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BcX)K Reviews: Women's Lives, Nationalist Movements: Three Irish Cases Margaret Ward. Maud Gonne: A Life. Irish Political Women Series. London and San Francisco: Pandora Press, 1990; reprint 1993. xii + 211 pp.; ill. ISBN 0-04-440889-7 (cl); ISBN 0-04-440881-1 (pb). Anne Haverty. Constance Markievicz: Irish Revolutionary. Irish Political Women Series. London and San Francisco: Pandora Press, 1988. vi + 250 pp.; ill. ISBN 0-86358-161-7. Mary Rose Callaghan. 'Kitty O'Shea': The Story of Katharine Parnell. Irish Political Women Series. London and San Francisco: Pandora Press, 1989; reprint 1994. xiv + 187 pp.; Ul. ISBN 0-04-440882-X. Thomas Prasch Popular biography can be thought of as the bastard child in the family of historical writing. While the massive, multi-volume political biography , weighted with detail and scholarly apparatus, has a secure place on the shelf of historical scholarship, the popular biography remains a bit of an embarrassment: a bit too breezy in tone, rather tight on the footnotes, too obviously pitched toward the nonscholarly reader. But at the same time, its very popular appeal ensures the genre at least some sort of place in the family. Works in the genre are too well known, and their writers perhaps too well off (what historian, after all, would not rather be getting Antonia Fraser's royalties) simply to disown. And they provide better material for students than their weightier kin. Scholars' discomfort with the audience of the popular biography extends as well to the subject. Centered on the individual personality and only secondarily on the times, the popular biographer tends to overlook broader historical trends, and to notice such themes as social historians pursue only insofar as they touch on the biographical subjecf s life. Such work thus focuses attention on the vexed question of agency, taking as a given what many historians would be reluctant to concede: the importance , even the primacy, of the individual as maker of history. The series in which the volumes under review appear—Pandora Press's biographies of Irish political women—accentuates the issue of agency by imbedding these lives in still other contexts: the assertion that women indeed act as political agents as well as the specific political situation of Ireland's struggle for independence. They nevertheless remain firmly biographies: outlines of lives, not accounts only of political ideas or © 1995 Journal of Women-s History, Vol. 6 No. 4/Vol 7 No. ι (Winter/Spring) 1995 Book Review: Thomas Prasch 219 activities. All the volumes are geared to a popular audience. They are short (the text of only one going over two hundred pages), tightly footnoted (in the case of Callaghan's treatment of O'Shea/Parnell, not footnoted at all), and casual in approach (the reader is placed on an informal first-name basis with all three protagonists, for example, and even more familiar diminutives are employed for both "Con" Markievicz and "Katie" O'Shea). Despite the broad title of the series, all the volumes to date, including a book on socialist activist Catherine Despard and a dual biography of Markievicz's sister Eva Gore-Booth and Esther Roper, her partner in life and labor activism, have a narrower temporal frame, covering women active in the decades of struggle leading up to and (with the exception of O'Shea) immediately following Irish independence. All three of the women whose biographies are under review present interesting parallel complications for historians interested in Irish political women. None of the three were really quite Irish: O'Shea never even lived there; Gonne was the daughter of an English officer stationed in Ireland; and Markievicz's family, the Gore-Booths, were entrenched members of the Anglo-Irish Protestant aristocracy. Two are best known to posterity by the men in their lives: O'Shea as the partner in the love affair that ended Charles Stewart Pamell's political career, and Gonne mostly as the muse for whom William Butler Yeats burned unrequited and, to a lesser extent, as the wife (albeit estranged) of John MacBride, a martyr of the Easter Rebellion of 1916. All three, to a greater or lesser extent, come to their politics through men: O'Shea was politically...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-2036
Print ISSN
1042-7961
Pages
pp. 218-226
Launched on MUSE
2010-03-25
Open Access
No
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