Mary Hayden (1862-1942)

Mary Hayden

Mary Hayden


“A flagrant and crying injustice, which should not be tolerated another instant,” was how Mary Hayden, addressing the Irish Women’s Franchise League (May 14th, 1912), described the denial of votes for women.

Hayden, whose background was Catholic middle-class Dublin, was one of the earliest women graduates of the Royal University of Ireland, BA (1885), MA (1887), one of the first two women to win the Junior Fellowship of the University (1895), and a founder of the Irish Association of Women Graduates and Candidate Graduates (1902).

As a past pupil of Alexandra College, Hayden participated in debates on woman’s suffrage, and became an admirer and close associate of Anna Haslam, founder of the Irish Women’s Suffrage and Local Government Association, which Hayden joined. Convinced that women should be responsible citizens, she advocated, in her article Training of Irish Girls for Citizenship (1908), a wide-ranging curriculum, to cultivate a sense of public duty.

Hayden became the first professor of modern Irish history at UCD (1911-38). Presiding at a mass meeting of suffrage groups (June 1st, 1912), Hayden called “in a perfectly constitutional manner for the redress of a great wrong”. Though opposing militant protests as counterproductive, she sought justice in the treatment of protesters.

Involved in various suffrage groups, in 1915 she and Mary Gwynn established another, the Irish Catholic Women’s Suffrage Association, to attract more Catholic women to the movement. Throughout her life she publicly advocated women’s rights, including demands for full citizenship in both the 1922 and 1937 constitutions.