International Women’s Day: ‘I’m in awe of these women’
We asked you to tell us about the women in your community that inspire and empower
It is International Women’s Day 2018 and we asked you to tell us about the women in your life who inspire and motivate you. Well known women get a lot of airtime but what about those women working away quietly and dynamically in the background within families, workplaces, charities and homes around the country? Here are your responses:
I’m in awe of these women - Ruairí McKiernan
I am surrounded by incredible women. My mother Ann Keenaghan has faced numerous challenges but has been a constant source inspiration by how she lives life. About seven years ago she faced the unknown by quitting a secure job to move west to Spiddal where she didn’t know a soul. Since then she has opened a Kinesiology and healing practice that has supported hundreds of people in need of help.
She also runs weekly meditations for those who want a place to go to connect, reflect and refuel their spiritual fires. Likewise, my sister Sinéad is blazing a trail that inspires me daily.
She went through a hard time a few years ago that led to severe panic attacks and anxiety, which in turn led her on a path to healing that was centred around yoga. She has since become one of the most popular yoga teachers in the west of Ireland and her Love Yoga business runs regular retreats in Connemara, Spain, Portugal and Greece.
Three years ago my wife Susan, aka Susie Q, helped establish the A Lust For Life wellbeing movement that has reached hundreds of thousands of people. At the same time, she followed her dream to record an incredible album with some of Ireland’s finest musicians. As if that wasn’t enough she has become a meditation teacher and is offering teaching, support and welcoming spaces for those who want to step back from the madness of modern life.
I’m in awe of these women who are doing so much to shine their light while supporting others. For me, they are all powerful examples of the fierce, courageous, and compassionate feminine spirit that Ireland needs to do more to honour and embrace.
‘It was our mother who was the strong one who kept the family together through our unbearable grief’ - Sinéad Mannion
On the surface, my mother Anne Mannion, is a quiet, unassuming, bookish woman, but underneath lies the most determined and resilient person I’ve ever met. Anne was the first person in her townland to do the Leaving Certificate, this involved cycling to school, a 10 mile return trip.
She went on to teach on a remote island off Connemara. Tragedy first hit my parents when their first baby died at a month old. Our older brother was born a year later, he had a rare form of muscular dystrophy called Spinal Muscular Atrophy. My mother was not fazed by this diagnosis. Told by doctors that no more children would have this disease my sister was born, thankfully healthy four years later.
Another four years later, I arrived, unfortunately, I too have Spinal Muscular Atrophy. She always told us to focus on what we could do, not on what we couldn’t do.
All the while my mother continued to work full time as a teacher and have two very disabled children to care for. She continued to be happy and positive in the face of sleepless nights and near continuous illness. She loved teaching, we cannot go anywhere in Connemara without a past pupil coming up to her and saying how much they loved her and how she was their favourite teacher.
Our brother sadly passed away 25 years ago, it was our mother who was the strong one who kept the family together through our unbearable grief. She has been the guiding light of our family, it is inspirational to see someone who remains so kind and caring with her enduring smile throughout it all. It is for these reasons and many more that she is my role model, my best friend and my shero.
‘We butt heads on a lot ... but I’ve learnt so much from her’ Lisa Monahan, Co Dublin
They say that we all eventually turn in to our mothers, and while I see it gradually happening (eek!), I am happy that it’s all the virtues I am recognising in myself that I can attribute to her. While we butt heads on a lot of opinions (it’s her doing that I’m able to form my own anyway), by example, I’ve learned some of her loyalty, human kindness, selflessness, self-sufficiency, self-belief, and can finally empathise with her frustration at people not using common sense!
Carmel Monahan is a wonderful mother, and while my teenage self would disagree, I will certainly be a mother like her, when the time comes.
She will travel the breath of the country every week for precious time with her family’ Sara Jane Flynn, Dublin
My mother inspires me. I live in Dublin and she lives in Sligo. She comes to Dublin every Sunday to mind my young son on a Monday so that myself and his Daddy can go to work. I find it inspiring that my mum, a pensioner, will travel the breath of the country every week for precious time with her family, especially in the critical early years of my son’s life.
I am a psychologist and I have very strong views about putting children into childcare and the importance of the first three years of life and the emotional stability of the child. I can see now that these views were formed through watching how my mother viewed myself and my brother, above everything else. How wonderful that I now feel the same way about my son and my two step daughters.
‘I have a house full of sHeroes’ Ian McGowan Smyth, Co Meath
My daughter Iverna McGowan who at a young age is Head of Amnesty International European Institutions office and Advocacy Director. Brought up in Ireland she has always been passionate about Human Rights and is I believe a very inspirational and and also a very nice warm and friendly person (maybe I’ve a slight bias).
She has taken on the European life ( recently married a lovely Belgian guy ) and is a living example of the benefits of being a EU member where our young people can engage and become part of the European family and embrace peace and justice for all the people of Europe.
I am a lucky man indeed as I have a brilliant wife Bríd who has raised our girls to be independent women. I have two other daughters Deirdre who is a biomedical engineer and Fiona a trainee solicitor. They have all done very well career-wise but have a great sense of fun and humour and femininity and good to be with. I see this is shero bit but I have my beloved son Conor too and given we are outnumbered 4- 2 he is a hero too. House full of sHeros.
In a world of chaos, she’s grounded Breda Moriarty
90 years of age and everyone calls her Auntie. A strong, kind hearted, determined and intelligent lady. Of the generation of hard working and practical people with a genuine focus on family and neighbours.
Mary O’Donnell is my only surviving grand-anything, she’s my deceased mother’s aunt. She has being there throughout my life and I’ll cherish the memories we have etched.
