Falling Short of an encouraging title

Lynda Walker reviews The Irish Women’s Movement From Revolution to Devolution by Linda Connolly, Palgrave, £50 hbk

THIS BOOK sets out to analyse the Irish women’s movement in the 20th century and “seeks to address several lacunae in Irish studies”.

The title led me to believe that it would be an interesting read, but as I waded through the excessively wordy and obscure introduction I was tempted to put it down.

While there are some interesting observations, by attempting to deal with the whole of the 20th century the author does not give enough depth to her analysis.

For example she writes about the “continuous allegations of communism” levelled at the Irish Housewives Association. While pointing out the inaccuracy, she does not deal with or explain the anti-communism.

On page 125 the author quotes from Hilda Tweedy’s A Link in the Chain: the story of the Irish Housewives Association 1942-1992 (Attic Press) which cites the Roscommon Herald as an example of the press’s hostility to feminism-- “frequently labelling women’s organisations communist” -- prior to the 1970’s.

However, the quote, whilst undoubtedly anti-communist in tone does, not actually label the feminist organisation as communist.

The most interesting parts of the book are the interviews and the notes in the appendix. There is also an interesting discussion about women’s studies, class, academia and the community Some analysis is provided about how the women’s movement in Ireland is viewed from the outside and she cites Stephen Howe who in Ireland and The Empire: colonial legacies in Irish history and culture (Oxford UP) argues that: “Women’s movements in Ireland, north and south, have engaged for many years and with increasing success in campaigns for civil, political, social and reproductive rights. Challenging the entrenched and allied hierarchies of the state.”

Yet a significant body of feminist opinion outside Ireland, not least from within Britain, has virtually ignored these campaigns and instead acted as a cheerleader for the armed republicanism, bizarrely identifying its cause with that of women’s liberation.

How much more disappointing that the author gives little recognition to the women’s movement in the north. Since the ‘80s many organisations have linked up with women’s groups in the south. Indeed, the one organisation that she does mention, Clar na mBan, a pro-republican organisation, is referred to completely out of context.

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This document was last modified by David Granville on 2002-10-02 15:21:10.
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