Tag Archives: Micheline

Micheline’s re-enactment is smashing success, but she questions, Why isn’t there more to honour women’s courage?

On the 100th anniversary of women in Ireland gaining the right to vote, Micheline re-created her defiant grandmother Hanna Sheehy Skeffington’s act of civil disobedience against patriarchy by smashing window panes at Dublin Castle.

The day was perfect. Cold, but with bright blue skies. Micheline arrived early at the Castle Ship St entrance to meet her film crew and actor Rob McCarthy for rehearsals in a near-empty street. It was to be filmed for the documentary she’s making about her grandmother’s US tour. Cameraman Eddie Mullarkey and Director Sé Merry Doyle of Loopline Films were in attendance. By the time 11am came around, the place was mobbed with journalists wielding cameras and microphones all jostling to get her attention.

Gradually, a crowd of supporters turned up and, at 11.30, it was ‘Action!’ Micheline, dressed as a suffragette, walked down the steps at the side of the castle entrance, strode past a ‘policeman’ (in period costume) and, armed with a stick in her left hand, proceeded to smash a series of sugar glass panes in one of the nearby windows, to whoops and cheers from the crowd. She was promptly ‘arrested’ by the police officer. This deed was in conjunction with the erection of the plaque to honour the brave action taken in 1912 by her grandmother, who was jailed for two months for her vandalism.

(Above photos and directly below, copyright Julien Behal/Courtesy of OPW)

Photo copyright Julien Bihal

The City Council kindly provided an excellent facsimile of the plaque which was on display next to the smashed window. The Irish version of the wording is even more

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(Photo of plaque by Mary McCoy)

graphic and got approving comment!

Micheline (having been ‘released’) then made her soap-box speech to a large attentive crowd (and some bemused tourists), reminding people that Hanna was very courageous in 1912 as it was 5am, she was virtually alone – and the Castle was full of British military. She explained why this re-enactment was arranged for Feb. 6, as it was exactly 100 years since, in 1918, the Representation of the People Act allowed women over 30, who had property rights or a university education to vote for the first time in Ireland (and Britain). It wasn’t until independence in 1922 that women gained equal voting rights with men in Ireland – six years before they did in Britain.

Micheline spoke of how women have made gains in 100 years, but more change is needed.

‘It is the courage of people who take a sometimes unpopular stance that we celebrate today,’ she said, and then referred to the female lecturers at NUI Galway who are still fighting for their right to be promoted. She highlighted their bravery in standing up to their employer.

“There is a sea change happening with movements like Waking the Feminists and MeToo, but it takes enormous courage to stick with it,” she said.

But what was especially striking was the level of interest from the media, which was well represented in all outlets the following day. “It felt like being in an ongoing film,” said Micheline, “with the battery of cameras flashing off and the array of mikes with questions fired at me from all sides.” Although she was overjoyed with the success of and interest in the re-enactment , another aspect shocked her.

‘Why was there nothing else at all planned for this centenary date?’ she asked.

She also questioned why there was no exhibition in the National Museum, though the Oireachtas is planning one later this year. “And why are there no stamps? An Post has none listed for their 2018 programme. Why not have a series with Hanna, but also Meg Connery, Margaret Cousins, Marguerite Palmer, Kathleen Houston, Hilda Webb and more?” And these were just the militants! “Ironically, John Redmond is to get a stamp — John Redmond whose Irish Party steadfastly opposed the women’s vote. Can you credit that?” she asked the crowd.

She gave an illustrated talk at a reception hosted by the Lord Mayor at the Mansion House and told about her grandparents’ exploits, but questioning again the lack of national interest in the day. Certainly the Office of Public Works (OPW), which suggested and coordinated the re-enactment, and Dublin City Council, which approved the slightly esoteric plaque and whose Mayor was hugely supportive of the commemoration, deserve all the credit for enabling the day to be marked. “This is to commemorate all courageous women who refuse to be treated unfairly. I’m so grateful to all who helped make it happen,” Micheline said.

