1954 WHAT wish for an infant woman dreaming of a literary future?
The Marian Year. Blue and white statues of the Blessed Virgin were being raised in grottoes, carried in processions, perched on windowsills.
The 1950 s are not related to gender equality, sexual liberation, poetic license. The clichéd symbols of the fifties are the polar opposite of these beautiful concepts: the Censor, busily prohibiting books.
Dour nuns running Mom and Baby Residences. A cranky bishop swinging his powerful crozier, with a hotline to Leinster House. But in 1954 in the literary paradises the stars were aligned, potentially laughing. Hang on a decade or 2, bookish baby! The liberated sixties are around the corner.
By 1984, when the Marians were thirty– a great age at which to publish your first book, states Virginia Woolf– Ireland will have changed a lot.
Imagine being thirty in1954 Like my mom. Born in 1924, she left school aged 14 and operated in a grocery store. She loved her job; she loved making money and she liked talking to clients. She had to provide all that up when she married my daddy, a carpenter, in 1950, even though she didn’t want to, and although four years passed before she had an infant (me.)
My mother was smart, gregarious, difficult working, but circumstances constrained her (well, approximately a point.)
My life has been really various from hers. We simply delighted in better opportunities in a much better Ireland.
I started to release stories in 1974, books in the 1980 s– a time when mindsets to women and ladies writers were undergoing a quiet improvement in this nation.
That females were discriminated against in Ireland in the past is not up for conversation.
Not only were they rejected career opportunities, those who got tasks were paid less than their male coworkers. Women in the Civil Service had to resign on marriage.
Most substantially, the restriction on contraception indicated that marital relationship generally implied plenty of pregnancies and children, almost making sure that a lot of wives would not have time to work outside the house– and also ensuring, most likely, that they would not have time to write. I doubt if this was among the designated results of patriarchal legislation, however I am relatively sure it was a side effect.
The puritanical mindsets of Irish society, and State, up to the 1970 s, successfully discouraged females’s composing. Many writers, male and woman, fell foul of the censors in Ireland from the 1920 s to the 1960 s, if they were considered to have actually written ‘indecent or profane’ literature. A hint of anything to do with that taboo and wicked topic, sex, made the category. The lists of culprits were long.
I recommend that the slur of prohibiting on account of profanity or indecency would have injured females more than males, in a society which positioned the highest of worths on modesty and sexual innocence, and which, as is all too clear from the continuous revelations about Mom and Infant Houses, employed a double standard concerning sexual matters.
Women composed anyway, in Ireland’s dark days. Obviously they did, and some attained excellent success. However they were a distinguished minority. In the 1950 s, the Irish literary stars were mainly male. The canon of terrific Irish literature was male. The editors and publishers and customers and teachers were male. The voices of authority, in poetry and prose, government and pulpit, were male voices.
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Some would argue that this is still the case– the image Dublin Tourist promotes, of literary Ireland, is prejudiced. MOLI, the Museum of Literature Ireland, has made great headway in correcting the general public, touristic, image of Ireland as a nation of males authors.
However up until it opened a few years ago all the museums and literary centres around the capital celebrated Irish Guy Writers (as I believe they ought to be called. Why not?)
Nevertheless, as an Irish Woman Writer, born in 1954, I do not feel I have actually experienced discrimination as far as publishing is concerned. I happened to begin publishing books at a time when Irish literary society was opening its doors to ladies, inviting them in, nevertheless tentatively. Often, in those heady days, publishers and agents approached me, looking for ‘a woman author’. Has every Irish Woman Writer had the very same experience?
To find out, a few years ago I welcomed ladies writers born in the mid-twentieth centuries to compose an essay about their writing lives. I simply inquired to explain their own literary journeys. Twenty-one authors, from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, including poets, fiction writers, and playwrights, writers in Irish and English, have actually composed essays for the collection. How they selected to write about their writing lives I left to them, and as an outcome the essays are fascinatingly personal and delightfully varied, as to style, voice, concerns, and even length.
The majority of these authors published their first books in the 1980 s and1990 Several published at first with ladies’s presses– Arlen House, Attic Press– or with presses which were not particularly feminist however which were really open up to ladies writers, Poolbeg, Blackstaff, New Island, Salmon. Others used mainstream English publishers. (In an Afterword to the anthology, Alan Hayes, the publisher, has offered an important history of women’s releasing homes.)
In their essays, the authors discuss the obstacles they have cleared in order to keep writing: money concerns, parenthood, caring for elderly family members, divorce, bereavement, illness. The present generation of extremely effective female authors stands on their shoulders.
Look! It’s a Lady Author!