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Image / Editorial

Herstory: RTÉ’s new documentary series will shine a light on Ireland’s change-making women


by Erin Lindsay
30th Jan 2020

RTÉ’s Herstory: Ireland’s EPIC Women will air throughout the month of February


RTÉ has announced plans for a new season of programming throughout February, focusing on the achievements of Irish women throughout history.

Between February 1 and International Women’s Day on March 8, the season will feature some of Ireland’s pioneering women across a variety of fields, including politics, science and the arts.

The new season comes from a partnership between RTÉ and EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum, which will be hosting an exhibition throughout February celebrating the lives and legacies of 21 Irish diaspora women entitled Blazing a Trail: Lives and Legacies of Irish Diaspora Women. The exhibition will be free to the public.

What’s on TV?

Beginning On February 3, RTÉ One will screen a six-part docu-series entitled HERSTORY: Ireland’s EPIC Women. Produced by award-winning production company Underground Films, the series will feature a number of trailblazing women that changed the course of their chosen field in Ireland. They include:

  • Lady Mary Heath, a record-setting, daredevil aviator from Limerick, who was one of the best-known women in the world in the 1920s
  • Kay McNulty, a Donegal Gaeilgeoir who was one of the six original programmers of the ENIAC, the first general-purpose electronic digital computer
  • James Barry, pioneering Cork surgeon who lived as a man to pursue a medical career and whose many achievements include performing the first successful Caesarean section in the British Empire in which both mother and baby survived
  • Mother Jones (“the most dangerous woman in America”), a Cork-born activist and union leader who founded the Social Democratic Party and helped establish the Industrial Workers of the World
  • Oonah Keogh, a successful trader and entrepreneur from Dublin who became the world’s first female member of a Stock Exchange
  • Ninette de Valois, a Wicklow-born choreographer, director and founder of the Royal Ballet

What’s on for the kids?

The Herstory season will also focus on bringing Irish women’s history to kid’s level, with a series of six animations, each telling the story of an inspirational Irish woman. The subjects of the animations were chosen by kids themselves — schoolchildren around Ireland were asked last year to nominate women from history that inspired them as part of RTÉ’s Who’s Your Heroine? campaign. They came up with:

  • Laura Geraldine Lennox, an Irish suffragette from Durrus
  • Dr.Norah Patten, scientist and astronaut
  • Lilian Bland from Antrim, a daredevil aviator
  • Máire Ní Chinnéide, the founder of modern-day camogie
  • Mary Elmes, the Cork woman who saved the lives of hundreds of Jewish children during WWII
  • An ode to all our much-loved grannies in The Irish Granny

What’s on podcasts?

For podcast lovers, RTÉ has commissioned an 18-part series to focus on 18 more incredible Irish women from history, with an episode dedicated to each of their stories. Presented by Dr Angela Burke, a historian at the School of Arts and Humanities at Ulster University, women featured in the series include feminist and LGBT activist Eva Gore-Booth; Eliza Lynch, the mistress of the president of Paraguay in the 19th century, whose story has been the subject of controversy and propaganda ever since; and Lizzie Le Blond, a pioneer of female mountain climbing.

What’s on this weekend?

To kick off the season, the annual International Herstory Light Festival will take place this weekend across the country, lighting up buildings with specially commissioned portraits of women, including six illustrations commissioned by RTÉ’s Young People’s Department as part of RTÉ’s “Who’s Your Heroine?” project.


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