Anna Haslam (1829-1922)
Anna Haslam was born in Youghal, the 16th of 17 children of Jane and Abraham Fisher. The Fishers, Quaker merchants with extensive business interests in Youghal, were noted for charitable works, particularly during the Great Famine.
Anna was educated in Newtown School, Waterford and Castlegate, York. She was assistant teacher in Ackworth School, Yorkshire, where she met Thomas Haslam, a Quaker from Mountmellick. They married in 1854 in Cork Registry Office and lived together happily until his death in 1917. When Thomas became unable to work due to illness she established a stationery and toy business at their Rathmines home to support them both.
Anna’s feminism was rooted in Enlightenment ideas of individual natural rights. She said her belief in women’s equality came to her naturally and that it had always been taken for granted
in her Quaker household. She espoused multiple causes: anti-slavery, married women’s property reform, equal rights for women in education and employment, the repeal of the discriminatory Contagious Diseases Acts, and women’s franchise.
A clear thinker and organiser with considerable administrative skills, her capacity for hard work was legendary. “To circularise every Irish member or to write 30 or 40 letters to prominent public men in her own hand was mere child’s play.”
She was held in great affection by all, even those who disagreed with her. A staunch unionist all her life, she believed that women would fare better under Westminster rule. She died in November 1922 and is buried beside Thomas in the Quaker burial ground in Temple Hill, Dublin.