Five portraits of pioneering women in STEM have been unveiled at DCU to mark this year’s International Women’s Day.
A collection of commissioned portraits have been unveiled as part of Accenture’s Women on Walls initiative at Dublin City University (DCU) for International Women’s Day (today, 8 March).
The paintings are of five inspiring women from STEM, each of whom made outstanding contributions to their field through research, breakthroughs and bringing about cultural and social change.
So who are the pioneers featured in the portraits?
Dr Marie Maynard Daly
Dr Marie Maynard Daly was the first African American woman in the US to earn a PhD in chemistry. Her work revealed the relationship between high cholesterol and clogged arteries. She also developed programmes to enrol more students from minorities and underrepresented groups in medical school and graduate science programmes.
Katherine Johnson was a leading mathematician who specialised in orbital mechanics. She was one of the first African American women to work as a NASA scientist and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2017.
Kathleen Lonsdale was a leading x-ray crystallographer and the first woman to become a professor at University College London. Lonsdale, who was from Kildare, was also elected as one of the first women Fellows of the Royal Society in 1945 and became the first woman president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.
Kathleen (Kay) McNulty
Another leading mathematician, Kay McNulty was one of the world’s first computer programmers. Originally from Donegal, she completed her maths degree in 1942 as one of only three women graduates in a class of 92. McNulty invented the subroutine, a crucial element of computer programming, and was inducted into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame in 1997.
Beatrice Alice Hicks
Beatrice Alice Hicks was a leading engineer who became the first president of the Society of Women Engineers. She developed a gas-density switch used in the US space programme, which included Apollo 11’s moon landing mission.
Women on Walls 2021
The unveiling of these portraits was led virtually today by DCU president Prof Daire Keogh; managing director and head of inclusion and diversity at Accenture in Ireland, Dr Michelle Cullen; and chief executive of Business to Arts, Andrew Hetherington.
The event delved into the stories behind each of the women and gave attendees the chance to watch a virtual panel discussion and documentary with the artists. Bríd Higgins Ní Chinnéide, a Dublin-based figurative artist who works primarily with oil paint, worked on the portrait of Maynard Daly. Louth visual artist Jackie Hudson Lalor, who specialises in oils, drawing and printmaking, worked on the portrait of Johnson.
Una Sealy, who worked on the portrait of Lonsdale, is another Dublin-based figurative painter and a member of the Royal Hibernian Academy. McNulty was painted by Jim FitzPatrick, a Dublin artist known around the world for his illustration, poster artwork and photography. And Hicks was painted by Kilkenny figurative painter Blaise Smith, also a member of the Royal Hibernian Academy.
All five portraits will be temporarily installed in DCU’s Stokes Building, but the long-term plan is to move them to the university’s new Future-Tech building. This is currently under construction at the Glasnevin campus and will become one of its flagship buildings for science, computing and engineering disciplines.
A reminder that ‘there are no limits’
“These stunning portraits are a tribute to female trailblazers who pushed out the frontiers of their respective fields,” Keogh said.
“By celebrating these pioneers, we remind our students, and female students in particular, that there are no limits. Thanks to the extraordinary creativity of our acclaimed artists, these five women will continue to inspire future generations at DCU.”
Cullen added that this is the third chapter of the campaign created in 2016 in response to the question, where are the women?
“Not only does Women on Walls enhance the visibility of women who shaped the world that we live in today as a way to inspire young girls and boys, students, and society as a whole, but it continues to support Ireland’s arts sector,” Cullen said. “These astonishing portraits are a remarkable reminder of the vital role Ireland’s portrait artists play in shaping the future.”