A research initiative on 'Women and Irish Society: Understanding the Past and Present Through Archives and Social Research' received a significant research grant from the Higher Education Authority Programme For Third Level Institutions in Ireland. The Women and Irish Society project represented a collaborative venture between staff from the Departments of Applied Social Studies, English and Sociology in University College Cork. The project was successfully launched on Friday, the 18th of February 2000, in University College Cork and it was attended by a number of academics from Ireland, England and Canada who constituted the panel of experts and who provided support and guidance to the project.

The overall project aimed to develop UCC as an international centre for excellence in research into Women in Irish Society. It sought to illuminate the transformation of women's lives in Irish society over time and place, through sociological, literary and applied social research. The project was developed in partnership with the Boole Library and it underpinned the development of an international centre for research into Women and Irish society with the findings disseminated in diverse ways - through electronic media, a seminar series, international conferences and publications.

The oral history strand of the project sought to document the working lives of women in Munster during the period 1936-1960, through the collection of oral histories. The project is a study of the stories of women who engaged in paid work in the period 1936-1960. It is designed to elicit information from women about their experiences of working, their family lives, their schooling and their impressions of how women's lives in Ireland have changed since this period. The project aimed to examine if and how, women experienced or reacted to the prevailing social, cultural and legal definition of females as home-based and unpaid workers. The researchers believe that the focus on Munster was important, in facilitating investigation into the extent of organised, female labour activity in this part of Ireland.


Much of what is already known about women's involvement in the labour movement focuses on events that occurred in Dublin. By contextualizing the women's accounts with official records as well as locally available oral, textual and visual sources, the research provides a rich and vibrant insight into Munster women's working lives, in this under-researched period of Irish history.

A Young Ms. Madge Ahern (Research Participant)


The other two strands of the project were:

Women and Literature: Munster Women Writers Web site

Project Leaders: Dr. Pat Coughlan, Dr. Eibhear Walshe.
Project Researcher: Dr. Tina O' Toole, Department of English.

A detailed scholarly bibliography of Munster women writers from 1800 onwards will be compiled with a view to exploring the role of regional, class and gender factors in the formation and literary achievement of key writers.

Feminism & The Women's Movement

Poject Leader: Dr. Linda Connolly
Project Researcher: Tina O' Toole, Department of Sociology.

Archives and sources documenting aspects of the political, social and intellectual development of feminism and the women's movement in the Irish context will be identified, collated and developed into a data base. The material will be published as a documentary chronicle and a sociological analysis of feminist politics and the women's movement.