Mary Robinson

Since it’s St. Patrick’s Day, today’s Women’s History Month Moment focuses on an Irish trailblazer: Mary Robinson was the first woman to be President of Ireland. She held that office from 1990-1997, and was an extremely popular president, earning a 93% approval rating halfway through her term. She also served as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights from 1997-2002. She was a barrister, an academic, and a member of the Irish Senate before her presidency. After leaving the UN, she formed an organization called Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative, which had a mission “to put human rights standards at the heart of global governance and policy-making and to ensure that the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable are addressed on the global stage.” After that, she founded the Mary Robinson Foundation—Climate Justice, which focuses on education and leadership to advocate for social justice on behalf of the poor and marginalized populations affected by climate change. She studied law at Trinity College in Dublin, and was appointed the Reid Professor of Criminal Law there. She holds faculty positions at several universities and teaches international human rights at universities around the world. She once stated, “I want to take human rights out of their box. I want to show the relevance of the universal principles of human rights to the basic needs of health security, education, and equality.”

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