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The Linen Hall Library today (Monday, November 1st) launches the culmination of its ambitious collections-based community driven heritage project extraORDINARYwomen, in celebration of their powerful and important contribution to Northern Ireland society and roles and attitudes from 1965, through the Troubles to the present day.

Two years in the making, this ground breaking endeavour recalibrates and retells the experience of NI women who have emerged through an extremely dark chapter in our recent history capturing the female perspective often missing from the narrative of the period under review.

It also charts the emergence of new movers, shakers, story tellers, change makers, influencers and activists; the diverse, formidable and fearless women who live amongst us determined to make their mark on the world in a project focused on ‘women supporting and raising each other up.’

This major undertaking will see approximately 50,000 pages and images from the Linen Hall Library’s most significant collections/archives including the NI Political Collection, LGBTQ+ Archive, Literary Archives, Travellers’ Collection and the Theatre and Performing Arts Archive, digitised, conserved and made globally accessible.

In addition, thousands of new items including oral histories, testimonies, stories, posters, scripts, articles and artefacts donated by contemporaneous extraORDINARYwomen are being added to the collection – all to be made available on a new content platform extraordinarywomenni.com going live next week (Mon, Nov 8th) supported by an exhibition.

Among the many contributors are Monica McWilliams, Ann Patterson, Brid Ruddy, Ruth Taillon, Lynda Walker, Anna Lo, Judith Gillespie, Geraldine Finucane, Arlene Foster and new activists on the block such as diversity champion, Orla McKeating, period poverty campaigner, Katrina McDonnell, Rebecca Bellamy, supporter of people and the planet, Orlaith O’Connor, LBGTQ+ and pro-choice activist and Amelia Kai, children’s book author and founder of inclusivity organisation MyIdentityNI.

To bring the project and exhibition to life, The Linen Hall Library will host a special in-person and online celebration on Monday November 8th. Attached is an open invitation to the public to attend the live streamed event https://vimeo.com/event/1409353

Julie Andrews,CEO of the Linen Hall Library will introduce keynote speaker Dr Lindsay Broadbent; a virology researcher at Queen’s University Belfast whose extraordinary journey during the pandemic saw her catapulted into the role of expert media commentator on Covid-19 keeping the public and local, national and international journalists informed.

Dr Broadbent will share more about her story, the important and lasting contribution she made during a global health crisis and how as an ordinary woman she rose, responded to and excelled in extraordinary circumstances. This inaugural lecture will become an annual fixture in the Linen Hall Library’s calendar and will be the focal point of a week in November dedicated to celebrating women in NI each year. Journalist Amanda Ferguson will also introduce three extraORDINARYwomen participants in a TV-style interview.

Julie Andrews CEO of Linen Hall Library said: “With women all around the world stepping into their power and standing in their strength and stories, there has never been a more relevant time to celebrate local women and give fuller expression to the important role they have played in shaping NI’s modern history. To the hundreds who have taken part, we salute you. The project could not have happened without your generosity and that of our funders National Lottery Heritage Fund, Department of Foreign Affairs (Ireland), Tourism NI, Foyle Foundation and Department for Communities.”

Jim McGreevy, Committee Member, Northern Ireland, The National Lottery Heritage Fund said: “We are excited to support the Linen Hall Library in celebrating this amazing project ‘extraORDINARY women: Women in Northern Ireland since 1965’. Thanks to National Lottery players, this project will strengthen the community by helping local people better understand their heritage and history and help others discover their own. Northern Ireland is home to fascinating heritage and we know it is a great way of bringing people together and creating a sense of pride of place, that in turn can deliver wider economic benefits”.   

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey said: “I am delighted that my Department has been able to support this important project that demonstrates and highlights the wide-ranging role of women and socially excluded groups in our recent past, addressing inequality and disadvantage and ensuring that all histories are included in the Linen Hall Library’s interpretations of women’s role and impact in society here.”

For further information contact: Una Carlin, Carlin Creative Events and Communications on una@carlincreative.co.uk; or on (07764) 354917 www.carlincreative.co.uk


The key area of investigation is on the changing and developing roles and attitudes of women during this momentous period – from the Civil Rights Movement, campaigns for equal pay and sex discrimination legislation of the 1970s, the expansion of women’s organisations and centres in the 1980s, the increase in participation in mainstream politics with the formation of the NI’s Women’s Coalition in the 1990s and ongoing campaigns for equality and inclusivity with the current equal marriage and debate around abortion rights reform. The project concentrates on themes of interest identified by the diverse community focus group during the development phase and includes- Education, employment and leadership – Family life and gender roles – Femininity, appearance and stereo-typing – Health and Resilience -Troubles and peace time. The project consulted cross-generationally through a series of workshops, exhibitions, pop-up, library and outreach events.