In 1919, Removing Barriers for Professional Women

Saturday 12 November 2016,  Women’s History Seminar at UCC


Barriers Removed? The 1919 Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act in Context


In 2018 we will be marking the centenary of the granting of the parliamentary vote to Irish and British women over the age of 30.  But far less well known than that feminist milestone is the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act which was passed the following year. 


This Act was a response to growing pressure a hundred years ago to open the professions to women.  In particular, women could now become solicitors, barristers and judges, and this – coupled with the provision that women could be called for jury service – meant that the centuries-old exclusion of women from all parts of the courtroom, except the dock and the witness stand, was brought to an end.  The Act also opened many other hitherto male-only public spaces to women. 

But how radical was the Act, both in content and execution?

In order to promote awareness of the Act in advance of the centenary, the Women’s History Association of Ireland is holding a one-day seminar to consider this question in University College Cork on Saturday 12 November. 


The guest lecturer is Dr Mari Takayanagi, Senior Archivist, Parliamentary Archives, London, currently joint project manager and co-curator of Vote 100, the UK Parliament’s project to commemorate 100 years of the vote for some women and all men in 2018.  She will speak on ‘The Parliamentary Passage of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919’. 


This will be followed by presentations by Dr Sandra McAvoy on the impact of the Act on the legal profession and civil service in Ireland, and by Dr Clare O’Halloran on the reaction of male-only learned societies, such as the Royal Irish Academy, to the mandatory removal of the barrier to female membership.  The Seminar will conclude with a roundtable discussion of plans for commemorating the 1918 and 1919 Acts.



Saturday 12 November, 11.00-4.00
Brookfield Health Sciences Complex, College Rd. – Theatre G06


Registration (Tea and coffee served)


Dr Mari Takayanagi (UK Parliamentary Archives and Vote 100 Project)

‘The Parliamentary Passage of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919’



Dr Sandra McAvoy (Women’s Studies, UCC)

‘Employment after the Act: the Legal Profession and Civil Service in Ireland’




Dr Clare O’Halloran (School of History, UCC)

‘Members Only: Irish Learned Societies and the 1919 Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act’


Concluding seminar discussion


Roundtable discussion on plans for marking 1918 and 1919 in Ireland

There is no registration fee, but optional refreshments will be available at a charge of €12.  Please register in advance for these by emailing – final date for this is 9 November.

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