Women in Early Modern Ireland

Women in Early Modern Ireland

Women in Early Modern Ireland

Women in Early Modern Ireland

Excerpt

The historiography of women's history in Ireland is largely a story of neglect with only a small number of pioneers quietly insisting on establishing the significance of the subject. In England, critical investigation of women in the past developed out of the women's suffrage movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. There was a corresponding women's movement in Ireland but it did not give rise to the same interest in the history of Irish women. Curiously, this was at a time when Irish women historians achieved greater recognition and status than they have ever done since. The first professors of history in University College, Dublin and University College, Galway were women: Mary Hayden (appointed in 1911) and Mary Donovan O'Sullivan (appointed in 1914). Constantia Maxwell was a lecturer in Trinity College, Dublin by 1923 and in 1936 she was appointed professor of economic history. Other women such as Alice Stopford Green, Eleanor Knott and Ada K. Longfield also established reputations as historians and scholars in the first decades of the twentieth century. The research of most of these women was in economic and social history which occasionally touched on the role of women in society but none chose to explore the topic in any depth. The writings of Helena Concannon on the Women of 'Ninety Eight (Dublin, 1919) and her more general survey of women in Irish history (Daughters of Banba (Dublin, 1922)) were exceptional and are worthy of reconsideration in this regard.

Another notable exception to the neglect of the study of women's role in society was the publication in 1936 of a collection of essays on the position of women in early Irish law, edited by D.A. Binchy. Published under the discrete title of Studies in Early Irish Law and written partly in German, the volume analysed frankly and objectively the way in which early Irish law dealt with such topics as wives (including secondary wives), concubines . . .

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