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What's She Doing Here? Women at Work 1918-2018

“We are the granddaughters of the witches you could not burn.”  – Sign at Women’s March, Washington, 2017

History is full of macho glory. We have all heard stories about great men who led the way in the worlds of politics, law, science, art, sport and technology. In such accounts there has been a glaring absence – women.

At a moment of great change in Irish society, a brilliant new exhibition at the Little Museum salutes trailblazing females, from historical heroines such as Eileen Gray and Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington to women of today who defy sexist attitudes to excel in industries that were traditionally dominated by men.

What's She Doing Here? includes photographs of women at work by Beta Bajgartova, beautiful illustrations of System-Rockers in Irish History, films about the women profiled, audio recordings and a Post-it poll for visitors to continue the conversation about equality and what it means in Ireland today. We have also curated a packed event programme that features some of the women profiled within the exhibition.

Some of Beta’s portraits feature in her widely acclaimed book, A Woman’s Work. They include an auto mechanic, an undertaker, a boxer, a pilot, a camera woman, a chess champion, a bus driver and an 81 year old rally driver.

“Creating this collection made me mindful of ongoing gender stereotypes in our society, and the need to prevent them by educating our children,” says Beta. “Every woman I included in this collection is a role model for my two daughters.”

Echoing that sentiment, the Director of the National Women’s Council of Ireland, Orla O’Connor, recently said, “Beta’s work disrupts the gender stereotypes and shows in a creative and exuberant style that women can achieve and strive in every part of life.”

Bren Luke’s illustrations of System-Rockers like Mainie Jellett and Mary Robinson feature in a great new book, Rocking the System: Fearless and Amazing Irish Women Who Made History, by Siobhán Parkinson. In her preface to the book, Sabina Coyne Higgins writes, “It is easy to take choice and opportunity for granted, and to forget the many women who fought, with great determination, to create a more equal world. We have much to learn from the women who have rocked, and continue to rock, the system.”

In addition to the photographs and illustrations, Bridget Hourican’s work on the historical context adds great richness to the story.

“What really interested me,” says Bridget, “was how important both world wars, but particularly the First, were in creating opportunities for women. For so many trades and professions - including bus driving, welding, firefighting, veterinary medicine, banking, even football – women got opportunities because men had been called to the Front and someone had to do these jobs. So opportunity didn’t come about through equality legislation or human rights initiatives but through necessity created by catastrophe.”

What’s She Doing Here? is sponsored by PayPal, Sodexo, CPL, Coca Cola, Diageo and The Irish Times.  The exhibition runs from March 31st to June 10th, 2018, in The Ireland Funds Gallery at The Little Museum of Dublin, 15 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2.

For more information or pictures, please contact Kathryn McCance on kathryn@littlemuseum.ie or ring 01 661 1000.

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