Eight portraits of pioneering Irish medical women unveiled at Royal College of Surgeons

‘Women on Walls’ campaign started in 2016 at the Royal Irish Academy

Eight new portraits of distinguished Irish women in medicine were unveiled in the Royal College of Surgeons (RCSI) board room overlooking St Stephen’s Green in Dublin on Tuesday.

It is part of the Women on Walls project at the RCSI, in partnership with Accenture and Business to Arts, a campaign that seeks to make women leaders visible through commissioned portraits.

The series is one of the largest by an Irish institution in recent years and can be seen by members of the public at scheduled times throughout 2019.

The portraits are of Dr Margaret (Pearl) Dunlevy, a woman who played a major role in the fight against TB in Ireland and died at the age of 92 in 2002; Dr Barbara Maive Stokes, a paediatrician and pioneering disability campaigner who died in 2009; Sr Dr Maura Lynch, a Medical Missionary of Mary and a surgeon who revolutionised obstetric fistula care in Uganda who died in 2017, and Dr Mary Somerville Parker Strangman a doctor and suffragist who was elected the first female councillor in Waterford. She died in 1943.


Also included are Dr Victoria Coffey, one of the first female paediatricians in Ireland who died in 1999; Dean Mary Frances Crowley who helped establish a Faculty of Nursing at the RCSI, the first of its kind in Ireland or Britain. She died in 1990; Dr Emily Winifred Dickson who was the first female Fellow of the RCSI and who died in 1944; and Dr Mary Josephine Hannan who was the first woman both to train and to qualify at RCSI. She died in 1936.

The portraits were commissioned in early 2018 and six artists were selected to paint them.

Catherine Creaney painted the portrait of Dr Margaret Maive Stokes, Molly Judd painted Dr Victoria Coffey and Dr Mary Hannan, while Mick O'Dea painted Dr Dickson and Dr Strangman. The portrait of Sr Maura Lynch was painted by Enda Griffin, while William Nathans painted Dean Crowley, and Benita Stoney painted the portrait of Dr Dunlevy.

Avril Hutch, head of the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Unit at the RCSI, said "we are doing to ensure that gender equality is very much part of RCSI" and that "Women on Walls is a campaign that started with Accenture in 2016 in the Royal Irish Academy.

“In 2018 the RCSI joined that campaign and over the past year we’ve worked with these six artists to commission eight portraits of pioneering women in healthcare.”

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times