The political role of women in north-east Ulster, 1890-1940

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis covers the period 1890-1940 and focuses on the political role of women in north-east Ulster, specifically the suffrage campaign, women’s involvement in unionist and nationalist associations and in municipal and national politics. The extent, diversity and significance of women’s political participation has been uncovered both as ancillary workers and in the elective positions of MP, poor law guardian and local government councillor. The impact of women’s enfranchisement in changing women’s political stature has also been analysed, as have the methods deployed by women to exert political influence. These methods range from entertaining Tory and unionist leaders in high society to membership of popular political associations, such as the Ulster Women’s Unionist Council and the Ladies’ Auxiliary of the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

In spite of the variance of aims and levels of support which existed between groups of politically active women in the province, there are striking similarities in the role which women were assigned, and occasionally assigned for themselves, within the unionist movement and many facets of cultural, constitutional and republican nationahsm. In addition, the expectations of nineteenth-century local government reformers concerning the type of work which women would perform in elective positions were largely fulfilled. Both female guardians and local government councillors became involved in the most socially orientated aspects of municipal administration. Thus it appears that there were important differences between the type of work which was undertaken by women and men for political purposes. Women’s role in Ulster politics was, therefore, significantly shaped by gender which allowed a shared historical experience to develop amongst politically active women in the province from the late nineteenth to the early twentieth century.
Date of AwardDec 1996
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorMary O'Dowd (Supervisor)

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