Development & Alumni Relations Office 

Celebrating International Women's Day 2015 

06 March 2015

International Women’s Day is a chance for Queen’s to celebrate the innumerable inspirational women studying, teaching and researching at the University, both past and present.

Details of ten of the most inspiring Queen's women – many more of whom can be found on the main University website – can be found below.


Dame Ingrid Allen

Born in Belfast, Professor Allen is a Queen’s graduate and Professor Emeritus of Neuropathology, a role in which she gained an international reputation for her research in infections of the nervous system and Multiple Sclerosis, and honorary consultant to the NHS Belfast Trust.

A member of many national and international medical and professional associations, winner of numerous awards and author of more than 200 publications, on 29 November 2008 a portrait of Dame Ingrid was unveiled in the Canada Room, later joining those of Mollie McGeown, Mary McAleese and Baroness May Blood in the Great Hall.

Professor Yvonne Galligan

Yvonne Galligan is Professor of Comparative Politics and Director of the Centre for Advancement of Women in Politics (CAWP) in Queen’s University Belfast. She has written extensively on women and politics in Ireland and Europe and is one of the most respected and influential voices on the relationship between gender and democracy.

Her research on reforming political processes has changed the attitudes of politicians, political parties and government.

Yvonne also leads the Queen’s Gender Initiative, and in that role she advocates for embedding a gender equality culture in the University.

Thelma Hopkins

A student at Queen’s during the 1950s, Thelma Hopkins was recognised as a world- class athlete and superb all-round sportswoman.

She excelled at international level in 3 sports - athletics, hockey and squash. At the age of 16 and representing Great Britain, she came fourth in the high jump event in the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki, and went on to win a silver medal, 4 years later, in the Melbourne Olympics.

From 1951 onwards, she won a total of 33 Northern Ireland athletics titles, and on 5 May 1956, at the University’s sports grounds at Cherryvale (Belfast), set a new world record – 5 feet 8.5 inches – in the high jump.

Edna Longley

Named as one of the foremost public intellectuals that Ireland has produced, Edna Longley is a Professor Emerita at Queen’s University Belfast, based in the Seamus Heaney centre for poetry.

One of the most influential critics writing on modern Irish and British poetry, she has also had a considerable effect on the literary culture of Northern Ireland. A portrait of her was recently unveiled at the University.


Dr Mary McAleese

The former president of Ireland graduated in Law from Queen’s in 1973 and was called to the Northern Ireland Bar a year later. In 1975 she was appointed Reid Professor of Criminal Law, Criminology and Penology at Trinity College Dublin, and eight years later became Director of the Institute of Professional Legal Studies at Queen’s. She was the first female Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s in 1994.

Dr McAleese is a member of the Council of Women World Leaders, an international network of current and former women presidents and prime ministers whose mission it is to mobilise the highest-level women leaders globally for collective action on issues of critical importance to women and equitable development.

Professor Mollie McGeown (1923 – 2004)

Professor Mollie McGeown, a pioneer in the field of kidney disease treatment and research, was one of the University’s most distinguished medical graduates. She was instrumental in providing life-saving treatment to over 3,000 patients under the kidney transplantation programme.

On the 50th anniversary of the National Health Service in 1998, she was named as one of the fifty women who had contributed most to its success. To mark her contribution, Queen’s commissioned a portrait in 2002, which now hangs in the Great Hall; she was the first woman so honoured. The regional renal unit in Belfast City Hospital was named in her honour.

Lady McLaughlin

A Queen’s graduate, Brenda McLaughlin was formerly the Chairman of the South East Belfast Health and Social Services Trust and Vice Chairman of the Eastern Health and Social Services Board. In 1997, she was awarded the CBE for her contributions to the Health Service and the community.

She was appointed Pro-Chancellor of Queen’s on 1 January 1999, having served as a member of Senate since 1993. She has taken a special interest in the role and position of women within Queen’s and, in 1999, helped set up the Women’s Forum, which she chairs and which led to the establishment of the award-winning Queen’s Gender Initiative in 2000.

Dr Edith Newman Devlin (1926 – 2012)

Edith Devlin was for many years a highly popular and much admired teacher of literature in the then Extra-mural (Open Learning) department at Queen’s.

Her knowledge of, enthusiasm for, and analytic and descriptive abilities about, a broad gamut of the literary canon, drew students from all over Northern Ireland and beyond.

Her outlook was broad: she once stated that literature gave her students “a wider perspective and a greater understanding of what it is like to be a human being. It helps them to discover the essential self that lies under the worry and fret of everyday living.” She was appointed MBE in 1988, and was awarded an honorary DLit from Queen’s in 1993. (Image:

Professor Máire O’Neill

One-time British Female Inventor of the Year, Máire  is Director of Research for Data Security Systems in the Centre for Secure Information Technologies and is widely regarded as one of Europe’s leading cryptography experts, helping enhance global data security.

Professor O’Neill’s research involves designing novel security solutions for communications applications such as email, cloud, set-top boxes and mobile technologies. She invented a high-speed silicon security chip that is used in more than 100 million TV set-top boxes.

The digital security expert is the youngest ever engineering professor at Queen’s and the youngest to be elected a fellow of the Irish Academy of Engineering – Ireland’s premier academy.

Helen Waddell (1889-1965)

Among the first flood of women graduating from Queen’s in the early twentieth century was the brilliant Helen Waddell. She gained her BA with first-class honours in English in 1911, writing a Master’s thesis the following year.

Helen Waddell is best known for revealing to the modern reader the world of the medieval goliards (The Wandering Scholars, 1927), many of whose poems she translated in Medieval Latin Lyrics (1929).

She received honorary degrees from Columbia, Belfast, Durham and St. Andrews and won the Benson Medal of the Royal Society of Literature. She also pursued a very successful career as an independent medieval scholar, writer and translator.


Click here for more on Queen’s Gender Initiative and here for more on International Women’s Day.


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