'The unfairness shocked me. It was very different for me'

Susie Hall (66), former secondary school teacher

Susie Hall a retired teacher who was forced to give up her job at Loreto Foxrock when she got engaged . Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons / The Irish Times

Susie Hall a retired teacher who was forced to give up her job at Loreto Foxrock when she got engaged . Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons / The Irish Times

Tue, Jun 11, 2013, 10:57

It was right after St Valentine’s Day in 1971 when Susie Hall realised that Ireland was no country for a career-minded young woman. At least not a married one.

With a degree in French and German from UCD, Hall took up a teaching post at her old school in south Dublin. When, two years in, her boyfriend popped the question, her career ground to a halt.

“I went into school and was wearing the ring, and of course everybody in the staff room was delighted for me, but then the headmistress said she’d like to see me. She said, ‘Of course you realise that once you’re married we won’t be keeping you on?’” Hall was gone by June.

“The unfairness of it shocked me,” she recalls. “In my husband’s employment everybody was delighted for him and patting him on the back. It was very different for me.”

Something else that struck her as unfair was differing salary scales in her profession.

“There was one scale for married men, who were obviously very sensible and reliable people – they needed the extra money to keep their wives – and then there was the rest of us.”

While Hall managed to get another job at another school, her experience attuned her to other inequalities, and she succeeded in passing a union motion to have maternity leave extended to adopting mothers. She never thought (“in my wildest dreams”) that she’d be the first person in the public service to avail of it when she and her husband sought to adopt a child.

The adoption went ahead and Hall and her husband reared two children. She taught for 41 years, and became president of the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland. Her daughter is now a teacher.