Note: We wrap up our series of conference reports with a summary from Ciara Breathnach, Laura Kelley, and Sarah-Anne Buckley, whose panel on transnational motherhood, gender, and family histories receives a summary below.
Irish Mothers and Children: from Dublin to New Orleans
This panel used the lenses of gender and life cycles to thematically explore the ways in which poor women dealt with motherhood in very trying circumstances in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It presented three case studies that exemplified the strategies used by vulnerable Irish families to ensure economic buoyancy at home and in the transnational context.
Laura D. Kelley opened the discussion with her findings about female headed households (FHH) in nineteenth-century New Orleans. Her meticulously researched paper showed the ingenuity of immigrant Irish women and how they managed to negotiate with charity, governance, religious orders, employers, and newly found community to keep their families intact. Kelley’s findings contrasted sharply with the papers that followed.
The second case study presented by Sarah-Anne Buckley examined the experiences of poor female migrants in Britain at the turn of the century. Her fascinating paper showed how class, religion, and emigration were recurring themes in the petitions to the London Foundling Hospital, which was one of the few options for poor migrant mothers.
Ciara Breathnach’s paper concluded the session with a case study of economic disadvantage and health inequality in early twentieth-century Dublin. Her presentation used coroners’ courts records to discuss family breakdown and the grim realities of motherhood.