The best bit of media coverage of the window-smashing event we could find is here: https://www.gettyimages.ie/detail/video/micheline-sheehy-skeffington-grand-daughter-of-one-of-news-footage/915264736

And Micheline, along with writer and journalist Nell McCafferty, historian and UCD lecturer on gender studies Dr Mary McAuliffe and feminist historian Dr Margaret Ward, spoke about women’s progress since gaining the right to vote on ‘Sunday with Miriam’ on RTE Radio. Listen to their conversation here at: http://www.rte.ie/radio1/sunday-with-miriam/podcasts/

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We post the NUI Galway Athena SWAN application

The campaign has been sent NUI Galway’s Athena SWAN application. This is the application that was submitted by the closing date of November 30th but which has failed to appear, or even be acknowledged, on NUI Galway’s Athena SWAN web page. This is the application they haven’t sent to Micheline and others who have asked for a copy, deliberately hindering any objections. Their action is in contrast to Maynooth University’s open announcement and application publication on Dec 1st.

Because NUI Galway won’t post their application on their web page, we have posted it below. Please note the line on Page 14: drafts of the application and action plan were circulated to all staff’. We know for a fact that that statement is not true.

If you have not submitted an objection yet, then please do. Just a simple line saying ‘NUI Galway should address the gender discrimination resulting from the ’08/’09 round of promotions to Senior Lecturer before they are given the award’ is enough. You can cite Micheline’s Open Letter for the details (which Athena SWAN have). Send it to athenaswan@ecu.ac.uk.

If you want to add other objections, like the untruth we pointed out above and/or the withholding of the application, then please do. Or perhaps you could cite the fact that no woman has been appointed to posts with any power: the new President is a man, the recently appointed College Deans have all been men, the recently appointed heads of research institutes, e.g., the Ryan Institute, have all been men.

Athena SWAN have now written to a supporter that objections need not be in by the end of this week, but by their return after the New Year.

We can’t tell you who sent us the application, but we can say we are very grateful.

Athena Swan Bronze Institution Application_NUIG_Nov17 submitted 30th Nov 2017 for print version Dec 1st 2017

Three years later and women are still fighting for justice at NUI Galway!

Today is the third anniversary of Micheline’s historic win for gender equality.

It was Nov. 13, 2014, when the Equality Tribunal issued its landmark ruling concluding that Micheline was discriminated against because of her gender when she was not promoted at NUI Galway in 2009, citing the university’s ‘ramshackle approach to the process’. That promotion round saw 16 men but only one woman promoted to Senior Lecturer, even though 52% of Junior Lecturers were women. Yet what has NUI Galway done since then to right the injustice against women in academia? Five other women who applied for promotion in the 2008-2009 round were exposed to the same injustices as Micheline — four of them are STILL fighting for promotion! Let’s review what has happened in the three years since the ruling.

Micheline’s win was the first time any woman in academia in Ireland or the UK had proved gender discrimination in promotion. It was major news in both countries on TV and radio and in newspapers and was followed by the release in early December 2014 of statistics gathered by Ireland’s Higher Education Authority showing the percentage of women at each level in Irish universities. The low percentage of women in senior academic positions resulted in another massive amount of publicity and genuine shock that Ireland was so poor in this sector, which had been assumed to be more enlightened. In fact, Ireland proved to be one of the worst countries in Europe for the university glass-ceiling index, which puts a spotlight on the lack of women in senior academic posts.

Having won her case and produced all this publicity, Micheline met with NUI Galway President Dr Jim Browne. She thought that telling him all she had found out through the case, much of which had not been made public and would be even more embarrassing to NUI Galway, would result in the five other women shortlisted in the 2008-2009 round being promoted. When he refused, she felt she had no alternative but to donate her €70,000 award to the five women so they could file court cases as they were out of time to go to the Equality Tribunal. When the media discovered her offer, there was even more publicity that first week of December.

That same week, Jim Browne indicated he would set up a Task Force to look into the discrimination of women at NUI Galway. He insisted the move was coincidental, planned before Micheline’s win and the bad publicity. Making things worse, he claimed to RTE NEWS that Micheline had agreed to be appointed to the Task Force. It was this claim which led to Micheline setting her Three Conditions before she would agree to serve on the Task Force. These conditions were: promotion for the five other women, correct the gender bias in the subsequent 2013-2014 promotion round, and ensure that future rounds promote the same proportion of women as there are at the level from which they are being promoted.

