Breslin, Mary (‘Maura’) (1914–84), trade unionist and feminist, was born 29 December 1914 in Dublin. She began working life as a staff nurse in Grangegorman mental hospital, and began her lifelong activism in trade unionism by joining the Irish Women Workers Union (IWWU), founded (1911) by Delia Larkin (qv) and Countess Markievicz (qv). She was an IWWU delegate to the Dublin Trades Council. In 1958 she was elected president of the union, in January 1969 she was appointed its assistant general secretary, and in 1971 general secretary.
Breslin campaigned for equality for women not only in the workplace but also in trade unionism, often itself a bastion of chauvinism and restrictive practices against women. She was a member of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions' women's advisory committee, and was elected (1973) to the ICTU executive, the first woman elected since ICTU's establishment in 1959. She was active in the ‘equal pay for equal work’ campaign in the 1960s and 1970s, an issue on which the ICTU constantly compromised until a decision by the European court forced equality in the workplace. She addressed the commission on the status of women (March 1972) on the necessity for equality in recruitment, training, and promotion for women, especially stressing the need for trades apprenticeships for young working-class women and the ending of traditional male dominance in this area. Though considered too conservative by the standards of the militant 1970s, she still campaigned actively on behalf of the low-paid. In the late 1970s she targeted large corporate employers, including the Bank of Ireland computer centre, in a high-profile campaign on behalf of women contract cleaners on low pay. Ill-health from 1977 forced her to retire (1980); she was unsuccessful in a contest for a senate seat on the labour panel (1981), and died 10 February 1984. Breslin was an important figure in the development of Irish trade unionism and as a campaigner for women's rights as workers, as trade unionists, and as women.