My review of “Moving Histories Irish Women’s Emigration to Britain from Independance to Republic” Jennifer Redmond

moving histories


MORE Irish women than Irishmen have over the years emigrated from Ireland. In this new history of Ireland from the 1920s to the 1950s Jennifer Redmond uses an important array of new sources to tell their story. This includes newspapers, archives, oral histories, statistics and personal stories.

The  Irish Constitution of 1922 enshrined for all citizens religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities, but it also lauded the traditional Irish woman as  wife and mother and not the feisty women of the Irish Citizen Army or the suffragettes.  Not a surprise then that after independence women emigrants  outnumbered men  1926-31 and 1945-51. In the 1920s 84% of emigrants went to the USA,  but,  as the latter brought in restrictions,  by  the 1930s 94% went to the UK. In the North of Ireland these figures were reversed,  perhaps  reflecting more job opportunities for women.

Redmond highlights the inadequacy of the new Irish Government to deal with a serious failure of the new state. As Redmond comments. “No elected official emerged as a champion of emigrants in the post-Independance period, and women representatives did not demonstrate an interest in either developing arguments on the necessity for women to work or defending female emigrants from charges of moral wantonness.”

Irish women emigrated primarily for work and for the better wages and conditions in Britain. Irish women (and men)  played  a significant role  in the many battles fought and won in the British  trade union and labour movement for a better world for all workers in this country. For me a major omission  from the book is any reference to this history,  including the role that groups such as  the Connolly Association played in issues such as the role of Irish nurses in the NHS.

Moving Histories is an important contribution to the history of Irish women emigrants  in the UK but the classic is still the 1988 “Across the Water Irish Women’s Lives in Britain” by Lennon, McAdam and O’Brien.  Both of these books, in their own ways, as Redmond comments  “explores these lives interpreting the weight given to loss and tragedy in narratives of emigration in a specifically gendered way.”

Buy it for £24.95 here

About lipstick socialist

I am an activist and writer. My interests include women, class, culture and history. From an Irish in Britain background I am a republican and socialist. All my life I have been involved in community and trade union politics and I believe it is only through grass roots politics that we will get a better society. This is reflected in my writing, in my book Northern ReSisters Conversations with Radical Women and my involvement in the Mary Quaile Club. .If you want to contact me please use my gmail which is lipsticksocialist636
This entry was posted in book review, Catholicism, Communism, education, feminism, Ireland, Irish second generation, labour history, North of Ireland, political women, trade unions, Uncategorized, women, working class history, young people and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to My review of “Moving Histories Irish Women’s Emigration to Britain from Independance to Republic” Jennifer Redmond

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