Micheline then gave a speech about her case in a lecture theatre which proved nowhere near large enough to hold all the staff and students who came to hear her speak. It was there that this Equality Campaign was founded to support her and the achievement of her Three Conditions. As we are not NUI Galway staff, but students, former students and others, we have been able to organise things which would have been difficult for staff to undertake. We set up a petition on Change.org, which as of this morning has 4,085 signatures; we undertook poster campaigns in the university highlighting the gender bias there. Most famously, we sponsored a cartoon exhibition that NUI Galway took down in the middle of the night but then relented and allowed us to put it up again after the resulting bad publicity.

Meanwhile, the five women had been meeting with university management to try to resolve the injustice, to no avail. In their first meeting with Jim Browne, he told them he ‘could not and would not promote them’ and that they did not deserve promotion. In the second, attended by the Chair of the Governing Body, Catherine McGuinness, they were told that they had to prove they deserved the promotion in court and warned by Chairperson McGuinness that they might not win. One of the women decided to pursue her case separately in the Labour Court, but four of the women initiated a High Court case in April 2015 that the university then sought to have thrown out. It was this hypocrisy that resulted in the Equality Campaign’s very successful benefit concert in March 2016 to raise money for the women’s High Court action and to highlight a demonstration against NUI Galway’s hypocrisy outside the court that May. NUI Galway’s response, three days before the planned demo, was to enter into mediation with the four women. But the mediation proved to be only a tactic to avoid the demonstration – the offer made to the women was not reasonable – and a new date for the High Court pre-hearing was set for March of next year.

Something else which came out of the initial publicity about Micheline’s historic win was the Expert Panel set up by Ireland’s Higher Education Authority to make recommendations on what to do about gender discrimination at Ireland’s universities. Again the man setting it up, chief executive John Boland, insisted at the time, like Jim Browne with his Task Force, that this move was purely coincidental and something he had always intended to do. The panel recommended in a report published in June 2016 (see Page 76 of report) that all future government research funding to Irish universities be dependent on receiving an Athena SWAN award. The first hurdle set by the funding bodies was achieving the Bronze level by 2019. In September, NUI Galway became the first Irish university to be turned down for the second time for the Bronze award, with the court cases filed by the women cited. All the other universities by then had received the award, except Maynooth, which plans to submit a second application this month.

All this pressure has resulted in some progress at NUI Galway. Last month, one of the five women accepted an offer which gave her a promotion now rather than backdated to 2009. A week later, NUI Galway announced the results of the university’s recent gender-corrected promotion round to Senior Lecturer, saying 58% were women. However, as we pointed out in our post, in actuality, 50% of those promoted were female. Still, this is a positive result that we believe is down to the pressure from this campaign. When earlier this year, NUI Galway announced a quota of 40% for women, we made much of how this was actually only 1% higher than the previous promotion round had achieved. With this latest result, finally the first of Micheline’s Three Conditions was on its way to being fulfilled. Though, as we pointed out, there was still a lot NUI Galway had to do to complete it.

Micheline, who returns on the 22nd of this month from her US tour, has told us that she is now even more determined to ensure that all five women who filed the court cases get all they deserve. She believes that it is their bravery in challenging NUI Galway that has allowed the changes for Irish academic women that have occurred over the last three years. So now we must all ensure they get what they have been fighting for.

Micheline’s first action will be an Open Letter to NUI Galway’s Athena SWAN team, to be sent from the West Coast of the US where she is now staying, stating that NUI Galway must resolve the injustice of the discriminatory 2008-2009 promotion round before the university applies again for an Athena SWAN award. This is her first move in ensuring that NUI Galway does not receive the award unless the university corrects this past gender discrimination. If NUI Galway applies without doing this, she will, with our help, be calling on supporters to flood the Athena SWAN organisation with objections to NUI Galway’s application. We will be publishing her Open Letter once it has been sent. Watch this space!

 

 

 

 

 

Micheline’s warm welcome continues in US – and she encounters a related surprise along the way

 

Micheline (from right, clockwise) visited feminist Emma Goldman’s gravestone in Chicago (where she was about to be filmed), met women in a local café after filming in the freezing Chicago winds, and was presented with a special sweatshirt by the Ancient Order of Hibernians in Buffalo, NY.


