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History of Women
in Medicine at 
RCSI and the Rotunda

History of Women in Medicine

Rotunda Hospital
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Bartholomew Mosse

Learn about our founder, Bartholomew Mosse and his dream of caring for the women of Dublin and their babies in the 18th Century.

Women of the Rotunda during 1916

We are honoured to introduce you to five brave women who supported the women and newborn babies of Dublin during a time of turmoil and uncertainty. Some of our women may be known to you but others less so. All have direct connections with the Rotunda Hospital through their training or medical practice.

You can learn more about these women from the Rotunda's 1916 centenary celebration.  

Anne O'Byrne - Head Librarian, Rotunda Hospital, Dublin

Anne’s role as Head Librarian and Library Manager is to strategically plan and deliver Library and Information Services to support the Hospital’s Mission Statement.

Anne is a member of the Library Association of Ireland (LAI), Health Science Libraries Group (HSLG), and is a former Irish Council Representative to the European Association of Health Information and Libraries (EAHIL).

As a professional Librarian, Anne is committed to the equal provision of information services to all categories of library users and to developing remote and outreach programs to facilitate end-user training and life-long learning. Anne see’s the role of librarians in partnership with lecturers, teachers and students in advancing learning and knowledge.  Anne’ s role as Archivist within the Rotunda enhances the history of the Rotunda Hospital as the first purpose built Maternity Hospital in the World.

Women on Walls

Women on Walls 

Women on Walls is a campaign that seeks to make women leaders visible through a series of commissioned portraits. RCSI in partnership with Accenture announced an Open Call to Artists to commission a series of new portraits for the Board Room located in the RCSI’s historic building on St. Stephen’s Green.

These portraits recognise the pioneering achievements of eight extraordinary women and enhance the visibility of historical female leaders in healthcare.

Women on Walls at RCSI was made possible with the support from Accenture, the RCSI Heritage Library Collections Team and the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Unit. Learn more about Women on Walls here

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Julia Morrow, Research & Policy Officer in RCSI's Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Unit

Julis is passionate about ensuring that we can all work and learn in an environment which is defined by dignity and respect, and that everyone is treated fairly regardless of ability, age, civil status, family status, gender, membership of the Traveller community, race, religion, sexual orientation or socio-economic status.


During 2018 and 2019, Julia was a key member of the team who delivered RCSI's landmark Women on Walls at RCSI campaign in partnership with Accenture and Business to Arts. Julia continues to support the campaign and the implementation of RCSI's EDI Strategy with a particular focus on research and data to inform policy and strategy implementation. Twitter: @RCSI_Equality @juliamorrow_ IG: @RCSI_EDI

BIAS: Inequality in Women's Health and Research - Fiona McDonnell, Service Coordinator

BIAS: Inequality in Women's Health and Research - Fiona McDonnell, Service Coordinator

Fiona McDonnell tells us about Jane's Place - the female-only day service will provide a ‘one-stop-shop’ for access to information and supports across health, addiction, life skills, gender-based violence, coercive control, legal issues, education, employment support, counselling and mental health services. This excerpt is taken with the permission of Merchant Quay Ireland from their Annual Review 2020. Merchants Quay Ireland is a leading Irish charity working with people experiencing homelessness and people who use drugs. The organisation provides services ranging from crisis and case management, healthcare services, harm reduction and family support to residential and community detox & rehabilitation, aftercare, and prison-based addiction counselling. Through their recent Gender Equality in Drug Treatment Project the MQI Women’s Project aims to create and implement responses that will improve access, and ultimately outcomes, for women experiencing multiple levels of disadvantage or exclusion. Join in this #ScienceWeek 7-14 November as we take a look at bias in women's health and research. @BiasWomenHealth - Twitter @Bias_Womens_Health - Instagram #BiasWomensHealth BIAS: Inequality in Women's Health and Research is a Science Week festival developed by RCSI Rotunda Research Department. The Festival is funded by Science Foundation Ireland. #ScienceWeek #ScienceWeek2021 #GenderBias #ScienceFoundationIreland #BiasWomensHealth #WomensHealth
History of Women's Health and Research

The "Rest Cure"

The ‘Rest cure’ was a 19th century treatment for a number of mental health conditions, collectively termed as ‘Hysteria’ back then, and prescribed almost exclusively for women of privileged backgrounds who had the means to avail of the latest treatments available. These women would have, usually, exhibited signs of anxiety, irritability, insomnia, indigestion and even behaviours deemed to be embarrassing or unusual by the society. Pioneered by Silas Weir Mitchell, an American Neurologist, this treatment was the life of the writer and reformer, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, for 3 months after having suffered from mental illness. In her short story called ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ she described a semi-fictional account of a woman who upon undergoing the cure, is driven to madness. Click on the interactive bubbles on this image to find out more about how a woman of means would have been treated in 1850s-1950s.

Today, it is very well known that social isolation and lack of exercise have a negative impact on our mental health, and are detrimental to our physical health, being the cause of many ailments. On the other hand, staying mentally active and exercising has been proven to be beneficial for our health in general. A lack of mental engagement, and loneliness is linked to adverse health consequences such as depression, poor sleep quality, impaired executive function, accelerated cognitive decline, poor cardiovascular function and impaired immunity at every stage of life. When a person is bedridden, restricted to one position most of the time, muscles atrophy quickly and the patient is at risk of dehydration. Pressure injuries can also develop, while the heart and the lungs weaken, with blood pooling making the patient susceptible to clotting disorders. We have come a long way from prescribing such cures to women and men, but the sexist attitudes behind these cures remain even to this day.


Careers in STEMM

Hear from women in Science and Medicine about their experience with so far on barriers to entry and challenges and benefits of a career in STEMM

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