The Written Memory of St. Mary’s University College, Dublin (1893–1912): The Pioneer College for the Higher Education of Catholic Women in Ireland

  • John M. Cunningham


St. Mary’s University College, 28 Merrion Square, Dublin, was the first establishment in Ireland to provide for the university education of Catholic women, and its records testify to a revolution in female education. Originally generated to support its foundation and function, these records now provide information on the administration, actions, and achievements of this institution established in the 19th century by the Dominican Sisters of Eccles Street, Dublin. Both the University Education (Ireland) Act, 1879 and the Irish Universities Act, 1908 provide the fundamental context of their creation and original function. Although not all items are afforded consideration, this survey provides a sense of the variety and extent of the records preserved, discusses the motivations that favoured their preservation, and asserts that the records demonstrate an archival sensibility ahead of written norms and obligations. The records that now survive provide authoritative evidence of the manner and means of the foundation of St. Mary’s and of its purpose, character, context, and demise.


St. Mary’s University College, 28 Merrion Square, Dublin, a été le premier établissement en Irlande à fournir une éducation universitaire aux femmes catholiques et ses documents témoignent d’une révolution en matière d’éducation des femmes. Générés d’abord afin d’appuyer son établissement et ses fonctions, ces documents fournissent maintenant de l’information sur l’administration, les actions et les accomplissements de cette institution mise sur pied au XIXe siècle par les soeurs dominicaines d’Eccles Street à Dublin. La University Education (Ireland) Act, 1879 et la Irish Universities Act, 1908 offrent toutes deux le contexte fondamental de leur création et de leur fonction initiale. Bien que chaque item ne soit pas abordé, ce recensement offre une idée de la variété et de l’étendue des dossiers conservés, élabore sur les motivations derrière leur conservation et avance que les dossiers témoignent d’une sensibilité archivistique qui dépasse les obligations et les normes écrites. Les documents qui sont survécu fournissent un témoignage fiable de la façon dont St. Mary’s a été fondée, de sa mission, ses caractéristiques, son contexte et sa disparition.

Author Biography

John M. Cunningham

A former rector of the Basilica of San Clemente, Rome, John M. Cunningham holds a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, Rome. He is author of The Basilica of St. Clement (Rome: Basilica San Clemente, 2015); editor of Sacrosanctum Concilium: Sacred Liturgy and the Second Vatican Council (Wells, UK: Smenos Publications, 2015), the proceedings of the sixth Fota International Liturgical Conference, 2013; and contributor of a series of articles on the evolution of ecclesiastical legislation and the role of the archivist in the diocesan inquiry of the canonization process to the Newsletter of the Canon Law Society of Great Britain and Ireland 193 (2018): 64–103. He is a graduate of the Scuola Vaticana di Paleografia, Diplomatica e Archivistica, and holds an MA in historical archives from the National University of Ireland. He is the Provincial Archivist of the Order of Preachers in Ireland and Chairman of the Association for Church Archives of Ireland.

How to Cite
Cunningham, John M. 2019. “The Written Memory of St. Mary’s University College, Dublin (1893–1912): The Pioneer College for the Higher Education of Catholic Women in Ireland”. Archivaria 87 (May), 88-103.
Studies in Documents