The purpose of our blog is to discuss topical issues, stories, and situations, as well as to share what we are up to and new ways for you to get involved. We are always searching for possible answers to the question: Why is a girl's worth culturally and historically relative?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Women's History Month "R": Mary Robinson and Rosie the Riveter


Mary Robinson in 2009

Mary Robinson was elected the first female President of Ireland in 1990. Coming from a law background, her political career has stood out as a career of liberal reform.  She campaigned on the right of women to sit in juries, the right of women to not have to resign from civil service when they got married, and the right of women to access contraception. She was also a campaigner for Homosexual Law Reform. Ireland, up to the 1970’s was woefully backwards and the government was heavily influenced by the Catholic Church. Sex outside marriage was not an option, being gay was not an option, the right to sit on a jury as a woman was not an option. Mary Robinson was instrumental in liberalising Ireland and ensuring women, as well as gays and lesbians, had the rights and access that they were entitled to.

Mary Robinson was elected President as an Independent, and in that role she continued to excel.  Ireland has a sad history of emigration which continues again today.  Mary Robinson acknowledged this history and the Irish people all over the world.  She was also the first Irish President to visit Queen Elizabeth II, and as president oversaw the complete legislation of contraception and the decriminalisation of homosexuality.  She resigned near the end of her second term of Presidency to become High Commissioner for Human Rights for the United Nations, thus continuing her campaigning on a global scale.  She was succeeded by Mary McAleese.

I was five years old when Mary Robinson became President.  I have no recollection of Ireland being presided over by a man, which is interesting considering the world we live in, but a given to my generation of Irish people. We were lucky to be presided over by someone who was unafraid to speak up for those who had no voice.


I could not at any age be content to take my place in a corner by the fireside and simply look on.
~Eleanor Roosevelt, U.S. First Lady, Diplomat, and Reformer

A man can sleep around, no questions asked, but if a woman makes nineteen or twenty mistakes she's a tramp.
~Joan Rivers, Comedian

I just write what I wanted to write. I write what amuses me. It's totally for myself.
~J. K. Rowling, Author

Don't fear tomorrow, till today's done with you.
~Celia Rees, Author

Many medal winners dream of competing in a sport other than the one they're famous for.
~Mary Lou Retton, U.S. Gymnast


Who is Rosie the Riveter?  Is she a World War II poster which has become an American cultural icon? A powerful feminist stance? Or an indication of the equality of the sexes? The image of the woman flexing her arm represents all the women who went into factory production as part of the war effort.

Of course, when the war was over, these women had to return to the more traditional roles in administration or as homemakers, but Rosie remains an image of the strength of female work ethic while having started out as propaganda to entice women to get involved in the war effort.  Rosie is seen to represent those who worked in factories, but of course there were women who worked in all aspects of the previously male dominated workforce. But what happened at the end of the war? All those Rosies needed to be encouraged to return to homemaking so there would be enough jobs for the men returning from war.

Women’s equality lasted only a short time and it wasn’t until the 1970s that there was again a large movement of women into the workplace. Is Rosie’s legacy as a feminist icon diminished because of her redundancy after the war? There is no denying her enduring legacy--pop stars like Pink and Christina Aguilera have recreated her flexing arm pose--and she remains part of the imagery of World War II.

The woman whose photograph inspired the poster died in December 2010.  Geraldine Doyle was 17 years old when her photo was taken but she didn’t realise until the 1980’s that her image was used for the poster.

However Rosie’s legacy is viewed, there is no denying the amount of women who entered into the workforce and into physical work and were equal to it.  To be again denied that right after  after the war was something many women had to come to terms with when relegated back to the kitchen.  Rosie the Riveter still remains a powerful image for women.

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