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Women of Ireland - Celebrating the lesser known history


 

Names like Pearse, Plunket and Wolfe Tone are quite prominent in the history of not only Dublin, but Ireland also. As are the visible scars on the city from the1916 Rising. However, walking down any street in our Fair City there is a wealth of information and history. While we could explore the waves of feminism from the fight to vote to the fight for national independence, and the differences or benefits of both, we would rather leave this discussion for another time and focus solely on the achievements of the couple of women we discuss. Whilst the names of Markievicz and Hannah Sheehy Skeffington are well known, there is a vast amount of untold, or rather lesser known stories across Dublin and Ireland. Let’s explore just 3 of the most inspiring women/movements of Ireland’s past.


 

Oonah Keogh The first female member of The Stock Exchange.

 

Oonah Keogh was born in Dublin in 1903. Oonah was educated in both Ireland and United Kingdom in excellent schools. Her Father, Joseph had been the youngest bank manager in Irish history, at the very young age of 24. He was also a highly regarded member of the Irish Exchange. Oonah would make her own mark on the Stock Exchange, arguably surpassing her father’s legacy. Oonah studied in London and proceeded to spend 2 years travelling Europe and North Africa, this also led to her learning French. After excelling in education and seeing the world her father offered her an invitation to join his firm, thus resulting in Oonah leaving her mark and creating her legacy within the banking world. Albeit the challenges she faced as a woman in this industry were tough and arduous, she battled through proving Women belong in every industry equally to men. She was the first women in the world to be invited to work in The Stock Exchange. May 4th, 1925 she lodged an application to become a full member of the Exchange, becoming the first woman to apply. While this was largely unusual to have a woman apply, Oonah had some strengths working in her favour. First her education, second her father’s status and wealth, and third, Article 3 of the Constitution which stated: “Every person, without distinction of sex... shall within the limits of the jurisdiction of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Eireann) enjoy the privileges and be subject to the obligations of such citizenship.” This would guarantee equality for men and women in theory, as such The Stock Exchange could not exclude her based on her gender. After 3 weeks of deliberations, Oonah was admitted to The Stock Exchange. Nathan Mannion of EPIC notes that


“At just 23 years of age she was now responsible for handling some of the largest financial transactions in the state, but it was a task she proved more than capable of” This would not mean that all was well and easy for Oonah, once she had been admitted. Social norms of the day meant that she missed out on a lot of the dealings that took place outside the exchange, in bars, gentlemen's clubs, or on the golf course. In 1971 during a radio interview with RTE Oonah herself notes: “One of the disadvantages in those days was that women did not socialise with men in lounges of pubs. When the men retired to Jury’s to relax after transacting business I could not accompany them. And even when I went to the races with my father it was the same. He would go to the bar for a drink, I would have to slip off for afternoon tea.” Oonah stands as the first women in the world to be admitted to the Stock Exchange, leaving a trail for others to follow.


Oonah Keogh passed at the age of 86 in 1989.