Women performers

Many traditional Irish songs, especially lullabies, love songs and laments must have been composed by anonymous women. Máire Ní Scolaí, a collector of traditional songs and dances helped to make them popular by teaching, performance and broadcasting. Other singers associated with traditional Irish or sean-nós singing include Caitlín Maude and Nóirín Ní Riain.

Catherine Hayes rose from poverty in Limerick to become a leading soprano in Italy, England and America before she died in her mid-thirties in 1861 and Margaret Burke-Sheridan had a successful career in leading roles at La Scala, Milan and other opera houses in the early twentieth century. In the later twentieth century, Bernadette Greevy had a distinguished career in opera and concerts, as did Veronica Dunne, Virginia Kerr, Suzanne Murphy, Ann Murray, Orla Boylan and others.

Ruby Murray was a chart-topping singer in the days before the Beatles. Other well-known singers in the early and middle years of the twentieth century included Delia Murphy and Margaret Barry, while Dana won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1970.

More recently, millions of recordings have been sold by performers such as Philomena Begley, Mary Coughlan, Maura O'Connell, Dolores O'Riordan, Frances and Mary Black, Dolores Keane, Sinéad O'Connor, Máire Ní Bhraonáin, Enya and the Corrs.

Joan Denise Moriarty composed music and dance for the Irish Ballet Company which she founded in Cork in 1973. It later became the Irish National Ballet.Other women associated with dance in Ireland include Ninette de Valois, Patricia Mulholland, Joan Davis and Mary Nunan.

Instrumental performers include Veronica MacSwiney, Joan Trimble and Rhona Marshall (piano), Geraldine O'Grady and her daughter Oonagh Keogh (violin), Aisling Drury-Byrne (cello) and Gráinne Yeats, Mary O'Hara and Kathleen Watkins (harp).

Elizabeth Crotty, Aggie White and Mary McNamara are well-known concertina players and Sharon Shannon an exciting performer on the melodeon.

Several actors made their name in the early days of the Abbey Theatre including Sara Allgood, Máire Ní Shiubhlaigh, Ria Mooney, Sheelagh Richards and Maureen O'Hara and the Abbey was subsidised in its early years by Annie Horniman. In more recent years Siobhán McKenna, Anna Manahan, Fiona Shaw, Olwyn Fouere, Bríd Brennan, Ruth McCabe and others have achieved a high degree of professionalism on stage and screen and Brenda Fricker won an Academy Award for film. Garry Hynes is highly regarded for theatrical production.

Maureen Potter, Rosaleen Linehan and Pauline McGlynn thrilled audiences as comedians.

An Irish radio broadcasting service began in 1926 and a television service in 1961. Programmes such as the Late Late Show opened up discussion of subjects that had been taboo up to then and phone-in programmes on radio gave women in the home a public platform to state their opinions and concerns.

Many women take part in sport and athletics in recent years and Sonya O'Sullivan and Catherina McKiernan achieved success in the international arena.

There is very strong participation in performance of all kinds at amateur level in Ireland.


  1. Research any Irish woman performer or group of performers.
  2. Research any Irish woman who excelled in sport or athletics.
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