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Inspiring Irish Women

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In Ireland, Mother’s Day is the second Sunday in March. That means it falls close to International Women’s Day. It goes without saying that if you have an Irish mother, she’s the most inspiring woman in your world. But Ireland has produced a lot of incredible women in every walk of life. In honor of Mother’s Day and International Women’s Day, why not learn about a few of them? It’s very difficult to narrow it down to just a handful of names, and any list is going to leave out many amazing women who have the Irish gifts of creativity, passion and eloquence in abundance. Some, from Constance Markievicz to Mary Robinson, are so high profile many people around the world already know of them. So here are four amazing Irish women that you might not know about yet.

Grace O’Malley

The pirate queen also known as Grainne Mhaol was fierce and fearless. As a child, she wielded such pester power that her parents relented and let her go to sea with her father, himself a pirate based in County Mayo. She inherited land from him, and then added to her holdings with her first marriage. Grace O’Malley confounded expectations at every turn. She was ruthless in her quest for land and loot. When she met with the queen of England, she wore a dagger and  refused to bow. She was a queen in her own right, not the subject of another.

Dr. Kathleen Lynn

Dr. Lynn had a profound passion for the future of Ireland. She fought hard for Ireland’s freedom and her children. She was an active suffragist, labor union supporter and nationalist – in addition to being a busy doctor. Lynn was chief medical officer of the Irish Citizens Army, and she tended to the wounded in the 1916 Easter Uprising. She also ran guns for the rebels. In 1919, she co-founded St. Ultan’s Hospital for Infants in Dublin.

Eileen Gray

While nationalists in Ireland were fighting for their vision of free, independent republic, Eileen Gray was pursuing a different vision. She was an artist, not a fighter. Gray had moved to France in 1902 after falling in love with the arts scene there after visiting the World’s Fair in Parish with her mother in 1900. While she became an important modernist architect, she also loved interiors. Using lacquer and chrome, she crafted clever, functional pieces of furniture that were as beautiful as they were useful.  Her style was very different to the traditional motifs we see on Irish gifts today, but she was looking to the future more than the past.

Kate O’Brien

Limerick has produced an enormous amount of creative talent, and Kate O’Brien is a star among stars. Two of her novels, her debut Mary Lavelle and The Land of Spices, were banned in Ireland. A feminist, O’Brien wrote about women striving to find meaning and empowerment in their lives. She lost her mother at a young age, and grew up largely in a convent boarding school, where she was surrounded by strong women in positions of authority. O’Brien lived in Spain and the UK, and she had a particular fondness for Spain. She hoped her travel piece Farewell to Spain would inspire support for the republican side in the Spanish Civil War.

March is time to celebrate Irish women. You might send cards or Irish gifts to the women closest to your heart, or you might spend some extra time with them. You might also want to learn more about the inspiring women who have made such important contributions to Irish history, literature and culture.

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