Electrification & the Modern Wife

The electrification of rural Ireland began in 1946. There has been a lot of coverage of this process in the last few days. RTÉ Archives shared this link about the ‘Quiet Revolution’, while TheJournal.ie posted this piece about how the social history of Ireland began to change as a result of rural electrification. And then yesterday, RTÉ Radio 1: Documentary on One broadcast ‘Then there was light‘. In the blurb for the doc, it was noted: Continue reading “Electrification & the Modern Wife”

Modern Wife, Modern Life one year on.

Four Exhibition Locations

(L to R): National Print Museum, dlr LexIcon, Wexford Town Library, Westport Library. 

Just over one year ago, Modern Wife, Modern Life: an Exhibition of Women’s Magazines from 1960s Ireland opened at the National Print Museum in Dublin (1 July – 30 August 2015). Since then, it has gone on to visit dlr LexIcon in Dún Laoghaire, Wexford Town Library, and Westport Library in Mayo. Leaving Ireland this summer, the exhibition travels next to the UK. Keep an eye on this website for details of venues and dates.

While the exhibition was on display at the various locations, I organised a series of related events. I gave curator’s tours at the National Print Museum and, in conjunction with the excellent Press Cafe, we held a 1960s cake afternoon. At dlr LexIcon, I was joined by author Lorna Sixsmith and we discussed expectations of marriage in 1960s Ireland; you can find the podcast here. And I spoke on International Women’s Day at Wexford Town Library about feminist themes in the magazines.

The exhibition, which looks at expectations of women as seen through the lens of magazines from 1960s Ireland, has proved popular, attracting individual visitors, women’s groups, and school / university groups from around Ireland and beyond.

How times have changed! Not sure I’ll be taking any of the advice – loved the quizzes though, learnt a thing or two!

~ Victoria from London

A wonderfully engaging exhibit. A unique insight into an earlier Ireland.

~ Sharon from Dublin

Very funny! Enjoyed it.

~ Myra from Sligo

Brilliant exhibition. Definitely belongs in a museum though!

~ Ian from Wicklow

 Very interesting exhibition!

~ Paola from Italy

So glad this time has passed!

~ Dianne from Richmond, USA


The exhibition also received a lot of media coverage, including pieces in the Irish TimesIrish ExaminerIrish IndependentThe Farmers’ Journal and TheJournal.ie.

A special word of thanks is due to all at the National Print Museum – especially Carla Marrinan – for giving me the opportunity to display the exhibition, for their advice and guidance, and for financially supporting the endeavour. Thanks are also due to those people who supported a crowd-funding campaign and to my employer, the University of Hertfordshire, for further funding that helped make the exhibition possible. I extend my appreciation to the National Library of Ireland and Aine Toner at Woman’s Way for permission to reproduce images from the women’s magazines on display. The original exhibition of magazines at the Print Museum was supplemented with everyday objects crowd-sourced from members of the public – to everyone who loaned me items, thank you! A particular word of thanks is due to David Kenny who kept the project ticking over in my absence while I was busy during teaching term in the UK.


Marian Keyes, Senior Executive Librarian at dlr LexIcon, introducing Ciara Meehan and Lorna Sixsmith

Podcast: Ciara Meehan & Lorna Sixsmith on 1960s Marriage

Marian Keyes, Senior Executive Librarian at dlr LexIcon, introducing Ciara Meehan and Lorna Sixsmith. Credit: Michael Liffey / Real Smart Media.

dlr LexIcon hosted a special event in association with the Modern Wife, Modern Life exhibition on 31 October 2015.

Ciara Meehan, historian and Modern Wife, Modern Life curator, and Lorna Sixsmith, author of the recently published How to Be a Perfect Farm Wife, discussed expectations of marriage in 1960s Ireland.

You can now listen back to a podcast of that conversation.

This podcast was recorded by Real Smart Media, and was generously funded by the History Group, School of Humanities at the University of Hertfordshire.

Modern Wife, Modern Life: an Exhibition of Women’s Magazines is on display on the 5th floor (wheelchair accessible) of dlr LexIcon until 15 January 2016.

Buy a copy of Lorna Sixsmith’s Would You Marry a Farmer? or How to be a Perfect Farm Wife here.

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Exhibition Launched by Senator Jillian van Turnhout

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Modern Wife, Modern Life was opened at the National Print Museum on 1 July by Senator Jillian van Turnhout. We were delighted that Senator van Turnhout was available to launch the exhibition, particularly because her mum — Jenny Hassett, nee Coleman (pictured above) — was a 1960s wife and is featured in the ‘Advice for the Newly Married’ section.

Opening her speech, Senator van Turnhout explained,

This is such an interesting concept for me and a unique way of documenting a period of Irish history where woman’s lives were almost exclusively restricted to the private domain, where “traditional values” prevailed, women were legally obliged to leave their public sector employment upon marriage, were prohibited from sitting on a jury and for whom many were too young to know or remember the one and only female Minister (Countess Markievicz 1919-1922).

She also commented,

It did get me thinking about whether this stereotyping of 1960s women as domestic goddesses or wannabe goddesses is any more offensive than the contemporary media obsession about how women of all ages look and perform.

I had a look through the shelves in Easons yesterday evening to get a flavour of the messages Irish women are receiving from magazines in 2015:

“Fifty, fit and flirty”, “How to shift that stubborn baby weight”, “Science validates correlation between hair length and relationship length”, “bikini ready in 7 days”, and enough instructive material that I could re-write the Karma Sutra!!!

Have we really moved on or has the focussed just shifted from the kitchen to the bedroom and incessant talk of weight loss and the quest for eternal youth?!!

You can read the Senator’s speech in full here.