New Exhibition: Electric Generations


I’m very excited to be working on a new exhibition with my wonderful colleagues, Owen Davies and Ceri Houlbrook, from the University of Hertfordshire, and Deirdre McParland from ESB. Electric Generations: The Story of Electricity in Irish Homes grew, in part, out of the ‘New Technologies’ section of my Modern Wife, Modern Life exhibition.

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New Book: Perceptions of Pregnancy


Perceptions of Pregnancy from the Seventeenth to the Twentieth Century has just been published by Palgrave Macmillan. This collection of chapters, which I co-edited with my University of Hertfordshire colleague Jennifer Evans, is written by members of the Perceptions of Pregnancy Researchers’ Network. Jen and I co-founded this network in summer 2014 following our hugely successful three-day conference by the same name.

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Sex Education Without the Sex

I like to dip into previously watched programmes on Netflix whenever I’m too tired to fully concentrate but want to unwind by watching some TV. Recently, I’ve taken to watching Orange is the New Black again.

Early on in episode four of season two, viewers find Poussey, Taystee, Suzanne ‘crazy eyes’, Black Cindy and Janae in the dining hall of Litchfield Prison animatedly discussing female anatomy. To the astonishment of her friends, Poussey (though not actually using the scientific labels) revealed that women urinate via the urethral hole and not the vagina, as the other women thought. Their disbelief prompted her to query, ‘Didn’t ya’ll take sex ed?!’ Later in the episode, Sophia draws a diagram for the women. The day before watching this episode, I happened to be reading sex education guides published in Britain and Ireland in the first half of the twentieth century. Stick with me, I’m going somewhere with this!Continue reading “Sex Education Without the Sex”

Leinster House: Seat of Power documentary

A new documentary exploring the history of Leinster House as the site of the Irish parliament aired tonight on Oireachtas TV. Presented by John Bowman, it looks at how the building was adapted and used to house the government of independent Ireland. I contributed to the documentary and offered commentary on the Cumann na nGaedheal governments of the 1920s.

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Voices of the Home Front at The National Archives


For the past three days I’ve been at The National Archives at Kew with my colleagues from the Everyday Lives in War centre. In conjunction with the Archives, we organised Voices of the Home Fronts, a three day conference exploring aspects of the home fronts during and after the First World War.

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1960s Housewives: Content or Unconsciously Oppressed?

This post is really just me thinking out loud, as I try to work through one of the research questions with which I’m grappling at the moment: were Irish housewives in the 1960s content, or were the unconsciously oppressed? Thinking about it is leading me into the realms of philosophical debate.

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Single Women in the 1960s

Cinemas are currently showing the trailer for Bridget Jones’s Baby, the third instalment in the franchise which will be released later this year. Renée Zellweger has reprised the role of Bridget Jones, the woman who popularised the term ‘singleton’. Before I read Helen Fielding’s novels, I can’t honestly say that I’d previously heard the term ‘singleton’. Without thinking about it too much, I’d accepted that the word was the linguistic creation of Fielding. So I was more than surprised when I recently read William B. Faherty’s 1965 book, Living Alone: a Guide for the Single Woman  and found ‘singleton’ listed as one of the terms used to describe unattached women.

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Special issue of Women’s History

Back in July 2014, Jennifer Evans and I organised Perceptions of Pregnancy: From the Medieval to the Modern, a three-day international conference. Arising out of that conference, we guest edited a special issue of Woman’s History, the journal of the Women’s History Network (WHN), which was published today.Continue reading “Special issue of Women’s History”

Modern Wife, Modern Life Exhibition One Year On

L to R: National Print Museum, dlr LexIcon, Wexford Town Library, Westport Library.
L to R: National Print Museum, dlr LexIcon, Wexford Town Library, Westport Library.

Just over one year ago, Modern Wife, Modern Life: an Exhibition of Women’s Magazines from 1960s Ireland opened at the National Print Museum in Dublin (1 July – 30 August 2015). Since then, it has gone on to visit dlr LexIcon in Dún Laoghaire, Wexford Town Library, and Westport Library in Mayo. Leaving Ireland this summer, the exhibition travels next to the UK. Keep an eye on the exhibition website for details of venues and dates.

While the exhibition was on display at the various locations, I organised a series of related events. I gave curator’s tours at the National Print Museum and, in conjunction with the excellent Press Cafe, we held a 1960s cake afternoon. At dlr LexIcon, I was joined by author Lorna Sixsmith and we discussed expectations of marriage in 1960s Ireland; you can find the podcast here. And I spoke on International Women’s Day at Wexford Town Library about feminist themes in the magazines.Continue reading “Modern Wife, Modern Life Exhibition One Year On”

The Dangers of Washing Machines

There’s a lot of waiting around during the blessings of the graves, especially in cemeteries like St Colmcille’s in Swords, North County Dublin. My mum’s family are buried in the older part of the cemetery, towards the back, and as the blessings start in the newer section, it always takes a while for the priests to reach our plot. As a child, I passed some of the time by reading the headstones of the neighbouring graves. I remember asking my mum about the grave directly opposite that of my grandparents’. It was the final resting place of a toddler, Shirley Louise Larkin, who mum remembered was drowned after she fell into a washing machine. The strings on her coat got caught, keeping her submerged in the water. The story has always stayed with me, so when I opened an article (see below) after a general search on the Irish Newspaper Archive site this afternoon, I got goosebumps.Continue reading “The Dangers of Washing Machines”

