Reading the Irishwoman: Studies in Cultural Encounter and Exchange, 1714-1960

Geraldine Meaney, Mary O'Dowd, Bernadette Whelan

Research output: Book/ReportBook


In 1700 few Irishwomen were literate. Most lived in a rural environment, rarely encountered a book or a play or ventured much beyond their own domestic space. By 1960 literacy was universal, all Irishwomen attended primary school, had access to a variety of books, magazines, newspapers and other forms of popular media and the wider world was now part of their every-day life. This study seeks to examine the cultural encounters and exchanges inherent in this transformation. It analyses reading and popular and consumer culture as sites of negotiation of gender roles. The volume focusses on three key points of cultural encounter: the Enlightenment, emigration and modernism. The writings and intellectual discourse generated by the Enlightenment was one of the most influential forces shaping western society. It set the agenda for scientific, political and social thought for the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The migration of peoples to north America was another key historical marker in the development of the modern world. Emigration altered and shaped American society as well as the lives of those who remained behind. By the twentieth century, aesthetic modernism suspicious of enlightenment rationalism and determined to produce new cultural forms developed in a complex relationship with the forces of industrialisation, urbanisation and social change. This study analyses the impact of these three key forces in Western culture on changing roles and perceptions of Irish women from 1700 to 1960.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLiverpool
PublisherLiverpool University Press
Number of pages272
ISBN (Print)9781846318924
Publication statusPublished - May 2013

Publication series

NameReappraisals in Irish History
PublisherLiverpool University Press

Bibliographical note



  • gender; enlightenment; emigrstion; modernism


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