To News Editors, Book Review Ediors and Feature Editors
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PRESS RELEASE To: News Editors, Book Review Ediors and Feature Editors From: Eileen Kelly, Institute of Public Administration, Tel: (01) 2403776, Email: email@example.com Enquiries about text: Anna Bryson, mobile: 087 9962560 Date: 6 March 2009 In an engaging new book from the IPA, entitled No Coward Soul: A Biography of Thekla Beere, Anna Bryson recalls an exceptional person who became the first woman to head an Irish government department, and, in her retirement, chaired the hugely successful Commission on the Status of Women. It is a biography full of human interest, hidden politics and modern history. 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 obtained a first class honours degree, she spent two years on an international scholarship in the United States, a formative period in her life. On her return to Ireland in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, she joined the civil service as a temporary clerk at the Statistics Office. In spite of her abilities, for several years she was assigned to junior positions. As a means to supplement her income, she became the first female lecturer in statistics in Ireland. However, the young civil servant showed herself to be both discreet and fiercely loyal to the new Irish state, and, in 1941, her virtues and talents were finally rewarded when she was promoted to the post of superintending officer in the Department of Industry and Commerce. Little more than two years later, she had become principal officer and was involved with the major wartime and post-war developments in transport. Her capacity for hard work, coupled with an excellent memory, enabled her confidently to confront both ministers and heads of state-sponsored bodies. 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. Interestingly it would be 36 years before another Irish woman was appointed to such a senior position. 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 wide recognition, and her report provided a blueprint for change on many issues including equal pay and the marriage bar. Nevertheless, since her death in 1991, her name has gradually faded from public consciousness. In this compelling biography, Anna Bryson sets out to share with readers an extraordinary story that has too long been left untold. Drawing on Thekla Beere’s private papers, the book provides many fascinating insights into the hidden politics and history of the period, as well as revealing a fulfilling life beyond the confines of public duty. In his Foreword, T. K. Whitaker commends the biography which, he says, ‘ shows how fulfilling and admirable a life can be if it combines achievement of one’s own potential with betterment of one’s community. Thekla eminently deserved such a tribute.’ No Coward Soul: A Biography of Thekla Beere is published by the Institute of Public Administration in paperback at €20. It is available from the Sales Division of the Institute, Tel: (01) 230 3768, email: firstname.lastname@example.org. ENDS The book will be launched at a reception in Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment, Rom 101, Kildare Street, Dublin 2, Monday 9 March 2009 at 6.00 pm. Members of the press are cordially invited to attend.