Speech by Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan TD, at the launch of “What’s she doing here?” in the Little Museum of Dublin


Good morning everyone.

I am delighted to be with you here today in the Little Museum of Dublin to launch the exhibition “What’s she doing here?”

Seo scéal na mBan in Éireann le céad bliain anuas. Is ceart dúinn ceiliúradh a dhéanamh ar an dul chun cinn thar an tréimhse sin. Ach is ceart dúinn chomh maith machnamh a dhéanamh ar an obair atá le déanamh go fóill.

What better year to celebrate courageous females in Irish history than the 100th anniversary of Irish woman being given the right to vote. Women were first granted the right to vote under the Representation of the People Act in 1918 which became law on February 6th of that year.

When I launched the Government’s Programme to commemorate the extension of voting rights on the 6th February I noted that the letter inviting the first female MP  – Countess Markievicz  – to attend the re-opening of Parliament at Westminster addressed the new MP as “Sir” – such was the unpreparedness of the system to adapt to the new world.

But the franchise was not extended to all women, only those over the age of 30, who had property rights or a university education could vote. That had to wait await full independence and the introduction of full and equal voting rights in time for the election to the 4th Dáil on 27th August 1923.  It is no consolation that women in the UK did not achieve equal franchise until 1928.

The Little Museum of Dublin has curated a wonderful exhibition for us, honoring many strong women in history including the women who fought the long struggle for female suffrage.

In the words of Malala Yousafzai:

 “We realise the importance of our voices only when we are silenced.” 

This exhibition also stimulates civic pride. Woman such as Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington, one of Ireland’s most ardent promoters of woman’s rights and architect and furniture designer Eileen Gray are acknowledged for their impact on Irish history. “What’s she doing here?” is a very fitting tribute to them and the many more Irish women that fought for equality and defied precedent by taking up roles generally occupied by men. These women have positively shaped the country we live in today and great admiration is due to them.

Beta Bajgartova’s portraits are beautiful, creative and strong. The 25 women featuring in Beta’s portraits are an inspiration to the younger generation and I hope as many young women as possible visit this exhibition. These inspirational women at work in traditionally male dominated industries are breaking the usual stereotypes and setting a great example to our children. We have some of the women who feature in the exhibition here today and I would like to congratulate them for the positive impact they are having on the mind-set of today’s youth.

As Michelle Obama said

Don’t ever underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own”.

Bren Luke’s beautiful illustrations of System-Rockers in Irish history add another great dynamic to this exhibition along with Bridget Hourican’s work on the historical context.

The Little Museum of Dublin’s growing visitor numbers and many awards are a testament to the wonderful place it is for both adults and children alike.

I was delighted to be able to provide funding of €50,000 to the museum this year and I wish it every continued success in the future. I have no doubt it will continue to grow from strength to strength.

The exhibition will run until June 10th this year and I would encourage people from all over this island, inhabitants and visitors alike to come to share in and experience the wider story of the woman of Ireland, both in history and as we are today.

I hope you all enjoy the exhibition and don’t forget to take part in the post-it poll and continue the conversation on equality. This exhibition promises to provide a thought provoking and inspirational programme.

Ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil leis an Músaem Beag as cuireadh a thabhairt dom an taispeántas aoibheann seo a oscailt. Go n-éirí go geal leis!

I would now like to officially open the exhibition “What’s she doing here”?.

Go raibh maith agaibh go léir.

Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, 23 Kildare Street, Dublin , D02 TD30. Tel: 01 631 3800 / LoCall: 1890 383 000

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