Two months in, Micheline’s US tour is still going strong. We were able to get some of the highlights from her in a phone call from Butte, Montana, where she and Eddie continued filming even while it was snowing hard!

Staying true to her goal to re-create her grandmother Hanna’s experiences, Micheline has traveled primarily by train. In her tour of upstate New York, she got off at several cities along the way, gave a talk at each that night, and then travelled in the morning to the next destination – going from Boston to Albany, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo, NY, before continuing on Amtrak for the 12-hour, 550-mile overnight trip to Chicago.

“It’s just what Hanna did,” Micheline explained. “Travelling on her own from place to place, being met at each station by a new group of Irish-American supporters and giving a talk there. But she did it for most of the 18 months she was in America, while her son –  my father – was looked after. Now that I am doing some of the same, I have a real sense of just what she took on.”

Micheline always received a warm welcome, but each city was a bit different:

  •  In Syracuse, NY, her talk, attended by the Irish-American community and students, was hosted by academics at Le Moyne College.
  • The Rochester talk was led by members of the local Irish-American Cultural Institute and hosted in St John Fisher College. While there, she visited the former Convention Center where Hanna spoke. Micheline said it is now a theater that happened to be featuring a play about Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, local suffrage campaigners – one for women, one for the black vote.
  • In Buffalo, members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, some of whom wore kilts in her honour, hosted her with a warm welcome at the Irish Cultural Centre, presenting her ceremoniously with an AOH sweatshirt at the end.
  • She spent five days in Chicago, speaking twice at the Literary Salon, as part of the iBAM! Festival, the city’s annual celebration of Irish Books, Arts and Music.
  • Micheline also gave a lecture to Loyola University, Chicago, about the gender equality campaign at NUI Galway.
  • In addition, she visited the gravestones of Emma Goldman and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, two feminist, anarchist and socialist friends of Hanna who were Wobblies – members of the Industrial Workers of the World union that started in Chicago in 1905.

Micheline said she enjoys talking to the people she meets on the trains – “just the randomness of it.” A man on the train to Chicago was so fascinated by what she told him and how it related to some of his own research that he researched more of Hanna’s story, sending around 30 news clippings to Micheline. “I don’t know if Hanna talked to people on the trains,” she said. “I presume she did because she was no longer travelling incognito once she was in the US and wanted to get her message across to everyone.”

There is a more personal story, too. Arriving in Chicago, Micheline then took a train to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she met two long-lost cousins – Michael Getty, who drove 500 miles from Omaha, Nebraska, to be there, and Tim Galvin, who lives outside Milwaukee.

Their great-great-grandmother was Johanna Sheehy, sister of Micheline’s great-great-grandfather Richard Sheehy (and Hanna’s grandfather).

Neither of them has been to Ireland, but they were very happy to meet Micheline. “And Michael is the spitting image of my brother Alan!” she said.

Michael and his brother even went to Chicago to hear Micheline speak. When they said goodbye, she said, “it was quite moving.”

Micheline is continuing her travels in Montana, Washington State and Canada before heading to California and then back to New York and New Jersey. She is now in British Columbia, Canada, where her Sheehy Culhane cousins – sisters Róisín and Dara – live, but where Hanna could not go, as the British would have arrested her.

 

 

 

 

Pressure on NUIG women lecturers from Athena SWAN, research funding link is debated in London magazine

The women junior lecturers’ gender discrimination court cases at NUI Galway have attracted the attention of a UK publication in an article published last week as well as a rebuttal to that article in a letter by Micheline Sheehy Skeffington that was published this week.

Times Higher Education (THE), a weekly magazine based in London, published an article on Oct. 12th arguing that linking an Athena SWAN award to university research fundinis putting undue pressure on the women to accept a settlement. 

According to the article, Kelly Coate, vice-dean of education in the Faculty of Social Science and Public Policy at King’s College London and a former lecturer at NUI Galway, said: “The Athena SWAN programme is being used as a mechanism to bully the women into accepting a derisory offer.”

But Micheline, in her Oct. 19th letter, strongly disagrees. She wrote that:

The pressure resulting from the failure of NUI Galway to receive the bronze award is excellent. Yes, the four women have been pressured by management to accept an inadequate offer, but that is because management itself is under even more pressure. Until the recent mediation, NUI Galway’s management had made no attempt to resolve this matter.