Days spent on the farm with her husband Sonny and baking the perfect scones on a Sunday afternoon. Common sense and integrity. Values and unbiased. She has taught me a lot of what is important. Local history,family ties, 3rd and 4th cousins and how to knit and sew. In a world of chaos, she’s grounded. Fond of the face to face conversations or the art of letter writing. The simple life. Speirbhean. Míle buíochas, Auntie. X
‘I am me because of her’ Carol Brill, Co Dublin, Ireland
My mum. She had so much tragedy in her life which shaped me as a woman. She not only gave birth to me but she nurtured me to be independent and be myself. I grew up with dignity. She taught me to live and cope with hearing & sight loss caused by Usher Syndrome. I am me because of her #unsunghero
They inspired me to support women’ Kathleen King, Ireland
My Sheros are Heather Guidone and Nancy Petersen of the Endometriosis Research Center (USA) without them many women would have remained uneducated about their endometriosis and their options for treatment. They inspired me to continue my efforts to support women and I now lead the Endometriosis Association of Ireland. Photo of Heather Guidone left with Kathleen King
She was the greatest inspiration I’ve known’ Rachel C
When my mother was 23 she had her first child. In no time at all, she was back in the office to finish her PhD. This was the late 70s, when working women were expected to commit to domesticity after childbirth. But she didn’t. She was determined to finish and she did. She took up a post as a lecturer in Maynooth and had another child - me.
Her marriage fell apart but she found new love with a wonderful man (for the second time, as my father is too). She raised two daughters while lecturing full time, working with community groups, writing academically and commercially for young people, campaigning for liberal causes and managing to get arrested (!) defending our heritage at the Hill of Tara when the M3 motorway was being built.
She taught me that life held no limits for me as a female. She taught me to judge others on their values, not their bank balance or their social status. She taught me that I was beautiful but that it didn’t really matter. Through her dedication to her students, both academic and pastoral, she taught me that work can be a joy, not just a means to an end.
She taught me how to raise daughters. And when my own was born, she showed me, that despite all her achievements, which were many and varied, her greatest would be her complete immersion in her role as a grandmother. She died in 2015, just over a month to the day before her 60th birthday. Her name was Muireann Nì Bhrolcháin. She was my mother. She was the greatest inspiration I have known and the only one I have ever needed.
‘Her way with words, opinion and business teaches me something new everyday’ Michaela C, County Dublin
Joanna Kiernan, journalist turned construction communications master is the first to come to mind when seeing the tweet asking for stories of women that inspire. I interned and worked in our work place for 5 months only before she came on board in January 2017.
I haven’t doubted or questioned her once since. Industry knowledge, interest or not at the time, she hasn’t seized to amaze since. I felt of use to her for the first while (probably 2 whole months) now I fear if she ever left I’d be so lost.
Her way with words, opinion and business teaches me something new everyday. She educated, got accustomed and figured how construction people and businesses worked, that’s all she needed before being, in my opinion, a powerhouse in her work. Naively enough I thought I knew what I was doing, up until probably March 2017, she’s taught me near everything since.
With no jealousy or condescension or bitterness, I just can’t help but feel grateful because I would have never formulated my skills or opinions without someone like Jo.
She instigated thoughts, emotions and campaigns just by being apart of our department. Women in construction & business, diversity & equality and the lack thereof was just an annoying, niggling thought in my own head that I pushed about before I got to discuss it with someone like Jo, to get a strong, educated opinion, to be challenged on what I thought or didn’t think of at all. Even before my own graduation with a degree in journalism, I knew I’d want to look elsewhere for work, it wasn’t there at the time. It took a bit of chance that I ended up in the work I’m in, but pure luck brought Jo. She’s a woman who inspires me, the first person that comes to mind.
‘She will always be a remarkable woman of wit, humour and generosity’
This is a story about my wonderful Aunt Sheila. She woke up one night at the age of seven, to hear hustle and bustle in the upstairs of her house and shortly after was told that her mother (45) had just died suddenly. Though this event did not define how life went for her and her brother who was nine at the time, it inevitably left a mark.
She attended boarding school which was harsh as things were in the 1940's, but progressed through life and went on to represent Ireland Internationally and later as an instructor in the sport of Fencing alongside a successful civil service job in Dublin. In the late 60s/early 70s she left all of that to move home to nurse her ailing father and in the process became an intrinsic part of my family as myself and my siblings arrived in the 1970's.
She was like a second mother to us and has always been busy giving of herself through making, cooking and baking; doing all of the accounts for the family business and many other things. Now in her golden years, my aunt remains resolutely independant and engaged as much as possible with the community and those around her. She attends Active Retirement; Art; Tai Chi and Irish language classes and has a busier social life than most.
Lately her sight is failing, which is a great frustration for her as her ability to do the many things that she always did to help others is being taken away from her. However, as we all know it is who we are rather than what we do, that causes people to love us and she is greatly loved. She will always be a remarkable woman of wit, humour and generosity who has been a role model for friends and family across the world.
‘My grandmother always stood at the door waving goodbye’
Peter Mooney, Vermont, United States
My grandmother, who said "no time like the present" and always stood at the door waving goodbye as I began to drive away after a visit. My first art teacher, a woman of colour whose family immigrated, who taught me patience and persistence in the same continuous lessons. Her own paintings bled colour, blurred line, but she taught through the examples of 'the Old Masters'.
My mother, whose unexpected journey through cancer showed me her farmers' daughter's steadfast resilience to accept what she could and to move on--encouraging our family's gratefulness for present time.
My daughter, who has lived so much life in her first sixteen years--who would seem to tell adversity: "Ya think so? You picked the wrong gal!"; her pact with herself suggests to me, her lucky father, an incredible endurance that not only makes me proud but convinces me we'd do better to adopt her methods. If you were to mistake her for a couch potato you'd have to understand she's a sprinter.