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WIVES, MOTHERS, AND CITIZENS: THE TREATMENT OF WOMEN IN THE 1935 NATIONALITY AND CITIZENSHIP ACT MARY E. DALY “clearly, male Irish political leaders saw women only in domestic terms. Women were mothers. Women were wives. Women minded the hearth and home.”1 Most historians would accept this evaluation of the position of women in the early years of the Irish Free State, but there are a number of dissenting voices. Caitríona Clear rejects the idea that there was a “domestic ideology” in Ireland in the first decades after independence; she argues that the attacks on women’s citizenship and employment rights in Ireland in the 1920s and 1930s—“substantial as they were—were piecemeal and inconsistent.”2 She proceeds to note that “de Valera’s irritation at feminist opposition to the constitution [of 1937] suggests that he did not inhabit a political environment that was entirely indifferent to women’s views: indeed, he told the late Professor T.P. O’Neill that Ivy Pinchbeck’s Women Workers and the Industrial Revolution (1933) had had a major impact on his thinking and forced his attention onto protecting Irish women and children from the worst effects of what he hoped was Ireland’s WOMEN AND THE 1935 IRISH NATIONALITY AND CITIZENSHIP ACT 244 1 Maryann Gianella Valiulis, “Power, Gender, and Identity in the Irish Free State,” Journal of Women’s History 6:4 and 7:1 (Winter/Spring 1995), 118. 2 Caitríona Clear, Women of the House: Women’s Household Work in Ireland, 1922–1961 (Dublin, 2000), 5. It is important to be more precise about the term “domestic ideology” when applying it to Ireland before 1960. Many Irish women who were not in paid employment devoted most of their time to the family farm or a family business, not to the home. Rosemary Harris, writing about rural Ulster in the early 1950s, drew a distinction between traditional farm wives whose priority was the farm and the farmyard, and more modern women who saw themselves first as housewives. Henri Mendras made a similar distinction with regard to rural France in the 1960s. See Rosemary Harris, Prejudice and Tolerance in Ulster (Manchester, 1972), 32–42; Henri Mendras, The Vanishing Peasant: Innovation and Change in French Agriculture (Cambridge, Mass., 1970), 91–92. industrial revolution. The fact that de Valera felt the need to invoke a feminist authority for his reference to women in the Constitution is indeed significant.”3 This is not the only instance where de Valera invoked feminist authority for his actions. In 1934, at de Valera’s request, John J. Hearne, the legal adviser of the Department of External Affairs, sent draft clauses from the 1934 Irish Nationality and Citizenship Bill to Alice Paul with a request that she comment on them. Alice Paul was a prominent equal-rights feminist in the United States, founder of the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage and the National Woman’s Party, and the author of the Equal Rights Amendment, an unlikely point of reference for de Valera or indeed any leading Irish politician at this time. The clauses sent to Alice Paul related to the treatment of citizenship in marriages between an Irish citizen, male or female, and a foreigner. The citizenship of women in transnational marriages was a topic of major concern to women’s organizations during the 1920s and 1930s. In Ireland the matter was inextricably linked with efforts by the new state to establish that Irish citizenship was not simply a local variant of British nationality but rather a distinct status with international standing.4 The clauses relating to married women provide new insights into de Valera’s attitude toward women, citizenship, and the family that may require us to reconsider the comparable clauses in the 1937 constitution . But first it is important to examine why the citizenship of women who married foreigners became such a heated issue in the interwar years. I In 1914 it was the almost universal practice that a woman who married a citizen of another country automatically lost her citizenship of birth and acquired that of her husband. Under common law, which applied in Britain and Ireland, marriage had no impact on nationality,5...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1550-5162
Print ISSN
0013-2683
Pages
pp. 244-263
Launched on MUSE
2017-08-31
Open Access
No
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