Dr Lindsey Earner-Byrne, UCD, “”My very manhood seems sapped’: Negotiating gender in the Irish Charity Market, 1920-1940”
The hope of a new social dawn faded quickly after Irish independence in 1922, when poverty deepened and its victims increased. Thousands of people were forced to negotiate a living. Due to the paucity of state assistance most people in need depended on convincing charities of their “worthiness.” This was an intricate balancing act requiring tact, technique and tenacity. Between 1921 and 1940 thousands of Irish people wrote begging letters to the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Edward J. Byrne (1921-1940), the majority of these authors were parents of small families who used these letters as a vital negotiating space with the hierarchy of their faith. Their letters amount to a good deal more than a litany of woes and requests; embedded in some and explicit in others is a deep social critique of the universe they inhabited. Despite their inherently vulnerable and weak position, Irish Catholics engaged with charity in a range of ways from assertions of loyalty to a more robust challenge, often railing against the injustices that condemned them to poverty. While this paper heeds the tenents of a “new history from below” by including the voices of the poor in the historical narrative, the intention is also to analyse these letters as scripts of poverty in which the poor sought to construct their own identities in a world that so often projected values or failings on to them. In particular this paper is interested in the role of gender in the charity dynamic both as a tool of negotiation and as a basis for expectations and judgement
MELBOURNE IRISH STUDIES SEMINARS
An Inter-University Forum for Irish and Irish-Australian Studies
Tuesdays, 6 pm to 7.30 pm
@ THE ORATORY, NEWMAN COLLEGE
When entering from Swanston Street, turn right into the main College building and up the stairs on the right of the corridor. Pre-seminar drinks will be at 6 p.m. and the paper will commence at 6.15 pm.
Melbourne Irish Studies Seminar Series
10th July 2018
6.15pm Newman College.