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Irish Female Emigration: The Views Of Akenson And Lambert

1265 words - 6 pages

In the late nineteenth and twentieth century, 4 million women, especially young single women, emigrated from Ireland to various countries including The United States, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada (Hayes and Urquhart 159). Donald Harman Akenson, author of “Women and the Irish Diaspora: The Great Unknown,” describes categories of fleeing women, which include: Young widows with children, married women with children, couples with no children, dependent females who were not yet marriageable, single women who can marry, women and unmarried women who were not able to marry (Akenson 162). Despite Akenson’s seemingly comprehensive conceptualization of Irish female immigrants, he fails to describe other dimensions of the emigrant as noted by Sharon Lambert, author of “Irish Women’s Emigration to England 1922-1960: The Lengthening of Family Ties.” These essays are discrepant when describing the experiences of Irish female emigrants, particularly in the categories of women who emigrated, their motivation for emigration, and their connection with family members following emigration. Regardless of these discrepancies, Lambert and Akenson agree that Irish female emigration was over sexualized.
The first discrepancy includes Akenson’s lack of mentioning unwed women and couples facing an unexpected pregnancy who were forced to emigrate for the sake of their families’ reputation. Lambert describes a study with the goal of determining women’s motivation to emigrate and in some of the documented stories, women cited that they emigrated to conceal pregnancies. In Irish society, sex was seen as taboo and women were not taught about sex, which caused some women to become pregnant without fully realizing their actions (Lambert 183). In addition to pregnant females leaving independently, some couples fled together after an unplanned pregnancy. In her article, “Sexualizing Emigration: Discourses of Irish female immigration in the 1930s,” Louise Ryan highlights that unmarried pregnant mothers were “invisible immigrants” who arrived in places such England to deliver their children and have them adopted out in order to return fully concealing their pregnancy (Ryan 8). Through excluding this group of emigrants from his description, Askenson portrays that all women who emigrated with children were either married or widowed and that this emigration was voluntary.
Furthermore, the authors have discrepant explanations for women’s motivation to emigrate. Whereas Akenson describes that many women emigrated as a result of fleeing rigid familial, cultural, and economic structures, Lambert argues that this only constitutes a small portion of female emigrants. Akenson highlights that in post-famine Ireland, the familial-economic structure remained stagnant and did not grow with modernization. Under those circumstances, unmarried women could immigrate to increase their prospects of economic independence, marriage, and freedom. Specifically, Akenson notes that women...

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