Public debate on WWI's ‘separation women’

Fighting for 'King and country' was never a great motivation for Irishmen to fight in The Great War, but there was motivation to be found in the form of the payment of separation allowances to the dependents of servicemen.

Unemployed men, as well as those in casual employment, were assured that their wives and children would be able to keep a roof over their heads and have enough to eat if they joined the fight in Europe. However if soldiers were reassured by the allowances, others were alarmed that women were getting 'something for nothing', and a ‘moral panic’ ensued, with reports that allowances were being wasted on drink and dissolution.

In January 1916, a Galway magistrate scolded a woman "with a young family in Raleigh Row going down to the pictures and going home at 11.45...and £1 5s going to waste in this manner". It was "only a person with a degenerate sort of mind who on a fine day with the sun shining, goes to see this rubbish at the pictures", he told her. During the 1916 Rising, separation women came into conflict with Irish republicans, including Cumann na mBan.

On Thursday 14 January at 8 pm, in the Galway Mechanics Institute, Middle Street, historians Dr Fionnuala Walsh (Trinity College ), Dr Ann Matthews (author of The Irish Citizen Army ), Mary Clancy (NUI Galway ), and John Borgonovo (UCC ) will look at the phenomenon of the separation women and try to disentangle myth and fact. It will be chaired by Dr Sarah-Ann Buckley.

Admission is free and the event is organised by the Irish Centre for the Histories of Labour & Class. All are welcome.



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