She added:

Continued pressure related to the Athena SWAN award will eventually result in these women receiving what they deserve – not the derisory compensation recently offered by NUI Galway management, but promotion to senior lecturer backdated, as mine was, to 2009.

Below is Micheline’s letter to THE in full:

Athena SWAN pressure will make difference

October 19, 2017

In your article “Athena SWAN funding link under scrutiny”, you report that Kelly Coate has written to Athena SWAN to question the linking of its award to research funding because it has put pressure on the four women taking High Court cases against my university, the National University of Ireland, Galway, for gender discrimination. These cases arose out of my own equality tribunal win for gender discrimination in the same 2008-09 round of promotion to senior lecturer, when 16 men were promoted but only one woman, even though 52 per cent of junior lecturers were women.

I totally disagree with Coate. The pressure resulting from the failure of NUI Galway to receive the bronze award is excellent. Yes, the four women have been pressured by management to accept an inadequate offer, but that is because management itself is under even more pressure. Until the recent mediation, NUI Galway’s management had made no attempt to resolve this matter.

I accept that the Athena SWAN award cannot be tied to an unproven legal case because the university involved could be innocent, but my equality tribunal ruling has already shown that the 2008-09 round of promotion was discriminatory. Furthermore, the ruling mentioned the other women. Despite this, NUI Galway has never agreed to an independent investigation. It was management’s refusal to do this that forced the four women to take their High Court cases (they were out of time to take an equality tribunal case). This is why Athena SWAN must insist that NUI Galway deal with this discrimination before awarding the institution bronze.

Continued pressure related to the Athena SWAN award will eventually result in these women receiving what they deserve – not the derisory compensation recently offered by NUI Galway management, but promotion to senior lecturer backdated, as mine was, to 2009. I am certain of this because through my case I saw the application forms of everyone shortlisted for that round. I saw proof that all four of these women were discriminated against as much as I was.

Micheline Sheehy Skeffington
National University of Ireland, Galway

Click on the link below to read the original article, which appeared in THE’s Oct. 12th issue:

Athena SWAN funding link under scrutiny in discrimination row

Click on the link below to read Micheline’s letter as it appears in the Oct. 19th edition of THE:

Athena SWAN pressure will make difference

Micheline sets sail to America

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Micheline on the Queen Mary II in Southampton Harbour.

Micheline’s US tour is underway! She set sail on Thursday, following her grandmother, Hanna Sheehy Skeffington, to the United States. Hanna sailed from Glasgow with her young son, Owen, Micheline’s father, using false passports. She kept to her cabin for the crossing, fearing recognition, as the British government had banned her from travelling.  Micheline departed from Southampton on the only available crossing this month — aboard the Queen Mary II — and she’s making the most of it. She tells us it’s been blue skies so far, with dolphins following the ship.

Micheline is travelling with Joanna McMinn, who helped arrange her tour. They arrive in

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At sea with Joanna.

New York soon after dawn on 7th September where Eddie Mullarkey will be stationed to film them disembark. They have a hectic schedule for the first ten days, which Eddie will be filming: Ellis Island, Carnegie Hall, the New York hotel Hanna stayed in, the home of anarchist/feminist Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, interviews with historians and curators as well as the lectures and media interviews Micheline will be giving. They will travel by train, again as Hanna did, from New York via Connecticut, where Micheline is to give another lecture, to Boston where she will give at least three lectures.

Micheline is determined that every lecture and interview in the US will reference her ongoing fight against NUI Galway for the promotion of the five women, who, like her, were shortlisted but not promoted in 2009. The women still have not been promoted as they were out of time to take an Equality Tribunal case as she did.  She expects extensive media coverage and has already undertaken more than 10 radio and newspaper interviews with journalists interviewing from the States before she arrives. Here is one of the articles in the  Chicago Sun Times.

The proposed film of the tour “Hanna and Me: Passing on the Flame” now has a producer, Margo Harkin, and director, Sé Merry Doyle, who made an excellent documentary on the feminist doctor Kathleen Lynn.  Joanna’s crowd funding eventually raised €24,000, enough to film everything they want to of Micheline’s tour. They are now hoping to help fund the next stage: Micheline will be encouraging her US audiences to donate to the cost of editing the footage and paying a researcher to assemble archive material of Hanna’s original tour. You can also contribute, if you’d like — Joanna has adapted her crowd funding site so that it can continue and raise the further €20,000 needed.

