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Inspirational Irish women you should know about

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Today (17 March) marks St Patrick’s Day, the patron saint of Ireland, with celebrations taking place all over the world.

To celebrate St Patrick’s Day, WeAreTheCity chronicles a number of inspirational Irish women throughout the ages. Each of these women offers an inspiring story that not only resonates in Ireland but across the world.

Mary Robinson

Mary Robinson served as the first female President of Ireland from 1990 to 1997. She was also the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights from 1997 to 2002.

During her popular presidency, Robinson helped to ease Anglo-Irish relations and became the first Irish president to visit the UK and meet Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.

After resigning as President, Robinson used her position as High Commissioner to visit Tibet; criticise Ireland’s immigrant policy and the use of capital punishment in the US.

Since then Robinson has played a prominent role in campaigning for human rights. She formed Realising Rights: the Ethical Globalisation Initiative, which promoted worker’s rights and strengthening women’s leadership. Robinson is also the chairman of the Institute for Human Rights and Business; and is a founding member and chairman of the Council of Women World Leaders.

Ettie Steinberg

Ettie Steinberg is known as Ireland’s only Holocaust victim and her story is as remarkable as she was.

Born to Czechoslovakian parents, Steinberg was a Jewish woman her grew up in Dublin. In 1937, Steinberg married Vogtjeck Gluck, a Belgian man in Greenville Hall Synagogue in Ireland. Gluck was from a family of goldsmiths and they moved to Antwerp shortly after the wedding.

The rise of the Nazi party throughout Europe and the threat of persecution, led to the couple fleeing to France, believing they would be safe here. Despite their efforts to escape Nazi persecution, the family went into hiding in Paris from 1940 to 1942.

Throughout this time, Steinberg’s family in Ireland worked tirelessly to save their daughter and get the family back home. Amongst other things, they pleaded with the Vatican and the Red Cross for information and help but to no avail.

The family eventually managed to secure three visas from the British Home Office for Steinberg, Gluck and their son Leon, which were duly sent to Toulouse, where the three were hiding.

Tragically, the visas arrived a day too late. The Glucks had been caught in a round up of Jews the day before and put on a train to Auschwitz. On the train to the extermination camp, Steinberg managed to send a postcard by chance to her family in Ireland that detailed their fate.

When the family arrived at Auschwitz, they were killed immediately alongside thousands of others.

Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington

Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington was a suffragette and an Irish Nationalist, who alongside her husband and Margaret and James Cousins, founded the Irish Women’s Franchise League.

Sheehy-Skeffington fought hard to get women the vote. In 1912, she and seven other women were arrested for smashing the glass windows of Dublin Castle. In 1913, she tried to present leaflets to the Conservative leader, Bonar Law. She was arrested after assaulting a police officer, jailed and went on hunger strike for five days until she was released.

She also campaigned on behalf of female prisoners, setting up the Women’s Prisoners’ Defence League and travelling to Northern Ireland to speak on the behalf of female republican prisoners.

Sheehy-Skeffington was also a founding member of the Irish Women Workers’ Union and spoke out against the Condition of Employment Bill on behalf of the Women Graduates’ Association, which was set to restrict the opportunities of employment for women.

Saoirse Ronan

Saoirse Ronan is an Irish/American actress best known for her role in Atonement and The Lovely Bones.

Ronan was born in New York to Irish parents, who moved to Ireland when she was three.

Ronan’s acting career began at the age of nine with a small role in the TV series, The Clinic. In 2007, she appeared alongside Kiera Knightley and James McAvoy in Atonement, in which she was nominated for an Oscar for her role. She was one of the youngest people to be nominated for an Oscar.

In 2008, she stared in City of Ember, which earned her a nomination for Irish Film & Television Award. She was nominated for a BAFTA Award for her role in The Lovely Bones and she won an Irish Film & Television Award for Actress in a Supporting Role for her part in The Way Back.

Samantha Power

Samantha Power is an Irish-American academic, author and diplomat who served as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations from 2013 to 2017.

Power was born in Dublin and raised in Ireland until she was nine. She emigrated to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with her mother in 1979.

Power began her career as a war correspondent covering the Yugoslav Wars for a number of publications. Between 2005 and 2006, she worked in the office of the then senator, Barack Obama as a foreign policy fellow. She served as a senior foreign policy adviser to Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.

Power has won a number of accolades including being crowned by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2004. She was also awarded the Kissinger Prize by the American Academy during her role as United States Ambassador.

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