This book examines the lives of Irish women between 1890 and 1914, tracing the shift of their labour out of the fields and into the home. Joanna Bourke shows how their position within the employment market deteriorated: married women came to be increasingly dependent on their husbands' earnings, while economic opportunities for unmarried and widowed women collapsed. More and more women devoted all their productive enterprise to performing housework. In this
thoroughly documented and carefully argued study, Dr Bourke analyses the crucial elements in this change: the coincidence of sectoral shifts in the employment market, increasing investment in the rural economy, and the growth of a labour-intensive household sector. Controversially, she argues that Irish
women welcomed their altered role, finding housework preferable to many of the other options available to them.
'Joanna Bourke has written an important and stimulating study of the economics of housework in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century Ireland ... immensely informative book'
Virginia Crossman, Linen Hall Review, Spring 1994
'This dissertation-derived book offers a rich fruit-cake of statistical detail and anecdotal evidence ... Bourke has beaten a well-trodden path in sampling and analysing the Irish manuscript censual data for 1901 and 1911. Her analysis of this exceptional source is subtle and careful.'
Times Literary Supplement
'a complex and closely argued book ... It has been researched with formidable thoroughness and the analyses of such interrelated themes as female employment patterns, rural prosperity, and education for housewifery are challenging and important. Its readership should not be confined to either Irish or women historians.'
Elizabeth Roberts, Lancaster University, Economic History Society 1994
'an important landmark in the writing of Irish women's history... refreshingly free of feminist jargon...Bourke's suorces are extremely impressive in their range.'
Mary E Daly, Saothar 19
`an important and original analysis of this contraversial subject...one of the great merits of Bourke's work is that she has conducted a far-reaching enquiry, elucidating on every aspect of female employment, including occupations which only on the surface appear to be unconnected to the production process...Bourke shows that careful research and the proper use of documentation provides ideas and incentives for a more flexible and broader analysis.'
The Journal of Economic History 24:2
`a lively and important book which explores new dimensions of Irish rural society in the post-famine period and in the process reveals the hidden treasures to be found in seemingly dull sources such as reports of the Irish Department of Agriculture'
Mary E. Daly, University College Dublin, EHR, June 1996
`Bourke raises important questions in the study of women's lives.'
Ellen F. Mappen, Rutgers University, Albion, Winter '95
`This book sets new standards for the study of women's history in Ireland. No previous work has drawn upon so wide a range of primary sources or applied theoretical models to Irish data with such flair and sophistication. Those seeking to demolish intellectal barriers ... will derive both inspiration and practical guidance. Bourke assembles an astonishing range of unfamiliar material from hundreds of archival collections, parliamentary reports, newspapers,
periodicals, pamphlets and books ... the immense but selective bibliography represents the most comprehensive search yet conducted for documents relating to Irish women and will prove invaluable to subsequent scholars of women's and economic history. By restoring women to the productive process, it
challenges fundamentally our vision of Ireland's modernisation.'
David Fitzpatrick, Trinity College, Dublin, Irish Historical Studies, xxix, no. 116 (Nov.1995)
`Joanna Bourke's work is a major contribution to Irish women's history. It has been eagerly awaited by Irish historians of women, though many of its arguments have been available through previously published articles.'
Maria Luddy, Gender & History, Vol. 8, No. 3, November 1996