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Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, this three-year project lead by Leanne McCormick (Ulster University) and Elaine Farrell (Queen’s University Belfast) focuses on the sexually deviant woman, the bad mother and the criminal Irish woman in Boston, New York and Toronto. In year 2, Leanne Calvert was appointed as PDRA on the project.

The project seeks to explore how and in what ways Irishwomen were sexually deviant. We consider the role of women in the sale of sex, as prostitutes, as brothel-keepers, and otherwise.

We question to what extent and in what ways immigrants failed to live up to the image of the good Irish mother. Were Irish women migrants involved in illegal practices of abortion and infanticide to the same extent as their counterparts in Ireland? How did a perceived lack of familial support networks impact on the actions of mothers?

Finally, the project seeks to discover the criminal activity in which Irishwomen were involved. Our research thus far has revealed that Irish-born migrants feature frequently in registers relating to prisons, houses of correction and houses of industry. We consider if the evidence suggests that Irishwomen deviated from societal norms to a greater extent than other ethnic groups and if the reactions of the authorities were guided by ethnic prejudices.

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