‘This is education at its best’ – Marie O’Donoghue of the Education Authority
Across an Open Field was launched at Hazelwood Integrated Primary School in Newtownabbey on 26th January. The children were supported in their research by local artist Ann Donnelly, writer Mary Branley and teachers David Burgess and Bernie McCarron.
The children focused on the Suffragettes and learned about key figures in the Ulster movement such as Dorothy Evans – organiser of the Women’s Social and Political Union in Belfast with Madge Muir – and Margaret McCoubrey, who believed that ‘a woman looking at a battlefield would not see dead Germans or dead Englishmen, but so many mothers’ sons.’ Luis Gilchrist and Lucy Shortt from P4 investigated Newry-born suffragette Elizabeth Bell: ‘She was the first Irish woman to qualify as a doctor. She was a friend of Emmeline Pankhurst and in 1911 she was put in prison for throwing stones at a department store. Back home she acted as a doctor for the suffragettes in Crumlin Road Gaol.’
Teacher Bernie McCarron said: ‘This project was of great benefit to the children. It gave them the opportunity to complete research and learn about a period of time in history that they probably would not ordinarily have got to study. The Suffragette Movement made momentous changes to the way women were treated in our society. The children have really valued the experience of being able to learn about the efforts they went to, to make the world a better place for the women of the future.’
Across an Open Field is published by Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership in association with Kilkenny Education Centre (representing the Association of Teacher Education Centres in Ireland) and the Education Authority, Northern Ireland. The book was created by children aged 8-12 from schools in Belfast, Down, Dublin, Galway, Kilkenny, Limerick, Monaghan and Tyrone. The children’s historical research is documented on a dedicated website which includes case studies and videos capturing their voices and perspectives: 100yearhistory.com