A new exhibition has been launched at the Museum of Orange Heritage at Schomberg House focusing on the Association of Loyal Orangewomen of Ireland.
The exhibition, entitled ‘In the name of the Sisterhood’, was launched today (Friday, 6 March), in time for International Women’s Day on Sunday, and will run until 30 May.
The history of Women’s Orangeism goes back to before the formal creation of the first Women’s Lodge in 1800.
This latest temporary exhibition at the Museum of Orange Heritage traces the history of the Women’s Orange lodges in Ireland and throughout the world. It highlights the opposition and support that women have had to have their voices heard and to achieve representation alongside their Orange brethren.
Museum staff member Sarah Cameron, who was part of the team which carried out the research, introduced the exhibition to guests, including senior officers of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, the Association of Loyal Orangewomen of Ireland, and the Imperial Orange Council.
Sarah explained: “With a few notable exceptions, little has been done to highlight the contribution of women within the Orange family during the past 200 years. We hope that this exhibition will start a wider discussion about the important role played by this organisation and its continued contribution to the modern world, here in the British Isles and across the globe.
“Some wonderful women have left a remarkable legacy for the Ladies Association. Throughout its history, members of the Ladies’ Association have been to the forefront of activity, from politics to nursing, sport to benevolence, they have championed the cause of Orangeism and promoted the Reformed Faith.”
She added: “It is fitting, that on the cusp of this year’s International Women’s day, the Orange family takes this opportunity to celebrate the contribution of the Sisterhood.”
Speaking at the launch, Grand Secretary of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland Rev. Mervyn Gibson, who is also chair of the Museum of Orange Heritage Board, said the new exhibition had particular significance to him as his late mother had been a member of the Ladies Association for 70 years.
“It is important that we tell the story of the Ladies Association,” he said. “This exhibition is the product of a directive from Grand Master Edward Stevenson, who directed that we form closer links between the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland and the Association of Loyal Orangewomen of Ireland.
“This museum is for the entire Orange Family and we seek to tell the story of Orangesim that exists in every Orange Hall around the country and also in the hearts of every Brother and Sister. We are very proud of our history.”
Completing the formalities of cutting the ribbon to open the exhibition was Grand Mistress of the Loyal Association of Orangewomen of Ireland, Joan Beggs and Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Edward Stevenson.
Grand Mistress Joan Beggs commented: “The Association of Loyal Orangewomen of Ireland is honoured to be playing an active role in the Orange Family.
“I wish the exhibition every success and hope that many people, both within our Association and outside, come to see it and learn a bit about the Association of Loyal Orangewomen of Ireland.”
There are Women’s Orange Lodges in nine jurisdictions across the globe. In Ireland, where the movement originated, there are currently 90 women’s lodges.
This exhibition reveals the history of those associations and of some of the women whose ideals forged them. On display will be items representing women’s lodges around the world.
This exhibition is produced on pop-up stands and will be available for groups to hire from the beginning of June. To hire the exhibition, free of charge, please contact the Museum of Orange Heritage, Belfast, on 028 9070 1122.