Discovering Women in Irish History is a programme designed to make the history of women in Ireland more accessible, interesting and attractive to Transition Year and other Senior Cycle students in post primary schools in Ireland. It comprises a handbook, documents on the Web and CD ROM.


The programme contains a selection of lessons on the theme of women in Irish history.

Early & medieval
Includes; Prehistoric, Celtic, Early Christian, Women in medieval Ireland

Early modern
Includes; The challenge of sources, Rural life, Wealthy women, Family, Women’s work, Care, Emigration, Women of 1798

Later modern
Includes; Women and politics, Work, Family, Women and workhouses, Women and emigration, Women in Northern Ireland after 1969

Includes; Primary education in Ireland, Girls’ second level education in Ireland, University education in Ireland

Includes; Why women could not vote for parliament in the nineteenth century, Nineteenth century campaign, Twentieth century England, Twentieth century Ireland, Attitudes towards votes for women, A tribunal of inquiry on the tactics of Irish suffragists

Independent Ireland
Includes; Women restricted. Why?, Women at home and at work, Mothers and children, Women since the 1970s

Timelines and biographies are provided also.

Each section contains overviews and summaries of research to date on the topic of women in Irish history. The questions that follow cater for a wide variety of approaches and abilities.

Activities are suggested, based on methodologies appropriate to Transition Year students. In addition each section contains a selection of documents extracted from both primary and secondary sources. Hints are provided for students hoping to do their own research and comprehensive bibliographies are also provided.


The overall aims of the programme are:


The objectives of the programme are that students may:


The programme is versatile and adaptable and several opportunities arise for using a cross curricular approach.

There are a number of possibilities for teaching Discovering Women in Irish history during Transition Year:


The history of women has emerged as a major field of scholarly inquiry, especially since the 1970s, and an extensive literature has accumulated in Ireland as elsewhere, recognising and documenting the contribution women made to Irish society in the past.

Although the Department of Education and Science has encouraged the study of women’s history at all levels, problems arise in practice, mainly because of the lack of secondary sources appropriate to the post-primary level and the perceived difficulty in detecting and accessing primary sources.


This project has been funded by the Gender Equality Unit of the Department of Education and Science and was directed by Maureen Bohan, Senior Inspector, who is attached to the Unit.

The Management Committee of the Unit wishes to thank the following:

Margaret Hogan, project co-ordinator and principal writer

Anne O’Connor,  Breda O’Connor, Emma Verling, members of the writing team

The Unit also wishes to acknowledge the co-operation of the management and principals of St. Brendan’s Community School, Birr, Co. Offaly; Alexandra College, Milltown, Dublin 6; Dominican College, Griffith Avenue, Dublin 9; Our Lady of Mercy Secondary School, Ozanam Street, Waterford, and to thank them for facilitating the teachers to undertake the project.

Thanks are also extended to :

Kevin Mc Carthy , Inspector of History, Department of Education and Science; Robert Kirkpatrick, Inspector of History, Department of Education and Science;

Tríona de Bairéid, Anne Conway, Sheila Crowley, Tom Foley, Dolores Gibbons, Tony Hogan, Olive Laffoy, Maria Luddy, Margaret MacCurtain, Dolores Morkan, Irene Morrow, Bríd O’Connell, Ursula O’Connor, Mary O’Dowd, Mary Ó Dubháin, Margaret Ó Hógartaigh, Kathleen O’Sullivan, Gladys Ruddock, Barbara Stanley, Martin Verling, Margaret Walsh, Bernadette Whelan, Leonie Warren.


We acknowledge the many authors quoted in the text and documents. We have tried to locate all sources of copyright but are unable to trace some. In the case where permission was unobtainable at the time of publication, the Department of Education and Science will be happy to make the usual arrangements with a copyright holder. The Department of Education and Science makes a claim of copyright only to original contributions made by the contributors to this project.

Copyright © 2004 Department of Education and Science, An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta.

The student worksheets may be photocopied for educational purposes free and without special permission.

Permission for additional use may be obtained from:

Department of Education and Science, Marlborough St., Dublin 1