We Are but Women: Women in Ireland's History

We Are but Women: Women in Ireland's History

We Are but Women: Women in Ireland's History

We Are but Women: Women in Ireland's History

Synopsis

We Are But Women sets the history of Irish women in the context of the broad sweep of Irish history, dealing even-handedly with the diverse traditions of unionism and nationalism. Through an examination of exemplar individuals and organisations, the book traces the growth of Irish awareness of such 'women's issues' as emancipation, divorce and abortion. Above all, it acknowledges the key role played by women in finding a solution to the Irish Question.

Excerpt

Lady Fisher

I feel very privileged to have been asked to write the foreword to Dr Sawyer’s masterly book about the role of women in Irish affairs. This painstakingly researched and scholarly account covers an immense field, from the early mists of legend to the present day, when there is a woman as head of state in the Republic of Ireland.

As an Ulsterwoman who has lived most of my life in Northern Ireland, I have read with great interest and some pride of the part women have played in politics, the arts and the internal struggles of an always troubled island. Men have tried for centuries to settle the Irish problem. Where they have failed, maybe women will eventually succeed; their role as peacemakers and stabilizers of society could become even more important as we reach the end of the twentieth century.

It has been said that a woman is to be found behind every successful man. Oscar Wilde wrote that ‘All women become like their mothers…No man does’. This may or may not be true. But there is no doubt that the women of Ireland have achieved an immense amount in their own right, apart from wielding great influence behind the scenes. There have been militant political women like Countess Markievicz and Bernadette Devlin, and there have been women like Mairead Corrigan and Betty Williams who were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. At the beginning of this century, women as scholars, artists, actresses and playwrights played a dominant part in Ireland’s cultural revival. Ascendancy women, among them the great political hostesses, have always been influential in the corridors of power; Edith, Lady Londonderry’s close friendship with Ramsay MacDonald certainly influenced his thinking on Irish affairs. When Michael Collins at last put his signature to the Irish Treaty, he telephoned Lady Lavery and told her, ‘I have signed your damned Treaty’, knowing he had signed his own death warrant.

The chapters in which Roger Sawyer has written on such complicated issues as divorce, abortion, contraception and segregated education, both north and south of the border, are comprehensive and revealing. They throw light on the attitude of successive governments to these sensitive matters which affect women and family life.

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