian Award in 1993.
She resigned the presidency on Sept. 12, 1997, 11 weeks short of her full 7 year term, to accept the position of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. In September 1997. Mary Robinson is universally acknowledged as the most successful President in the history of the State. She elevated what was a figurehead role into a means of highlighting the needs of the disadvantaged and of raising Ireland’s international profile. She opened the doors of Áras an Uachtaráin (The Presidential Residence) to people from all walks of life and created a special emphasis on Ireland’s “Diaspora“. the many thousands of Irish people living abroad.

 ANNIE MOORE, First Immigrant to be processed through Ellis Island

Annie Moore was the first immigrant to be processed through the newly opened Ellis Island. She was born in Cork City on January 1, 1877, and left from the Deepwater Quay for New York, on December 20, 1891. Accompanying her on the SS Nevada (Guion Line) were two brothers, Phillip, age 7, and Anthony, age 11. They arrived at Ellis Island on New Year’s Day 1892 – her 15th birthday! We are told that she received an elaborate ceremony and a $10 gold piece. They had left to join their parents in Brooklyn, New York, who had emigrated two years previously with their eldest child, Tom.

Annie Moore who arrived in steerage and inaugurated Ellis Island initially joined her parents, who had arrived several years earlier, apparently in a five-story brick tenement at 32 Monroe Street in Manhattan. Records indicate that Annie Moore later moved to, among other places, a nearby apartment on New Chambers Street — near the Newsboys’ Lodging House and the Third Avenue El on the Bowery. The area now includes the Alfred E. Smith Houses, a public project constructed in the early 1950’s and named for the governor who grew up nearby, and the Knickerbocker Village complex of rental apartments built in the 1930’s. According to the latest research, Annie’s father was a longshoreman. She married a bakery clerk. They had at least 11 children. Five survived to adulthood and three had children of their own. She died of heart failure in 1924 at 47. Her brother Anthony, who arrived with Annie and Philip on the Nevada, died in his 20’s in the Bronx and was temporarily buried in potter’s field.

On February 8, 1993 President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, unveiled a bronze featuring Annie, Phillip and Anthony at the Deepwater Quay, Cobh. The work was commissioned by the Irish American Cultural Institute and the Cobh Heritage Trust. The sculptor was Jeanne Rynhart, of Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland. Later in the same year, President Robinson unveiled a statue of Annie Moore at Ellis Island.

MAUREEN O’HARA ~ Actress

Maureen Fitzsimons was born the second of six children to Charles and Marguerite Fitzsimons on August 17, 1920 near Dublin, Ireland. Though tomboyish as a youngster, she eventually developed an interest in acting and as a teenager auditioned for the Abbey Theatre School. After Alfred Hitchcock gave her a role in JAMAICA INN (1939) with Charles Laughton, the English actor claimed to “discover” her. Laughton had gone to America in 1931 and signed a movie contract with RKO Pictures where he was about to star as Quasimodo in THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (1939). He brought Maureen back to the states with him to play his Esmeralda in the film and changed her name to O’Hara. HUNCHBACK became her American film debut, RKO signed her, and she never looked back.

In 1950, John Ford first paired O’Hara with a co-star for his film RIO GRANDE who would change the direction of her career– John Wayne. The two became fast friends and went on to make four more films together, the most notable being Ford’s THE QUIET MAN (1952) as well as the western comedy MCLINTOCK! (1963), and O’Hara became known as the leading lady who gave Wayne his sex appeal. Her characters were frequently cantankerous to say the least, and whether she won Wayne or he won her in the end, it was always a good show.

In real life, O’Hara was married twice and had a daughter named Bronwyn (after Anna Lee’s character in HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY) before she met and married aviator Charles Blair in 1968. After two more films, O’Hara retired from the big screen in 1971 to be a full-time wife and mother and after Blair was killed in a plane crash in 1978, she continued to manage his commuter airline business, Antilles Air Boats, in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

In 1991, O’Hara made a brief return to the screen as John Candy’s mother in ONLY THE LONELY and starred in a TV movie called “The Christmas Box” in 1995 as well as another TV movie, “Cab to Canada,” which aired on CBS in 1998. Aside from these occasional roles, she is currently living out her retirement between homes in St. Croix, New York, Los Angeles and her native Ireland.

(Source: Famous Irish Women)

Can you name some other famous Irish Women?  Feel free to leave your nominations in the comments section!

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4 Comments

  1. Enjoyed the piece on Annie Moore, but just to clarify, she was 17 when she arrived. And she was born in May, so it was not even close to her birthday. Suspect that was a bit of 1890s PR!

  2. Heidi Richards says:

    Dear Megan,

    Thanks so much for clarifying her arrival and other “history” about Annie Moore.

    And thanks for stopping by!

  3. Pingback: Irish Eyes Are Smiling ~ Famous Irish Women in History

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