The historian Mary Daly says the
figures on women’s labour- market participation ….suggest a long term pattern of declining employment, which persisted in the Irish Republic until 1981. In that year women accounted for a smaller proportion of the labour force than in the late nineteenth century (1997, 5). Why do you believe this occurred? In your answer please define the concept of work and outline at least four historical factors which contributed to the declining employment of women.
Information about the work of women in the 20th century can be gathered from archives like the census or from autobiographical and oral history sources. Kiely and Leane point out the difficulty in gathering information about women in the workforce in the 20th Century as there was very little emphasis on the importance of recording it at that time (2002). However the information that is found shows the women’s role in work at the time which will be shown throughout the essay. Work itself is defined as an ‘activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result’ (Dictionary.com), thereby doing a chore in exchange for a reward.
Throughout this essay we will see the different factors that led to the declining rates of employed women. Among these are the marriage ban, the Catholic Church, the patriarchal times, the inequality towards women and the change in agriculture. Daly shows us that women’s work decreases until 1981 as seen through the census (1997), this idea is backed up by Clear who says that 60percent of the female population is ‘engaged in home duties’ (2000). Home duties involved such work as baking, child raising, cleaning and caring for the family. This was seen as a woman’s duty at this time and anything else was looked down upon as the woman would be neglecting her primary role.
Although there wasn’t many women in the workforce, there was however women who worked in factories, but there was very little as they were seen...
References: Clear, C. (2000) Women of the House: Women’s household work in Ireland 1926-1961, Dublin and Portland: Irish Academic Press.
Daly, Mary, E. (1997) Women and Work in Ireland: Studies in Irish Economic and Social History 7, Dundalk: Dundalgan Press
Hearn, M. (1990) ‘Life for domestic servants in Dublin, 1880-1920’ in Luddy, M. and Murphy, C. eds, Women surviving: studies in Irish women’s history in the 19th and 20th centuries, Dublin: Poolbeg
Kennedy, P. (1999) ‘Women and Social Policy’, in Kiely, G. et al (Eds), Irish Social Policy in Context. Dublin: UCD Press
Kiely E. & Leane, M., (2005) "Money Matters in the Lives of Working Women in the 1940s and 1950s" Accepted for Money & Culture: XIII Annual Conference on Cross-Currents in Literature, Film & the Visual Arts, May.
Owens, R. C., (2005) A Social History of Women in Ireland 1870-1970, Dublin: Gill and Macmillan
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