Adolescent Girlhood in Eighteenth Century Ireland

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This chapter draws on modern ideas about adolescence to explore writings by girls in eighteenth century Ireland. The central source used for this analysis is the journal of Mary Leadbeater, a Quaker from Co. Kildare which she began when she was eleven years of age. The format and tone of Leadbeater’s journal changed as she moved into her late teens and began to engage more with the public world of the Irish Quaker community. The chapter also draws on writings by other Irish women to chart the transition from girlhood through to young adulthood. When did Leadbeater identify herself as a woman rather than a girl? The article will compare Leadbeater’s account of her girlhood and adolescence with those of other Irish women. Dorothea Herbert’s memoirs lament not just her failure to marry but the fact that she continued to live in her parents’ house while her siblings and friends moved into separate marital homes. Did Herbert perceive marriage as the ritual which transformed girls into women and, if so, did she consider herself immured in a permanent state of girlhood? The article also compares the personal accounts by women of their girlhood with the numerous conduct books for girls which began to be printed in Ireland in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. To what extent did the theoretical advice bear any relationship to the reality of Irish girls’ lives?
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA History of the Girl.
Subtitle of host publicationFormation, Identity and Education
EditorsMary O'Dowd, June Purvis
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)ISBN 978-3-319-69278-4
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-69277-7
Publication statusPublished - 10 Apr 2018
EventInternational Committee of Historical Sciences : Congress - Jinan, China
Duration: 23 Aug 201529 Aug 2015


ConferenceInternational Committee of Historical Sciences
Abbreviated titleCISH

Bibliographical note

Article based on extensive primary research


  • girlhood
  • adolescence
  • Irish history


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