Gender, Identity and the Irish Press, 1922-1937: Embodying the Nation

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This study of the Irish Press from 1922-1937 demonstrates the ways in which particular gendered symbols, archetypes and images were used to embody notions of Ireland and Irishness: from emigration to unemployment, from militant Republicanism to the sinful pleasures of the jazz age.


“Ryan tells a compelling story of female images in the Irish press during the formative years of the Irish Republic. Most newspapers worked with the Free State government and Catholic Church to shape a particularly moralistic brand of Irish nationalism. Essential to that nationalism were symbolic women….A must-read for all interested in Irish history and Irish women’s studies. All levels.” - CHOICE

“…one of the most entertaining, informative and inspirational books of the year. Bookended by Irish Independence and the conception of the Constitution, it records and examines what life was like for Irish women, as illustrated by the national and provincial press….This is something truly worth having on your shelves; a companion for the rest of your days, whether you are mail or female.” – Irish Independent

“The project has proved really fruitful. Fascinating, funny and also horrific, the final chapter, Concealing Bodies, is about infanticide, apparently rampant in Ireland during the 1920s….Throughout this book Louise Ryan achieves depth and detail yet steers a clear course to her ultimate objective, not only just analyzing the position of women in the new nation but showing the important part that newspapers playing in the project of Irish nation-building.” – The Irish Post

“Ryan manages to make insightful points and raise truly interesting questions about the gendered construction of Irish national identity. In addition, she succeeds in drawing attention to ambiguities within the press concerning notions of womanhood, dominant and submerged. As a work, it challenges the narrative approach of some historians – those who ignore gender rather than those actively engaged in the collection of Irish women’s history. Indeed, the value of this book is in the way it complements that project, further emphasizing the significance of gender to Irish national identity formation, Irish nation building and, crucially, our understanding of them.” – Irish Studies Review

“This book is a detailed analysis of how newspapers were involved in representing and shaping gender interpretations and national identity … this book provides much food for thought.” – Journal of Irish Economic and Social History

“Through a study of different representations of woman – adventurers, emigrant girls, working women, mothers and republicans – Louise Ryan convincingly highlights the role of the press in reporting and reproducing certain categories of both idealised and demonised womanhood. This is an important contribution to the growing body of work about processes of gendering Ireland and of the gendered legitimacy of certain Irish identities compared with others.” – Mary J. Hickman

“What makes this book particularly innovative is the close attention the author pays to the latent contradictions and ambiguities in journalistic constructions of femininity, and her nuanced accounts of the rhetoric applied to both transgressive and conformist women in the Irish Free State…. this book fruitfully complicates received readings of Irish femininity in the post-revolutionary period and as such represents a valuable contribution to ongoing debates about the nature of gendered identities in twentieth-century Ireland.” – Liam Harte

Table of Contents

Table of contents:
Preface by Margaret Ward
1. Introduction
2. Fashionable Bodies: The Modern Girl; Adventurous Women and the Irish Press
3. Working Bodies: The Business Girl and the Woman in Industry; Emigrant Girls and the Absent Body; Woman, Citizen and Worker – the Constitution of 1937
4. Maternal Bodies: Family, Home, Motherhood and the Nation
5. Rebellious Bodies: Representations of Republican Women in the Campaign for Irish Independence; Militant Women in the Post-Civil War Period
6. Concealed Bodies: Newspaper Representations of Infanticide
Conclusion; Bibliography; Index

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