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Gender Politics and Ireland Hilda Tweedy. A Link in the Chain: The Story of the Irish Housewives Association 1942-1992. Dublin: Attic, 1992. 144 pp. ISBN 1-85594-036-1 (pb); £5.99. Marianne Heron. Sheila Conroy: Fighting Spirit. Dublin: Attic, 1993.154 pp. ISBN 1-85594-080-9 (pb); £9.99. Emüy O'ReiUy. Masterminds of the Right. Dublin: Attic, 1992.160 pp. ISBN 1-85594-044-2 (pb); £7.99. Aübhe Smyth, ed. The Abortion Papers: Ireland. Dublin: Attic, 1992.207 pp. ISBN 1-855940-450 (pb); £11.99. Kate Shanahan. Crimes Worse than Death. Dublin: Attic, 1992.144 pp. ISBN 1-855940-531 (pb); £7.99. Una Claffey. The Women Who Won: Women of the 27th Dail. Dublin: Attic, 1993.158 pp. ISBN 1-855940-736 (pb); £7.99. Jane Gray In her recent account of contemporary Ireland, Rosemary Mahoney suggested that, in contrast to the women of Dublin "where aU I ever seemed to meet were women," rural women were almost invisible: "I saw them behind walls, in doorways, and peering out of windows."1 For American tiberal feminism, which has increasingly come under fire both from academic theories which chaUenge its prioritizing of the autonomous , self-contained individual and from women who question the assumption of shared female interests which guide its poUtical agenda,2 Ireland appears to provide a reassuring case study. Here is a backward, traditional sodety where women are oppressed in dired, unproblematic ways, but where recent economic and sodal change and the influence of ideas from abroad have put in motion the trends ensuring that Irish women wiU someday become just tike us. They wül "come of age" as the title of Mahoney^ book asserts. The problem with this "modernization" perspective is that it is a colonial one. It posits Irish women as "Other," espedally those rural women apparently left behind by the modernizing process, and silences them. It fails to recognize the extent to which gender relations, just tike other sodal relations, are produced in the context of relationships between as weU as within sorieties. The six recent pubtications reviewed here from the Irish feminist Attic Press together create a more complex picture of changing gender relations in the RepubUc of Ireland since the 1940s. They provide a number of strong chaUenges to the © 1995 Journal of Women-s History, Vol 6 No. 4/Vol 7 No. 1 (Winter/Spring) 1995 Book Review: Jane Gray 241 modernization discourse, although they also reveal, in some instances, its influence on Irish feminism.3 "So many people betieve that the women's movement was born on some mystical date in 1970, tike Aphrodite rising from the waves," Hilda Tweedy writes in the epilogue to A Link in the Chain (p. 111). Her book, together with Marianne Heron's Fighting Spirit, emphasizes that determined women were working towards gender equatity in Ireland in different ways long before the "opening" of the economy in the 1960s and before the founding of the Irish Women's Liberation Movement, which is often credited with initiating the feminist movement in Ireland in 1970. Tweedy was a founding member of the Irish Housewives Assodation (IHA), established by a small group of young, married, middle-class women in Dublin in 1942, whose immediate goal was to pressure government to improve living conditions during the wartime "Emergency." Reflecting women's primary roles as mothers and managers of the household economy at that time—roles enshrined by the 1937 Constitution—most of the organization's campaigns focused on consumer rights and pubtic health. But in 1947 the IHA incorporated the Irish Women's Citizens Assodation, an organization which could trace its origins back to the Irish woman suffrage movement and which had opposed the Constitution for its curtaUment of women's roles. This brought with it an affiUation with the International Association of Women which, according to Tweedy, "strengthened our feminist convictions" (p. 22). In 1968, in response to a United Nations directive via the International Assodation of Women, the IHA joined with other women's organizations in an ad hoc committee which successfuUy demanded that the government set up a National Commission on the Status of Women, and...


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