Leaving home: Irish press debates on female employment, domesticity, and emigration to Britain in the 1930s

Ryan, Louise (2003) Leaving home: Irish press debates on female employment, domesticity, and emigration to Britain in the 1930s. Women's History Review, 12 (3). pp. 387-406. ISSN 0961-2025

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Abstract

Although Ireland has had a long history of female emigration, the 1930s saw an important shift in emigration patterns. In the context of southern Irish nation-building, the emigration of tens of thousands of young Irish women to Britain raised serious questions about the opportunities and roles of women in the Irish Free State. This article analyses the Irish print media of the 1930s as discursive spaces within which female emigration was repeatedly highlighted and debated. Discussions of female emigration were usually related to issues of female education, female employment and the duties of women within the home. These issues need to be located within the specific context of Irish Free State economics and politics. The Conditions of Employment Act (1936) and the Constitution of 1937 were legislative measures that attempted to define and regulate the role of Irish women. But that is not to imply a simple ideological hegemony in the Free State; I argue that the media debates reveal the competing discourses surrounding women's roles in the newly established nation state. For example, one view was that young women and girls should be given training and preparation for emigration, another view was that plenty of jobs were available at home, while a third view was that women should be content to remain within the domestic sphere. The much-repeated view that women would be better off (at home) illustrates the overlapping constructions of home - domestic sphere - and home - the nation. The overlapping and interconnecting of these home spaces signified a blurring of boundaries that meant Irish women were expected to carry the responsibility for national as well as domestic well-being.

Item Type: Article
Research Areas: A. > School of Law
A. > School of Law > Criminology and Sociology
A. > School of Law > Social Policy Research Centre
ISI Impact: 1
Item ID: 3579
Useful Links:
Depositing User: Repository team
Date Deposited: 06 Jan 2010 10:07
Last Modified: 15 Feb 2016 15:06
URI: http://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/id/eprint/3579

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