Maeve O’Riordan opens the doors of the country house (or the big house as it is often referred to) in Ireland to reveal the lives of women among the Irish ascendancy. Drawing on personal records from twelve different families, the reader is provided with unprecedented insights into the female experience among the privileged landed class at a time of social upheaval in Ireland. Space is given to these women’s voices as they navigated the limited roles available to women at the time. Unmarried women are not excluded and their efforts at forging careers and identities outside the home are also uncovered. Though their names are now forgotten, women like Mabel O’Brien – who was depicted as wife, mother and society woman in her husband Dermod’s painting The Jewel (pictured on the front) – contributed to the public success of their families through their dutiful, private roles. Their marriages forged important social links and their commitment to home duties ensured that the family residence was a centre of prestige. Women of the Country House in Ireland will appeal to anyone interested in the history of women or the ascendancy. It invites you to step into the country houses of Ireland and, for the first time, to get to know the women who lived within their grand drawing rooms before the onset of the First World War and the Irish War of Independence.
Reviews‘O’Riordan’s insightful analysis is a real pleasure to read and no mean feat in a challenging archival context. Women of the Country House in Ireland more than achieves its goal of bringing women’s contributions into the foreground of our histories of elite life in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Ireland and opens the door for future explorations of gender and power in this stratum of Irish society.’
Leonie Hannah, Irish Historical Studies
'Meticulously researched... written in a clear, approachable way and analyzing previously unexamined archival materials, the study will benefit both specialists and general readers interested in the lives of Victorian women and the Irish ascendancy.'
Urszula Terentowicz-Fotyga, Victorian Studies
‘Women of the Country House in Ireland should be of interest not only to historians but also to those in other disciplines who study social inequality, and not just gender inequality. The complexity, contradictions and constraints of the multiple statuses that these women held is masterfully revealed in this book.’
Samuel Clark, History