Honouring critical legacy of city’s first female councillor, Dr Mary Strangman

The motion to rename the Large Room was proposed at last September’s Plenary Council meeting by Councillor Mary Roche

Councillors Stephanie Keating, Cristíona Kiely, Joeanne Bailey, Lola O’Sullivan and Mary Roche before a picture of Mary Strangman. Picture: Patrick Browne

She was a pioneering medic, Waterford’s first female councillor, and a champion of women’s rights. Now, Dr Mary Strangman has been honoured at Waterford’s City Hall, with its signatory Large Room renamed in her memory.

Born in Carriganore in 1872 to Thomas Handcock Strangman and Sarah White Strangman, Strangman, home-schooled with her six siblings, went on break boundaries for women in medicine and create greater equality in women’s healthcare. At a ceremony last month, Waterford City and County Council paid tribute to the pioneer.

“In renaming this function room in City Hall the Dr Mary Strangman Large Room, we pay tribute to her achievements and reaffirm our commitment to upholding the values she held dear,” said Councillor Joe Conway, Mayor of Waterford City and County.

“Dr Strangman’s dedication to public health, and research in the areas of women’s health, nutrition and addiction marked her out as a remarkable person in any era, but especially in her own. She also championed the plight of women, working in a voluntary capacity with local female charities, and it is only right that we mark her achievements here today.”

In 1891, Strangman entered the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), the first medical school in Britain and Ireland to admit women on equal terms with men, along with her sister Lucia. After graduation she built a pioneering medical career in Britain and was awarded the fellowship of the RCSI in 1902, the second Irishwoman to achieve such a distinction.

Mary returned to Waterford in 1903 where she set up practice, championing public health and advocating for women’s rights.

As a suffragist, she was acutely aware of the inequities in women’s healthcare and franchise rights and when in 1911 women became eligible for election to local council, she stood for election, becoming Waterford’s first female councillor on January 15, 1912.

As an elected representative, she served on the Public Health Committee, advocating for policies aimed at improving the wellbeing of all.

She retired from public office in 1920. In 1923 she was appointed physician at Waterford County and City Infirmary, and also continued in general practice until shortly before her death in January 1943.

The motion to rename the Large Room was proposed at last September’s Plenary Council meeting by Councillor Mary Roche.

“Mary Strangman was ahead of her time,” said Roche. “Not only was she a medical professional who championed the introduction of an accessible and fair public health system for all, she advocated for women.

“Working tirelessly with numerous local female charities, she was undoubtedly a vital catalyst for the foundation and success of Waterford’s suffrage activities.

“Today, her legacy is more relevant than ever, and I am proud that we are honouring an eminent doctor, an advocate for social reform and a champion of women’s rights here today.”