Irish Women and Street Politics, 1956-1973

'This could be contagious'

By Tara Keenan-Thomson

In 1972, Hibernia cited a female street leader in Belfast who spoke of 'living women's liberation - not talking about it like the middle-class sisters in America: not burning bras but rattling bin lids.' It noted that, due to their increasing prominence on the streets, these women would be seen more and more as a political threat. Irish Women and Street Politics presents a probing history of radicalism in both parts of Ireland from 1956-1973 by charting the interaction between feminism and republicanism, civil rights advocacy, housing activism, and left-wing politics. It brings together for the first time a comprehensive analysis of women's roles within the wider spectrum of Irish radicalism throughout Ireland, Britain, and the US, and it draws on a broad range of source material to do so. Media analysis and original interviews with key activists - such as Mary Kenny, Mary Maher, Edwina Stewart, and Mairin de Burca - augment comprehensive archival research from Britain, Northern Ireland, Ireland, and the US to reveal how women on the margins of Irish political opinion worked to change the attitudes of the mainstream. In the Republic, the threat involved equal pay and family planning while in Northern Ireland the threat had less to do with issues and more to do with action. The introduction of gendered security tactics like Internment for men ensured that women leaders would emerge. These women created activist networks that redefined their roles as women in Irish society. Together, these women presented a damning critique of the traditional gender contract and through their work they demonstrated that a new concept of womanhood was possible.

306 pages

Publication Date: 4/1/2010
Format: Cloth
ISBN: 9780716530268