Born in 1901, and although she had no formal primary education, Thekla Beere was one of the first generation of women to graduate from Trinity College. Having spent two years on an international scholarship in the United States, she returned to Ireland and worked in junior positions at the Statistics Office. As a means to supplement her income, she became the first female lecturer in statistics in Ireland.
A modern woman in a man’s world, she quietly subverted the male monopoly at the head of the Irish civil service. An acknowledged expert on shipping, harbours, railway and labour issues, she was appointed assistant secretary at the Department of Industry and Commerce in November 1953, and, on 1 August 1959, she was officially installed as secretary of the new department of Transport and Power - the first woman to head a department.
However, that is only one part of her story. With a zest for fun and adventure, Thekla Beere was a founding member of the youth hostelling association, An Óige. A gracious hostess, she also counted many of Ireland’s leading playwrights, artists and actors as close friends. In retirement, she served on a wide range of cultural, artistic, religious and charitable boards. Her role as chair of the Commission on the Status of Women prompted recognition from various women’s groups.
Nevertheless, since her death in 1991, her name has gradually faded from public consciousness. In this fascinating biography, full of human interest, hidden politics and modern history, Anna Bryson tells an extraordinary story that has too long been left untold.
- Early Days at the Castle
- Rockefeller Scholar
- The Emergency
- Appointment as Secretary
- Transport and Power
- Public Duties
- Commission on the Status of Women