Irish Women Leaders

Do you know about Mairead Corigan and Betty Williams who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977 for leading peace marches where Catholics and Protestants together protested against the violence that was splitting the country? Or Grace O’Malley, a famous 16th Century pirate, seafarer, trade, and chieftain? What about Maria Edgeworth, 18/19th century Irish Writer perhaps a precursor to Virginia Woolf’s notion that women need a room of their own; Edgeworth said: “Some people talk of morality, and some of religion, but give me a little snug property.”

These and many other fascinating women leaders are chronicled on this Famous Irish Women website. The graphics are quite charming, cozy Irish country home style. But the stories tell of grit and glory, wisdom and courage. Take a look and give a tip the hat.

More likely, you have heard and seen Mary Robinson, Ireland’s seventh president and the first woman to Mary Robinsonserve in that capacity. “I was elected by the women of Ireland, who instead of rocking the cradle, rocked the system,” she said. Elected in 1990, she served until 1977 when she became the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, a post she held from 1997 to 2002. Continuing to rock the systen through her work to advance peace, human rights, and women’s leadership in all arenas, Robinson, a lawyer, is a founding member and currently the Chair of the Council of Women World Leaders.

The daughter of two physicians, Robinson’s family history is replete with reformers, rebels, and public servants. Check out her interview with Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman regarding the conference of women leaders brought together this month in Liberia by Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

With all the focus on women, Mary Robinson’s thoughts about the impact of growing gender equality on men deserve attention too: “In a society where the rights and potential of women are constrained, no man can be truly free. He may have power, but he will not have freedom.”

It’s also notable that Robinson was succeeded as president by Ireland’s second female head of state, Mary McAleese, who I saw being interviewed about the Irish economy by Meredith Vierra on the Today Show today.

A big tip o’ the hat on St. Patrick’s Day to Mary Robinson, Mary McAleese, and the many Irish women leaders both sung and unsung.

Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.