The slender thread : Irish women on the southern Avalon, 1750-1860

Keough, Willeen G. (2001) The slender thread : Irish women on the southern Avalon, 1750-1860. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

Women's vital participation in early community formation in Newfoundland has long been overlooked by the traditional historiography Recent writings on migration and early settlement have been more inclusive, but women's lives still appear secondary and peripheral in texts dealing primarily with the activities of men To broaden the scope of the discussion, this thesis examines the multi-generational group of Irish-Newfoundland women who were co-founders of fishing communities along the southern Avalon peninsula in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. -- Irish women came out to Newfoundland to take advantage of opportunities in the fishing economy, following well-established trade routes between the southeastern counties of their homeland and the island. On the southern Avalon. they and their daughters provided demographic continuities and stability in fishing populations that rose and ebbed with the movements of transient fishermen. In both family and community, they held considerable status and authority They not only performed vital reproductive work for their households, but also became essential shore workers in family work units in the fishery, and were visible in various other capacities in the economic life of the area. These women were primary household managers. They were important spiritual guides in both orthodox Catholic practice and in an ancient. non-Christian system of beliefs and practices. They participated occasionally in communal actions and more frequently in individual interventions to defend property, family, reputation, and community standards. They also readily employed the evolving court system in pursuit of justice, often manoeuvring between formal legal mechanisms and informal confrontation to assert their claims. Thus, the construction of Irish-Newfoundland womanhood that evolved in this new-world setting contrasted strongly with the middle-class feminine ideals of domesticity, fragility, and dependence that increasingly circumscribed the lives of English gentry women in the area. -- Irish-Newfoundland women also resisted the pressures of gender ideology more successfully than their non-emigrating sisters. As the homeland underwent massive demographic and economic transitions throughout the 19th century, rural Irish women were increasingly channelled away from productive work and into domesticity and economic dependence. By contrast. Irish women on the southern Avalon remained economically active, and their status and power in the social, economic, and political lives of their communities remained intact.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/1550
Item ID: 1550
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves [720]-750
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > History
Date: 2001
Date Type: Submission
Geographic Location: Canada--Newfoundland and Labrador--Avalon Peninsula
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Women immigrants--Newfoundland and Labrador--Avalon Peninsula--History--18th century; Women immigrants--Newfoundland and Labrador--Avalon Peninsula--History--19th century

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