The 'Waking the Feminists' movement has received a prestigious theatre award in the US for its efforts to re-balance gender inequality on the stage.

The organisation, which grew out of reaction to the Abbey Theatre's male-dominated 1916 Rising commemorative programme, received a Lilly Award in New York last night.

The Lilly Awards honour the achievements of women in American theatre and never before has one been awarded to anyone outside the US; neither has one ever been given to an organisation.

The judges this year described the 'Waking the Feminists' movement as "a visceral explosion" that "mirrored" women's struggles in the US to have their stories told and heard. 

They said the US was "just a piece of the larger push for equality for women and girls" but that women in every country were responsible for their "own little corner of the world".

'Waking the Feminists' was a movement which grew from reaction to the Abbey's Waking the Nation programme which included just one female playwright in its 1916 commemorative productions.

The movement saw the women take over the stage of the Abbey for a day in November to register their disgust at the gender-biased programme. 

At the time the Abbey promised to strike a better gender balance in its offerings in the later part of the year, but that programme has yet to be announced.

The launch of the Waking the Nation programme at the Abbey

Sarah Durcan and Lisa Tierney-Keogh accepted the Lilly Award in a Broadway theatre last night, on behalf of the Waking the Feminists movement,

Ms Durcan said it was "phenomenal" to receive the first international Lilly Award just six months after the movement began. She described 'Waking the Feminists' as "a watershed moment in Irish theatre to come together to erase gender inequality in Irish theatre within five years".

She said she had already seen progress as seven organisations had promised to deliver on that promise in Dublin on International Women's Day.

Lisa Tierney-Keogh said it was "such an honour" to receive the award because it was "such a big deal in New York". She said she could never have imagined that the movement would "catch fire" in the way that it had and it was just "huge".

Lilly Awards founder Marsha Norman said what had appealed to her about the 'Waking the Feminists' was the "public nature of it", adding they had been "thrilled", by "the shaking your fists at the sky aspect of it".

She said there had not been a big protest on Broadway and so they were "so appreciative and proud" of what 'Waking the Feminists' had done, which was to "shout and pound".

Co-founder Julia Jordan said when she saw what was happening she was just "thrilled" to see the outpouring. She said 'Waking the Feminists' was just one reason that the awards this year wanted to focus on activists.

She said it was special to her because she is Irish-American and studied at Trinity College but she added that she felt there was something unique that because Ireland was such a small country, but the action was so focused and so clear, that if they could get the Abbey to change that "the ripples would be felt" and it could change an entire country.