Exhibition: 50 Years of Pioneering Women at the University of Limerick: Past and Present

The launch of the exhibition ‘50 years of pioneering women at the University of Limerick: Past and present’ took place on the 4th of October at the University of Limerick. The exhibition, curated by WHAI committee member Dr Martin Walsh, is an acknowledgement of the pioneering role played by women – professional support staff and those in academia – in the development of the university over the past fifty-years. The exhibition has its origins in this year’s Women’s History Association of Ireland conference generously supported by the Departments of History at UL and Mary Immaculate College, which examined the themes of “Networks and Communities” in women’s history. Through the exhibition Dr Walsh seeks to highlight how gender roles within the university have changed in the last half century. Dr Walsh notes ‘that women not only changed gendered attitudes within the university but also within Irish society itself’. While there had been many changes over the years Walsh noted the establishment of the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion unit at the university and the appointment of Kersten Mey in 2020 as the first female President of any university in Ireland as evidence as to how far the University of Limerick had come in tackling gender inequality on campus. 

The launch of the exhibition was well-attended by President Kersten Mey, Chancellor Mary Harney, Provost and Deputy President Shane Kilcommins, members of the governing authority, the Mayor of Limerick city and county, Francis Foley as well as past and present members of staff. The official opening of the exhibition was carried out by Chancellor Mary Harney who complimented Dr Walsh on the hard work that went into the preparation of the exhibition. In her speech to the assembled guests, she noted the significant progress women had made in Irish society since the 1970s which was mirrored at the University of Limerick. Reflecting on her own life history she recalled that her own mother recommended that she learn shorthand and typing skills – secretarial work was one of the few career paths open to women in the 1970s. Thankfully, she said, more opportunities exist for women today. 

The WHAI is delighted to have been able to collaborate with the Department of History at the University of Limerick on this important exhibition. Dr Walsh would like to thank Chancellor Mary Harney, Dr David Fleming, Head of the History Department at UL, Dr Zara Power, the Committee of the WHAI, Caroline Rafter, Ray Boyce and his team and all those who gave generously of their time in putting the exhibition together. (Photos courtesy of Alan Place Photography)

The exhibition is open to the public until May 2023 and is located in the atrium of the Glucksman Library.