Inspiration Behind the Exhibition
Annie Meehan & The Young Wife
My late grandmother, Annie Meehan, posthumously provided the idea for this exhibition. Last summer, while browsing through some of her old papers, I came across a copy of The Young Wife, a marriage manual. Over the course of the past year, I have repeatedly returned to The Young Wife, reading it cover-to-cover. The pamphlet transformed from a forgotten object in an attic to a primary source for the historian. It was fortuitous that I discovered it when I did, as I’m now working on a new project that explores the everyday lives of Irishwomen (with a focus on the 1960s).
Locating the ‘Everyday’ Woman
My last book, A Just Society for Ireland? 1964-87 , dealt with such issues as contraception, abortion and divorce, but it was the politicians, policymakers, activists and lobbyists who were best represented. The ‘ordinary’ people, whose lives were at the centre of these debates, were noticeably absent from the sources. I thus turned to magazines — and, in particular, the letters pages — in an effort to locate the voice of ‘everyday’ women and to uncover their values and the challenges facing them in their day-to-day lives.
Reading through women’s magazines I came to realise that much of the information provided in the pages of these publications was similar to that offered in manuals such as The Young Wife. The major difference was the inclusion of advertisements showing the latest technologies and advice that pushed the boundaries by covering ‘private’ topics such as sex and intimacy. Consequently, I began to read the magazines as the new marriage manuals and the idea for Modern Wife, Modern Life took shape. I am extremely grateful to the National Print Museum of Ireland for allowing me the opportunity to stage this exhibition.
The exhibition is dedicated to the memory of Annie Meehan.