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28 May 2024  

Herstory - NUI Archive


Illuminate Herstory Festival 5th – 8th January 2017

Illuminate Herstory is a new light projection festival to celebrate women and girls, illuminating the country with images of women when the Christmas lights go out over the weekend of Nollaig na mBan (Women's Little Christmas) on the 5 - 8th January 2017 (www.herstory.ie). 

To mark Illuminate Herstory Festival 2017, a letter from the NUI Archives written by Anna Dengel, a graduate of the National University of Ireland.

Anna Dengel graduated from University College Cork in 1919 with a BSc and MB BCh BAO. In recognition of her humanitarian work, in 1932, the NUI awarded her an honorary MD. She was the founder of Medical Mission Sisters.

Born in Austria in 1892, her compassion for women and children was, perhaps, driven by the fact that her mother died when she was nine. In her mid-twenties, upon hearing of the need for female doctors in a medical mission in northern India, she wrote to Agnes McLaren (a Scottish physician and Catholic Missionary). The hospital, established by McLaren, was founded specifically for the care of Muslim women who were not permitted to attend male physicians. McLaren advised Anna to qualify as a doctor; she applied to and attended University College Cork. Though the two women never met, Anna was inspired and encouraged by Agnes McLaren.

Upon graduation she spent four years practicing in Rawalpindi (Pakistan), before travelling to the United States in order to raise funds and recruit more women to help run the mission in India. During this time, Dengel along with three other women founded the Medical Mission Sisters in Washington in 1925.

The letter presented here, written by Anna Dengel, enquires if the NUI would admit a young German doctor so that he could obtain a recognized qualification to practice as a medical missionary in South Africa.

In the letter, written in 1924, Dengel expresses an interest in the Catholic Medical Missions; a year later, in 1925, she was to found the Medical Mission Sisters.

A graduate of UCC, she explains her reasons for specifically applying to the NUI: ‘I suggested the N.U.I. because I am a graduate of it myself. I was a student during the trying years of the war and the only enemy alien at the U.C. Cork. But I was treated with such kindness that I never felt that I was either an enemy or an alien’.

Herstory is a new cultural movement that will tell the lost stories of hundreds of women from history and today. Adopting a collaborative and experimental approach, Herstory incorporates the worlds of music, comedy, theatre, fashion, dance, photography, poetry, fine art, film and more. The objective is to spark a cross-pollination across generations, genders and nationalities.

Illuminate Herstory Festival forms part of a programme of performances and exhibitions that will take place nationally in 2017 and will then tour internationally with the Irish diaspora in 2018 (www.herstory.ie).