Irish Feminisms, 1810–1930

1st Edition

Mary Pierse

Published December 14, 2009
Reference - 2426 Pages
ISBN 9780415475297 - CAT# RU56471
Series: History of Feminism

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Co-published by Routledge and Edition Synapse, the History of Feminism series makes key archival source material readily available to scholars, researchers, and students of women’s and gender studies, women’s history, and women’s writing, as well as those working in allied and related fields. Selected and introduced by an expert editor, the gathered materials are reproduced in facsimile, giving users a strong sense of immediacy to the texts and permitting citation to the original pagination.

This new title in the series brings together a unique selection of the multiple feminisms articulated by Irish writers between 1810 and 1930, a ‘long Victorian’ period. The five volumes foreground a multiplicity of beliefs and attitudes from novels, poetry, short stories, newspaper and journal articles, and essays, both by relatively unknown and by more celebrated writers (such as Lady Gregory, Lady Wilde, and the Parnells). While the history of feminism consistently and universally reveals conflicting interpretations of the female role in society, the situation in Ireland was significantly complicated by the backdrop of national uprisings, land war, world war, and the growing hegemony of a strongly religious patriarchy. In particular, the collection makes apparent the disparities of interest as writers confront, or covertly negotiate, the burning issues of education, suffrage, and participation in charitable work or politics.

Female frustrations, and collusion, with societal norms are documented in each of the thematically organized volumes. Volume I (‘Leading the Way’) includes key ideological articulations of Irish feminist beliefs. Volume II (‘Land and Labour’) is a collection of vital materials which show the intermeshing of women’s concerns with prevailing political turmoil. The question mark in the title of Volume III (‘Eire Abú?’ (‘Ireland Forever?’)) hints at the uncertainties facing women in any New Ireland. These fears are reflected in the materials reproduced in this volume, which contains work by the redoubtable Sheehy Skeffingtons, by the strongly feminist Haslams, and by Yeats’s beloved Maud Gonne. Nationalistic and feminist prose and poetry by sisters Countess Markievicz and Eva Gore-Booth—portrayed by Yeats as ‘one beautiful, the other a gazelle’—is also included in this volume. Bringing together extracts from biography, fiction, poetry and bitter-sweet drama, Volume IV (‘In the Real World’) is a repository of vital work which engaged with education, social and sexual mores, marriage, and religious life and the novel Callaghan is its fitting and concluding text. Finally, Volume V (‘Literary Approaches’) highlights disparate expressions of the evolving Irish attitudes to feminist issues, from the competing spheres of the convent and secular world (George Moore’s ‘The Exile’), to challenges to fixed notions of gender (K. C. Thurston’s Max). The sheer diversity of poetical contributions is fascinating.

Most texts in this collection have either not appeared at all since their first publication, or have never been reprinted in their entirety; the remainder have been extremely difficult to find. Their collocation and juxtaposition in these volumes provides a unique insight into a multiplicity of Irish feminisms, and vividly recreates the literary and historical climate in which they were written. With its comprehensive introductions, (which furnish vital background information), this ground-breaking collection is destined to be welcomed as a treasure-trove by all serious scholars and students of Gender and Irish Studies—as well as those working in Victorian and Literary Studies.

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