Missing Pieces: Women in Irish History
Organisation:Irish Feminist Information Publications
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Commentary From The Cedar Lounge Revolution

14th July 2014

This book, published in 1983 by Irish Feminist Information Publications with Women’s Community Press is an important addition to the Archive. As Margaret MacCurtain notes in the Preface this is a ‘co-operative reference work listing over one hundred women who have made a contribution to Irish life and culture over the last century’. And she continues, ‘as such it is a work of loving restoration, uncovering a wide sample of women who have had an impact on the course of Irish history’. She notes that ‘by putting women back into the context of their time the authors have contributed an important dimension to our knowledge of the past, as it flows into the present’.

The origin of the book is of particular interest. Again, Margaret MacCurtain notes…

…the remarkable way that Missing Pieces has been written. The six women authors involved in its making undertook it as a project begun and completed on a “Women in Community Publishing Course”. Irish Feminist Information Publications designed the programme and was the external training agency commissioned by AnCO [the precursor of CERT] to implement the nine month course for unemployed women.

She continues:

Funding was provided jointly by the Equal Opportunities Programme of AnCO and the European Social Fund (ESF) with a subvention from the Council for the Status of Women.

…in six weeks the women involved acquired the skills of research, design, layout, planning and editing and found they had the makings of a book. The decision to publish their findings was just one more step in finding their own power and as a cohesive group they assembled for printing a work of reference which they wrote in simple, clear language for an age group still school-going but also for the enjoyment of the general reader.

And MacCurtain suggests that:

They do not claim to have completed the process; indeed they intend to continue replacing the missing pieces. However they have in its first volume given a representative spread of female presence in Irish life. Missing Pieces is thus not only courageous revision of the conventional framework of the Irish past, but for those who participated in its making it became a process of setting the captives of that past not only free, but giving them, themselves back their power.

The book has a strong progressive tone throughout and – perhaps inevitably – those involved in campaigning for suffrage, nationalism and republicanism, trade unions and so forth are very well represented. And so in these pages one will find Mother Jones, Nora Connolly-O’Brien, Sinead De Valera, Margaret Anna Cusack, Charlotte Despard, Rosie Hackett, Eve Gore-Booth and many more.

The Introduction, which offers a brief historical overview, points to the approach adopted in putting together the work.

The invisibility of women in conventional histories is remarkable in the light of information contained in this book. Here are 100 biographies of women in Irish history. They come from all classes, from all parts of the country and from all walks of life. We haven’t included any women still alive and we had to confine ourselves to 100 words per women. This is regrettable as the vast majority of these women merit more detailed study. The period covered is from the famine to the present day.

Any further information on the publication or the organisations involved in putting it together would be much appreciated. The Archive is also aware that there is a deficit of Irish feminist and left publications that engage with feminism. Please do not hesitate to contact us as regards contributions.

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