Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
Dr. John Gordon
Dr. Robert Kenzer
In the early 1900s, Ireland experienced a surge in nationalism as its political leanings shifted away from allegiance to the British Parliament and towards a pro-Ireland and pro-independence stance. The landscape of Ireland during this period was changed dramatically by the subversive popularity of the Irish political party, Sinn Fein, which campaigned for an Ireland for the Irish. Much of the political rhetoric surrounding this campaign alludes to the fact that Ireland was not inherently “British” because it defined itself by two unique, un-British characteristics – the Gaelic language and the Catholic faith.
As Sinn Fein’s hold on Ireland increased, the Catholic Church took advantage of Ireland’s pro-Catholicism political climate and became an extraordinarily powerful force in the everyday lives of Irish people. This thesis questions whether or not the religiosity associated with Ireland’s uniqueness was also associated with freedom and independence for the women of Ireland during this period.
This thesis poses several key questions in order to posit the role of both nationalism and Church in the Suffrage movement. First, was it possible for Catholic women in early twentieth century Ireland to remain true to their faith while also seeking the right to vote? Additionally, how did feminists go about achieving the seemingly impossible task of appealing to the “proper” authority when lobbying for voting rights – by imploring the rebellious Sinn Feiners or by pleading to the British crown? How did they resolve the “Catch-22” of being either a rebel or a traitor? How did the Irish people react to militant feminism during a time of militant nationalism? Was it encouraged or discouraged?
This thesis concludes that the most “subversive” feminists who made the largest strides for women in Ireland also became the most rejected both by society and the church. This is affirmed in the anti-feminist nature of the Constitution of Ireland of 1937.
Donohue, Jennifer M., "Catholic nationalism and feminism in twentieth-century Ireland" (2009). Honors Theses. 647.