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Photo Ros Kavanagh

‚Pop-up’ museum – 100 Years of Women in Politics and Public Life in Ireland

Ireland’s touring ‘pop-up’ Women’s Museum which has traveled all over the country, is believed to be the first of its kind in the world.

It chronicles the history of Ireland over one hundred years from the foundation of the State, and the role women played in politics and public life throughout that period.

Photo Ros Kavanagh

Photo Ros Kavanagh

The pop-up, a Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht initiative under the Irish Government’s Decade of Centenaries 2013-2023 programme, is touring a number of venues in the four provinces in the country before it returns to Dublin Castle in Spring 2020, to Dublin Castle where it opened on 14 December 2018 to mark the centenary of the 1918 General Election where women could first exercise their franchise and stand as candidates for election.The pop-up provides insight into the lives of some of the many hundreds of women, who helped shape Ireland from the 1920s to the present day,personal portraits are laid out with inter-actives as well as objects, clothing, rare manuscripts and furniture gathered from private collections. Some of these women became members of the Irish and/or European Parliament, two became President of Ireland but not all are so well known. Continue reading


The 14th December 1918 the first Irish woman, Constance de Markievicz, was elected a Member of Parliament. IAWM’s president, Mona Holm, participated at the Centenary in Dublin, December 2018.

“Why not a Woman?”

The Women’s History Association of Ireland, WHAI, organized a two-day’s conference “Why not a Woman? Celebrating Women in public and private life in Ireland, 1918–2018”. The annual conference of the WHAI was supported by the Department of Culture Heritage and the Gaeltacht in association with the centenary event – a pop up museum 100 Years of Irish Women in Politics and Public Life.

A Pop-Up Women’s Museum was curated by Historian Sinéad McCoole part of the Government of Ireland’s programme for commemorating the role of women in Ireland’s Decade of Centenaries 2013-2023 and an essential part of the Centenary celebration was the election of the first women to the British parliament at Westminister, who also became the first women in the Irish Parliament (Dáil Éireann) and the first Irish Cabinet Minister and Minister of Labour.

Establishing a permanent physical women’s museum in Ireland is a goal for several Irish feminists and historians. The Pop-Up Museum was an important first step, and a good opportunity to connect with the International Association of Women’s Museums.

During the conference, curator Sinéad McCoole underlined the importance of IAWM’s presence, and accentuated the need of a permanent solution for taking care of and presenting Irish women’s history archives.

Mona Holm, president of IAWM, presenting the network of women’s museums in Dublin
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04.03.2013 Pic on Molesworth street, launch of Women’s Museum of Ireland, from left Sinead Mercier, Ciara Greene, Louise Fizgerald, Aine Kelly and Rossa Abbott.

The Women’s Museum of Ireland was founded in November 2012 as a project that aimed to promote the formal recognition of the role of women in Irish history as well as the role of Irish women abroad.

The museum’s first event was the exhibition, Monster’s of Creation: Snapshots of Women in Higher Education, which displayed images of pioneering Irish women in higher education in Ireland. For this exhibition the museum asked the public to contribute their own images to the museum to show the amazing range of achievments of women in university and higher education. 

Since it’s launch the museum has worked to educate the public about the contributions of women to cultural, political and social history in Ireland, and the role Irish women have played overseas. The museum primarily exists as a virtual museum but has hosted several pop-up events around Dublin. The museum’s next project is the Women of Dublin project, which will create a new map of the city of Dublin which will highlight the contributions that women have made to the history and development of the city.