History of Ireland

Why are women mostly written out of Irish history books?


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2006-04-28 08:19:14
2006-04-28 08:19:14
Women in History BooksI'm a media historian and I found the same problem with American history books until the past several decades. For centuries, most history books were written by men, and they tended to follow the "great man" theory-- that is, only political leaders and monarchs and famous members of the military (mostly all of whom tended to be male) were considered worthy of being the subjects of history. So, we read about the wars, we read about the political speeches of famous candidates (in most countries, women couldn't vote), we read about the battles wages on behalf of various kings (with an occasional queen), and of course we read about the heroic aviators, inventors and sports figures (also nearly always men till fairly recently). Women were considered important only if they were married to somebody famous, and even when a woman did something that put her onto center stage, the authors of the history books didn't seem comfortable having her there. In America, women who achieved in business or law or some other non-traditional profession were often patronised by the media, assuming reporters mentioned them at all. It was common in magazines to portray the businesswoman as somebody who had given up her chance to marry and felt ambivalent about it, or the writers would make sure a career woman was quoted as saying all she really wanted in life was a husband.

The debate over women's role in the public sphere has been on-going for several hundred years. But since most histories were not social history, they didn't usually concern themselves with changes in society, or with issues related to gender-- it was believed that men's lives were more interesting and a male reader wouldn't want to read about a woman. [sigh] So, my advice? Do what I've tried to do-- find the women in your country who deserve to have their stories told, and tell them!


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