On September 29th of this year, a woman by the name of Sylvia Meehan passed away at the age of 89. While this name may be unfamiliar to many of us, Sylvia Meehan was one of the most consequential feminists in Ireland and was a true trailblazer for women in Ireland.
Meehan was born and raised in Dublin and moved to Galway later on in her life with her husband and family. Born in 1929, Meehan went to school in Loreto Sisters on St Stephen’s Green before moving on to study at University College Dublin. The Dublin native studied law and political science at UCD. Meehan became the first woman to win the Literary and Historical Association gold medal in 1951.
After the death of her husband Denis in 1969, Meehan became a secondary school teacher in Cabinteely, in order to support her five children. During her time as a teacher, Meehan became an active member in the women’s movement. She continued her work in activism by joining the union the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland, and later chaired the women’s committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.
In 1977, Meehan left teaching to become the first chief executive of the Employment Equality Agency, which was established to oversee the enforcement of the Employment Equality Act. Meehan was an instrumental figure in advocating for equal pay and brought issues such as maternity leave and childcare to the forefront of employment equality.
Meehan eventually retired in 1992 after her consorted and dedicated efforts as a feminist activist but continued to fight for equality even in her retirement. The former teacher founded and acted as president of the Irish Senior Citizens Parliament in the 1990s. The organisation fought against ageism and for better inclusion of elderly citizens.
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