Now we don’t like to play favourites, but one of our covers we will always have a huge soft spot for comes from December 1991, when the ever inspirational Mary Robinson graced our cover as our woman of the year. Here we revel in her grace, intelligence and poise, and share a few nuggets of her wisdom just one year into her seven year reign as Ireland’s first female president.
On overcoming self-doubt:
“It has been very much a learning year, and if I had residual doubt from the beginning about whether it was a real job that was challenging and worth doing, I have no doubt now. It has been a question of reading myself into it, understanding the Constitution and that the constrictions are not a barrier to doing the job.”
On the opression of women:
“We feminists need to value the concerns and pressures of women with children at home in an everyday context. It is time to pose these questions.”
On grass roots organisations:
“I have learned the importance of visiting a small group. It gives them recognition and value which can build up confidence.”
On the pressure of appearance for women in power:
“I think appearance and ceremony are the hardest elements of the position, but I take seriously the fact that, as a woman president, I must look well and wear Irish designs, though not always… I am aware that seeking to project well as a woman is very good for the morale of a great deal of women. Women take pride in the fact that I look well, but it’s not easy. When I am relaxing, I can assure you, it’s jeans and no make-up.”
On taking time off from work:
“It’s important and necessary to have enough time – the very public profile takes its own toll. You become used to being President and the focus of so much attention but you forget you are an individual and it’s very draining. [My husband and I] unwind through humour and that’s important.”
On being President:
“It’s a unique challenge. I didn’t really understand when people said to me, enjoy it, but how true that is. I am enjoying it, it is wonderful. It has been good for me… This office is directly related to people rather than to clothes or objects.”
Even twenty three years later, the Irish icon is still providing us with some serious food for thought.
Who would be your woman of the year for 2014?
Hannah Popham @HannahPopham