Mary Ryan (14 December 1873 – 16 June 1961) was the first woman in Ireland or Great Britain to be a professor at a university. She was the Professor of Romance Languages at University College Cork in 1910.
== Early life and education ==
Ryan was born on 14 December 1873 at 4 Thomas Street West, Cork city, to Edward Ryan and Matilda (née O'Connor) of Blackrock Road. Edward Ryan owned the soap manufacturing company which later made candles. The company became Kinsale Candles and now belongs to Punch Industries, a subsidiary of Henkel.Ryan attended, and was the first student, at St Angela's College in Cork; initially founded as a secondary school for girls by the Ursuline Sisters. The school extended its reach to become what was then known as a 'University top' where girls could get a University education before sitting the exams through the Royal University of Ireland. Women were not allowed to attend lectures in the University but they could sit the exams and get a degree. Ryan gained her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1895 from the Royal University.
== Career ==
Ryan became the first woman professor when she was appointed in 1910 in University College Cork. Ryan was able to join the faculty because of the legislative change in 1908 which had created the National University of Ireland, a University system which did allow for the admittance of women. While this created greater opportunity for Ryan and others, it spelled the end of the women's colleges like St Angela's since they were no longer needed to give women a University education.She was known for sending students to complete postgraduate education in the Sorbonne and she was awarded a Doctor of Letters for her publications. She was also awarded the Legion of Honour by the French Government.In a letter to Aloys Fleischmann, Seán Ó Faoláin had this to say about Professor Ryan:
"Mary Ryan- a monster as a professor: a sweet old lady no doubt. Do you know what she used to do? She used to TEACH us! Sacred Heart-teaching in a University!!!! You know grammar and syntax and this and that and... Oh! And Ah! and groans. And everybody said she was marvellous because she did teach the little ducks, spoonfed them, breastfed them, predigested their pap for them,"
Ryan retired in 1938 and died on 16 June 1961 at Gortalough, Douglas, County Cork.
== Legacy ==
In 2010 former President of Ireland Mary Robinson was part of the celebrations in University College Cork, held to commemorate the achievement of a woman being appointed as Professor for the first time.The UCC School of Languages, Literature and Cultures has named a scholarship in her honor, the Mary Ryan Language Scholarship, awarded annually.
== References ==
== Further reading ==
Kelleher, Olivia (24 January 2011). "Women in academic roles". The Irish Times. Retrieved 11 March 2016.
Hogan, Dick (23 November 2001). "Cork company punches above its weight". The Irish Times.
"Mary Ryan- First Woman Professor in Ireland or Great Britain". University College Cork.
Kelly, Laura (1 October 2010). "'Fascinating Scalpel-wielders and Fair Dissectors': Women's Experience of Irish Medical Education, c. 1880s–1920s". Med Hist. Republic of Ireland: Department of History, National University of Ireland, Galway. 54: 495–516. doi:10.1017/s0025727300006384. PMC 2948692. PMID 20922150.
Harford, Judith; Rush, Claire (2010). Have Women Made a Difference?: Women in Irish Universities, 1850–2010. Peter Lang.
Fitzgerald, Tanya; Smyth, Elizabeth M. (2014). Women Educators, Leaders and Activists: Educational Lives and Networks 1900–1960. Springer.
Kelly, Laura (2015). Irish Women in Medicine, C.1880s–1920s: Origins, Education and Careers. Oxford University Press.
"Mary Ryan Scholarships". UCC News Archives. 2012.
== See also ==
In Profile: Professor Mary Ryan | University Express
Women in University
The Admission of Women to the National University of Ireland Judith Harford 44 Education Research and Perspectives, Vol. 35, No.2, 2008
The College: A History of Queen's/University College Cork, 1845–1995, John A. Murphy, Cork University Press, 1995
President Robinson on Mary Ryan