Belfast's Forgotten Women: Anna Eggert Lecture Podcast

Listen to Dr Myrtle Hill's Anna Eggert lecture on 'Pioneers, Protestors and Preachers'

Leading Belfast academic, Dr Myrtle Hill, shone a light on Northern Ireland's forgotten heroines this month at the Women's Resource and Development Agency's second Anna Eggert lecture.

Dr Myrtle Hill, senior lecturer at Queen’s University, delivered a lecture entitled ‘Pioneers, Protestors and Preachers: Belfast’s Forgotten Women’ at the Ulster Hall. Listen to the full lecture in the podcast below.

The Anna Eggert lecture series is part of a wider project organised in partnership between the WRDA and WOMEN’STEC, and is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The first in the series was given by Baroness May Blood. Listen to her lecture, 'From the Factory Floor to the House of Lords'.

Dr Hill focuses on women such as Isabella Tod (pictured above) and Margaret Byers, who had a significant impact on female education in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Northern Ireland.

'It is interesting that once women were able to get degrees it opened up all sorts of other things to them,' said Hill. 'For example, women couldn’t get a job here as a doctor but they could go out to India or China and run a hospital.'

The lecture also considers some of the opportunities that opened up for Northern Irish women in the foreign missionary field, with a particular focus on the work of Amy Carmichael.

In terms of local politics, Hill focussed on the Linen Mills, 'which played such a vital role in the prosperity of Victorian Belfast employing many thousands of women, and trade union activism provided an increasingly important outlet for those determined to fight for the rights of female workers'.

'From Nellie Gordon and Winifred Carney to May Blood,' Hill continued, 'we can trace a strong tradition of public engagement with issues of equality and justice in the labour force.'

Dr Hill argues that the influence of women was pervasive throughout Belfast during this time, but it has largely been written out of history because of the 'big’ story of Home Rule, which coincided with other campaigns.

However, the gender equality issue was a matter of concern for local women whose main vehicle for activism was the Ulster Women’s Unionist Council, which has only become a matter of serious historical research relatively recently. 'Much more has been written about Republican and Nationalist women of this period than Unionist women,' Hill added.

The issues covered are diverse, but they are also often interconnected, and the aim of the talk was to reflect women’s varied concerns and the link between public and private lives.

'I’m also trying to show that there were these few women whom we have got records for who were real pioneers, but behind them were a whole range of women making a really significant contribution to areas of our past.

'The influence of the women of Belfast deserves to be remembered and celebrated. It was robust and we still feel the impact of it now.'

The Anna Eggert lectures are free, but as space is limited tickets must be booked in advance by contacting the WRDA on info@wrda.net or phoning 028 9023 0212.

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