Bad Bridget: Criminal and Deviant Irish Women in North America, 1838-1918

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Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, this exciting three-year project led 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. We will appoint a research assistant in year two of the project.

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

We will examine the ways immigrants failed to live up to the image of the good Irish mother. Were Irishwomen 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 type of 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. Does the evidence suggest that Irishwomen deviated from societal norms to a greater extent than other ethnic groups and how far were the reactions of the authorities guided influenced by ethnic prejudices?

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