Were women written out of history books, and if so, why? That was the subject discussed at a special panel event on Monday 16th November, organised by the Mary Ann McCracken Foundation, a charitable arm of the Belfast Charitable Society, based in Clifton House, North Belfast.

The panel included contributions from Dr Margaret Ward and the Archive and Heritage Development Officer of Clifton House, Aaron McIntyre. Based on their own research and experiences, they highlighted particular aspects of women’s role in Irish history, and the attitude of biographers in recording their contribution to historical events.

Dr Margaret Ward, Honorary Senior Lecturer in History at Queen’s University, Belfast and feminist historian, commented

“I was delighted to be invited onto this panel discussion, and raise awareness of women’s involvement in events such as Irish Independence and the suffrage movement. Adding women to the writing of history ‘complicates the narrative’ and deepens our understanding of the past. By delving into archives, we are provided with new insights, particularly on the gender relations of the time. Most importantly, often for the first time, we let these women’s voices from the past be heard.”

In addition to this wider debate, the panel explored some key female figures including Mary Ann McCracken (1770-1866), a local Belfast activist and abolitionist, and Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington (1877-1946), a well-known Irish activist and conscious suffragist.

The panel discussion was chaired by Norma Sinte, Mary Ann McCracken Foundation Chair, who stated

“This was a fantastic event for the Foundation, carrying on the ethos of Mary Ann McCracken who throughout her life fought for the rights of women. Through our work with the Belfast Charitable Society archives, we are finding more and more evidence of this remarkable women, and the impact she had, both at the time and which can still be felt today.”