Two key speakers from the 'Visible & Invisible Women’ seminar on International Women's Day aim to highlight the experiences of women in the past.
On Wednesday 8th March Donegal will host a very special event to mark this year’s International Women’s day demystifying some of the most widely held views on the role of women in Ireland in the last 100 years.
“Women tend to think that their stories are just not interesting or unique enough to be told,” says historian Dr. Jennifer Redmond, President of the Women’s History Association and Lecturer in Modern Irish History at NUI Maynooth who will be speaking at ‘Visible & Invisible Women’ seminar in the Regional Cultural Centre in Letterkenny on Wednesday next.
Jennifer will be presenting her own work around women and migration and believes that the story of generations of women from all over Ireland including Donegal needs to be told.
“When we talk about migration there is always a greater focus on men than women. For example in Donegal you will often hear about the men leaving for seasonal work in Scotland and there is a perception that the women were left behind but often that wasn’t the case. Women went too but it is just not talked about”.
“Women’s story of migration is often different to men’s. Women who migrated worked mostly as domestic servants or went into nursing and in fact they were often more successful as they managed to progress in their careers and were able to blend in much better into their new communities”.
“The migration story is often difficult to trace because for the most part during the last century people did not need any form of identity papers to travel between Ireland and the UK, however during World War II this was not the case and researchers now have access to information that allows us to trace the movement of people during these years”.
“During next Wednesday’s seminar I will present profiles of women who migrated from Donegal during World War II and I will be looking at the story of Irish women who were nursing in London during the blitz and of their untold bravery during these very difficult times”.
Cécile Gordon is an Archivist on the Military Service Pensions Project in Cathal Brugha Barracks which is a flagship project for the government for the Decade of Commemorations and will also be speaking at Wednesday’s seminar.
“The collection relates to the individuals and organisations that brought about independence and led to the foundation of the state,” says Cécile.
“It is an amazing collection of applications for awards, pensions, medals and so on from veterans who participated in the events from April/May 1916 to the end of September 1923 and provides detailed accounts of their activities, through correspondence, application forms and references that needed to be provided as evidence of their activities”.
“My aim is to show what the Military Service Pensions Collection brings to the 1916-1923 table in terms of the experience and involvement of women during this period. And there is a lot that we know now thanks to the collection that we didn’t know before.
“Due to many factors, including the lack of primary sources, the women of the Revolution have been cast aside. They were disremembered. As a result their stories also have been consistently ‘simplified’ and their actions were steadily ‘reduced’ to some bland blanket statements mentioning the wonderful credibility of their engagement. The Military Service Pensions Collection helps us address the work of the women differently. The collection navigates between the personal story and its wider context”.
“Knowing the stories of those who came before you can be empowering and it can be inspiring and I’m certainly hoping that the new information that is highlighted by the material that we put online will contribute to the writing of a richer, more complex, more layered women’s history that is based on facts and on sound research”.
“But ultimately, I’d like to see men and women have these types of conversations together. I would like to see not only women at women’s conferences and seminars, but to see men at these events. For me, personally and as a professional archivist this would be very encouraging”.
The event which is being hosted by Donegal County Museum and Donegal Women’s Network will take place on Wednesday 8 March 2017 with a morning seminar in the Regional Cultural Centre in Letterkenny and a workshop style event including a tour of the Mná 1916 – Women 1916 exhibition by curator Sinéad McCoole in the Donegal County Museum at High Road in Letterkenny in the afternoon.
The event is free but booking is essential. To book your place and for more information call 074 91 24613 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org .