Firstly; all Cork women are incredible.
In the course of history however, some rebel gals set the bar extra high for the rest of us. From brave suffragettes and women’s rights campaigners to intrepid explorers, missionaries and even a queen (of sorts), Cork has a reputation for producing remarkable females.
Here are six who deserve a nod when it comes to naming the next generation.
Nicknamed ‘Madam Dragonfly’ because of her extensive research into the insect, Cynthia Longfield (16 August 1896 – 27 June 1991) was the youngest daughter of Cloyne couple Montifort and Alice Longfield. A keen explorer, she joined the Army Service Corps during World War 1 and her travels took her to the Andes, Lake Titicaca, Chile and Egypt. She volunteered to join Evelyn Cheesman of London Zoo on a research trip to theGalapagos Islands to collect specimens for the Natural History Museum of London, where she was later appointed an honorary associated. In 1957, she returned to Castle Mary, the family estate, in Cloyne, using it as a base for further explorations until her death, aged 96.
One of only four women ever to be inducted into the Alaskan Mining Hall of Fame, “Nellie” Cashman (1845 – January 4, 1925) was a renowned businesswoman and philanthropist. Based in Arizona, having left Cobh with her widowed mother and sister during the Famine, she ran a boarding house for miners in British Columbia during the Klondike Gold Rush and used the profits from her many businesses to fund her own gold prospecting in the Yukon. She also found time to raise the five children of her sister Fanny after she died in 1883.
Having escaped the Famine with her parents John and Honor Granger Kearney, who moved their family to New York in search of a better life, Leonora Barry (13 August 1849 – 18 July 1923) qualified as a teacher at the age of 16. When state law forced her to give up her teaching job after she married William E. Barry, she turned to manual labour to help support her three children. After her husband and daughter died of lung disease, she decided to take action for working women everywhere and joined the local women’s branch of the Knights of Labor, becoming the only women to hold office.
An outspoken campaigner for women’s rights, Johanna Mary “Hanna” Sheehy Skeffington (24 May 1877 – 20 April 1946) was a key figure in the suffragette movement. Born in Kanturk (a bronze statue in her honour stands there still) she graduated with honours from the Royal University of Ireland. Together with her husband, Francis Sheehy-Skeffington, and Margaret Cousins, she founded the Irish Women’s Franchise League in 1908. She was later a founding member of the Irish Women Workers’ Union.
Image: Bain/ Library of Congress
When tuberculosis scuppered Edel Quinn’s dreams of becoming a nun with the Poor Clares, she turned her attention to missionary work. Despite her illness, she joined the Legion of Mary and began working with the poor in Dublin slums. Nine years later, at the age of 29, she became a Legion of Mary Envoy, departing in December 1936 for Mombasa and working tirelessly to established hundreds of Legion branches in Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi and Mauritius. She lost her battle with tuberculosis in Nairobi, Kenya in 1944 and is buried there in the Missionaries’ Cemetery.
If ambition is a quality you’d like your daughter to possess, consider naming her after Eliza Alice Lynch Lloyd (1833 – Paris, France, 25 July 1886) the Charleville born doctor’s daughter who became the unofficial ‘Queen of Paraguay’. Having first married at the age of 16, she left her first husband and returned to her family home in Paris, where she fell in love with the heir-apparent to the Paraguayan presidency, Francisco Solano Lopez. As his mistress she gave birth to his seven children, however she died in obscurity after Lopez was killed in the Paraguayan War. Her body was later exhumed and returned to Paraguay after the dictator General Alfredo Stroessner proclaimed her a national heroine.