The eventual film will also reference the gender equality campaign against NUI Galway and include footage from our demos for the five women. The bad publicity for NUI Galway will continue to mount until they give in and promoted them. We hear that the next High Court hearing for the women’s cases against NUI Galway is now unlikely to happen before the end of this year. So when Micheline returns on 22nd November she’ll be in time to support us in making sure the next hearing gets the same large amount of publicity the last one did.

You can follow Micheline’s tour on facebook at hannasUStour, which will have news updates and all lecture details. Or you can follow Micheline herself on Twitter @MichelineShSk.

Government task force on gender bias welcomed, but at NUI Galway and other Irish Universities, it helps to look at where the power is

In July, the Higher Education Authority issued this year’s figures for gender percentages in Irish Universities and other higher-education institutions. Because this Web page focused on the four female lecturers’ mediation coming to an end at NUI Galway, we made no comment on the HEA report – and we didn’t produce an updated version of our table ranking the Irish Universities. But we found we didn’t need to: This year’s HEA figures got a lot more media coverage than last year’s, including Page One of The Sunday Times and most reports, including RTE‘s, singled out NUI Galway for still being the worst. It’s even come to the attention of the French science monitoring service!

As a result, we were pleased to hear the announcement by Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor that she would be setting up a Task Force and was inclined to implement gender quotas in promotion to correct the imbalance in Irish Universities. We hope the Minister will note what happened at NUI Galway when an Equality Task Force was appointed in 2015. President Jim Browne made much of the Task Force and the resulting adoption of gender quotas at NUI Galway. But where are we two years later? We have a new promotion round this year from Junior to Senior Lecturer where the gender quota adopted is 40% – just 1% higher than the percentage of women promoted in the last round and 12% lower than the percentage of Junior Lecturers who are women. If it is to have any meaningful effect, the minimum gender quota adopted by the new Task Force must, at the very least, reflect the percentage of women in the positions from which they are being promoted. The quotas should also apply to appointments from outside.

NUI Galway has a sorry record of proclaiming improvements for women and then backtracking on its commitments – as Micheline keeps pointing out.  President Browne also likes to claim that the 2015 HEA report into gender discrimination, commissioned shortly after his Task Force was formed, somehow came about through his efforts and not because of Micheline’s Equality Tribunal win. That HEA report made many excellent recommendations, including regarding the appointment of University presidents, which it considered critical in order to effect real change in the third-level sector. Regarding appointment criteria for president, candidates should have ‘demonstrable experience of leadership in advancing gender equality’ and this should be ‘included in the recruitment criteria and the framework for evaluating the performance of candidates’ (p. 47). We have learned that, at a meeting where the process of the replacement of Jim Browne as President was discussed, NUIG Governing Body instructed NUIG management to implement this HEA recommendation. However, it was subsequently ignored, as is apparent from the ad and on-line brochure for the NUIG presidency. It says it all. So much for NUI Galway being ahead of the curve on correcting gender discrimination.

Everything we’ve seen so far at NUI Galway has been window dressing to make it look like the University is doing something when actually it is doing very little. They created a Vice President for Equality and Diversity and then must have given her a very limited brief. So, as well as rolling out a hugely expensive unconscious bias training programme, which has yet to prove its worth, they have increased the number of women on some committees and on the management team, so that at least some percentages look good.

However, if you want to assess change, you should look at where the power is. It was notable in the recent HEA figures that every single Irish university continues to have a man as President – as they always have. At NUI Galway, every College Dean, virtually every head of a Research Institute as well as the Registrar – the only posts with real power besides the President – is still a man, despite at least a dozen appointments in the last couple of years. Things will have changed when half of them are women.

We gather that the final short-list for the Presidency comprises seven candidates, of whom two are women. What are the chances of either woman being offered the post?

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Hanna and Me: Passing on the Flame: There are only 12 days left to raise the amount needed to fund the documentary film about the centenary of Hanna Sheehy Skeffington’s courageous speaking tour of the US in 1917. To help Micheline follow her grandmother and tell her own campaign story in the US, please support the crowdfunding here.