Dixon, Beatrice Maureen (1916–2005), pioneer of women's participation in public life, was born 17 August 1916 in Dublin, the younger of two daughters of James Bayley Butler (qv), a professor of zoology, and his wife Katherine Butler (née McWeeney), who was the sister of Edmund J. McWeeney (qv). The elder daughter, Katherine Butler (qv), became a rather unconventional Sister of Charity. Although the family was catholic, the girls had several years in Alexandra School in Dublin, before being sent to board in the Ursuline convent in Waterford. When Beatrice left school she worked in Biotox, a manufacturing company established by her father, but after her father's remarriage in 1944, she went to England and joined the Women's Auxiliary Air Force and worked as a meteorological observer. When the second world war ended, she worked in London for two years and was a prison visitor in Holloway women's prison.
On 19 April 1950, in Dublin, she married Frederick E. Dixon (qv), who had come to Dublin to work as a meteorologist; they had one daughter. Beatrice, who like most women of her generation and class did not work outside the home, was nonetheless active in voluntary organisations and was particularly interested in developing the range of activities in which women could participate by right. She was prominent in the Irish Housewives' Association (IHA); chairman in 1954–5, she was selected as their candidate to stand in the 1957 general election in Dublin South West. She received 2,488 first-preference votes, and was only eliminated in the seventh round of counting. After discussions in the IHA about how women could play a greater role in public life, Dixon and Kathleen Swanton (who later became a Dublin Corporation councillor) applied in 1954 to be placed as volunteers on the jury list. Under the terms of the Juries Act of 1927, women property-owners would have been qualified and liable for jury service, but had always been treated as exempt and would have had to volunteer to serve. After many applications to officials, the women's names were added to the list in 1955, but it took several more years of determined campaigning before Dixon was actually summoned, and even longer before she served on a case; on several occasions her name was called but she was turned down in the courtroom. She later claimed that the authorities believed that women would be upset by court cases where violence or sexual matters were to be discussed, and also alleged that the lack of toilet facilities in court buildings was a consideration for officials, but she contended that the civil and legal rights, of men as well as of women, were infringed if women did not serve as jurors. Beatrice Dixon is believed to have been the first woman in the history of the Irish state to serve on a jury, in two high court cases in July 1957.
As part of the IHA's efforts to allow women a greater say in public life, a 'women's dáil' of 180 prominent women was convened in a Dublin hotel on 12 November 1972; Beatrice Dixon was selected to be 'ceann comhairle' or 'speaker'. The alternative parliament made a number of suggestions about ways to improve women's status and social condition, but had little direct influence on any future legislation.
Dixon made other contributions to society. She was for many years active in the Girl Guides in various roles, including area commissioner. She was a keen local historian, publishing several papers on the history of Dublin and on eighteenth-century philanthropy; for over fifty years she was a member of the Old Dublin Society, and served on its committee. Dixon loved gardening, and at one time offered gardening courses. Like her husband, she was an inveterate correspondent to the letters page of the Irish Times. In a lengthy widowhood, from 1988, she continued her involvement with historical research and voluntary organisations, and died after a short illness in Dublin on 16 March 2005. Her body was donated to the medical school in UCD.