"Ulster Was Different?" Women, Feminism, and Nationalism in the North of Ireland
Over the past two centuries the relationship between Irish women and the nationalist movement has centred around a struggle for recognition and inclusion in the face of a male reluctance to accept female political agency. In the eighteenth century, concepts of citizenship and nationhood first became part of the revolutionary discourse. The citizenship that was established by the French Revolution of 1789 was dependent on a construction of gender difference. Citizens were male and political agency was assigned solely to men. This was accepted without question by revolutionaries, and it has constituted a challenge for generations of women.
In parts of the Northeast of Ireland, both male and female nationalists have had to contend with those who define themselves as Protestant, British, and nonnative Irish and thus do not have the same aims of selfgovernment and an end to British control. Religious, economic, and political variations have set Ulster apart from the rest of the country,1 and these differences have had an impact on women's political participation. Within this divided society women supporting Irish nationalism have found their relationship to the political movement mediated by factors specific to their situation. For example, gender differences assumed more importance in periods when nationalist sympathies were strong and male nationalists were consequently less in need of women's support. At other periods the different circumstances of Ulster hindered women's political participation. Generally, we can say that unlike in other parts of the country, northern women were not excluded from participation in the various