Selling to women through 1960s magazine advertorials

I’m currently writing a chapter on the all-electric house for my book about everyday lives in 1960s Ireland. Past readers of this blog will know that I’m using women’s magazines as a way of establishing trends and expectations. Leafing through the pages of the magazines, a particular type of article recurs: the advertorial. These pieces explored various consumer goods and were accompanied by pictorial layouts of different models. Often the feature also included advertisements from the named manufacturers. A good example of this can be seen in Nuala Murphy’s article for Woman’s Choice (25 March 1969) about her Kelvinator vertical refrigerator. Continue reading “Selling to women through 1960s magazine advertorials”

The anxiety of writing

Depression and anxiety have been two companions of my adult life, and I’ve coped with them with varying degrees of ‘success’. I use the word ‘success’ carefully, though. Success stories in the media have, at times, made me question why I haven’t beaten them like other people seem to have, but I’ve come to accept now that they’re just something I live with, and coping, rather than beating, is okay. That said, I can’t help but worry that I’ve put myself in a situation, at least three times now, that exacerbates those negative feelings. Continue reading “The anxiety of writing”

North Strand Bombings: a Family Recollection

It has been seventy-five years since the North Strand Bombings and since my great granddad passed away. Between the night of 31 May 1941 and the morning of 1 June, four bombs fell on Dublin.  The first struck the junction of the North Circular Road and North Richmond Street. Minutes later a second fell on Summerhill Parade, while the third fell on the Phoenix Park, causing all the windows in Arás an Uachtaráin to shatter.  At roughly 2.05am the fourth and most destructive fell on the North Strand, leaving a crater at least eight feet deep. Continue reading “North Strand Bombings: a Family Recollection”

What Are You Eating?

I made a brief appearance this evening in the first episode of a new six-part series on RTÉ 1 called What Are You Eating? Presented by Philip Boucher-Hayes, the programme takes a look at processed foods and asks if people really know what goes into the food they’re eating. Continue reading “What Are You Eating?”

Researching everyday life in Carlow

I’ve spent most of this week in the local studies section of Carlow County Library listening to the county’s Life and Life collection. Life and Lore is a series of oral testimonies from around the country that have been collected by Maurice and Jane O’Keeffe since the 1990s. They provide an important record not only of everyday life, but also of superstitions, old traditions, songs, folklore and legends – not to mention accents.Continue reading “Researching everyday life in Carlow”

June 1927 Election: a parallel for Election 2016?

WITH THE ELECTION 2016 results not showing any clear winner or alternative coalition, there has been plenty of discussion about the possibility of another general election. The 1980s brought three votes in 18 months, but arguably the two general elections of 1927 offer a better parallel for the current situation. In June 1927, voters abandoned the government party (Cumann na nGaedheal, antecedents of Fine Gael) and turned to the various small parties that entered the fray. At another election three months later, they returned to Cumann na nGaedheal. Why? What happened to the other parties? And does this provide any indicators of what might happen in the aftermath of the current election?

You can read the rest of this post over on here.

Past Election Campaigns, Campaign Daily appearance

I joined Keelin Shanley on Campaign Daily today to discuss electioneering in past election campaigns. For those unfamiliar, Campaign Daily is a programme on RTÉ television that takes a daily look at the events of Election 2016. We discussed the cult of the leader, the first use of an advertising agency, the first television election and the use of opinion polling.

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Podcast: Expectations of Marriage in 1960s Ireland

Image: Marian Keyes, Senior Executive Librarian at dlr LexIcon, introducing Ciara Meehan and Lorna Sixsmith. Credit: Michael Liffey / Real Smart Media.

On 31 October, dlr LexIcon hosted a special event in association with my Modern Wife, Modern Life exhibition.  I was joined by Lorna Sixsmith, author of the recently published How to Be a Perfect Farm Wife, to discuss expectations of marriage in 1960s rural and urban Ireland.Continue reading “Podcast: Expectations of Marriage in 1960s Ireland”

Are you a good housewife?, The Irish Times

Woman’s Way was Irelands biggest selling magazine in 1960s Ireland. In this culture video for The Irish Times’  digital section, I looks at what made it so popular and what it tells us about Ireland at the time. Watch the video here.

Opening of ‘Love, Italian Style’


I was at the Italian Cultural Institute in Dublin yesterday evening for the launch of the Love, Italian Style exhibition. Curated by Niamh Cullen (University College Dublin), it looks at the changing perceptions of marriage from the 1940s to the 1970s in Italy, and draws on popular magazines — notably Grand Hotel — and diaries held at Italy’s National Diary Archive.Continue reading “Opening of ‘Love, Italian Style’”

A Fine Gael – Fianna Fáil Coalition?

The Irish Times is reporting this morning that Fianna Fáil might be set to vote on the prospect of coalition with Fine Gael at their upcoming Ard Fheis. Though Fine Gael is, to borrow the expression used by the newspaper, ‘the old enemy’, the notion of an alliance between the two is not unheard of. Nor is it a somewhat recent development — a response to the rise of Sinn Féin, for example. In fact, calls for an alliance, which in some cases went as far as to suggest that the political bifurcation of the old Sinn Féin party that occurred with the Civil War be reversed, came as early as four years after the end of the Civil War.Continue reading “A Fine Gael – Fianna Fáil Coalition?”

NEW Book: A Formative Decade: Ireland in the 1920s

A-Formative-Decade-cover-300x450The new book that I co-edited was — rather fittingly, given that it’s world book day — published by Irish Academic Press today. Co-edited with Mel Farrell (Maynooth University) and Jason Knirck (Central Washington University), it brings together established and upcoming scholars to explore Ireland in the 1920s.Continue reading “NEW Book: A Formative Decade: Ireland in the 1920s”