“so a word to the wise’: reassessing the role of the upper-class Irish father in nineteenth-century childrearing’

The Perceptions of Pregnancy blog, like the Researchers’ Network, aims to reach beyond boundaries and borders, and to facilitate an international and interdisciplinary conversation on pregnancy and its associated bodily and emotional experiences from the earliest times to the present day. This week Judy Bolger writes about a father´s involvement, through written advice, in the upbringing of his children.

‘So a word to the wise – Your mother says asses’ milk – or Breast milk given on a spoon’ wrote John D’Alton to his wife Catherine in 1819.[1] Though spending much of his family’s early years away from home, John’s surviving letters demonstrate that he was still very much engaged with his children’s feeding habits and their daily lives in Summerville, Dublin during the early nineteenth century.[2] Through these various references about his children, an alternative representation of the father is reconstructed. Much scholarly attention toward the period has reinforced the severity of the public and private divide amongst women and men.[3] However, such a sweeping generalisation about the gender norms of the period may not be as clear-cut as we have understood. In a nuanced manner, these letters not only showcased John’s engagement with his children’s rearing, but also his advice and interest in tasks that have hitherto been deemed outside his gender’s concern. Therefore, the extracts from the letters blur the lines between the traditional roles within the nineteenth-century upper-class Irish family.

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WHAI Conference 2016

The Women’s History Association of Ireland is hosting a conference on ‘Irish women and rural society, from medieval to modern’. The programme contains some pregnancy-related papers that may be of interest to members.

It is hosted at Queens University Belfast the 11-12 of March, 2016.

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Institutions and Ireland: Medicine, Health and Welfare

Institutions and Ireland: Medicine, Health and Welfare

A one-day conference exploring Ireland’s continuously evolving relationships with institution.

Neill/Hoey Lecture Theatre, Trinity Long Room Hub, Dublin

Friday 5 February 2016

Papers of potential interest to members include:

  • Lloyd Houston (Brasenose College, Oxford), ‘The Wages of Sin is a Month in the Locke’: Irish Modernism and the Politics of Venereal Disease
  • Professor Linda Connolly (UCC), The Construction of Gender and Motherhood through the Lens of Church–State Power in Ireland
  • Sylvia Murphy Tighe (TCD), Contemporary Media Representations of Concealed Pregnancy: Shaming, Blaming, and Vilifying Women
  • Keynote Address: Dr Rhona Mahony (Master, National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street), The Birth of a Republic: Giving Birth in Ireland, 1916–2016

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Women’s Deaths Remembered: Picking up the Threads, Remaking the Fabric of Care.


A multi-media exhibition, centred on a hand-knitted quilt is being launched on 25th November, 2015, in St. Laurence’s DIT Grangegorman, 6-9pm.

The exhibition commemorates the lives of the women who have died in our maternity services. In recent years, eight women had inquests, all of which ended in verdicts of death by medical misadventure. Continue reading

Medical Training, student experience and the transmission of knowledge, c.1800-2014, University College Dublin, Ireland, 17-18 October 2014

What? Medical Training, Student Experience and the Transmission of Knowledge, c.1800-2014: New Foundations and Global Perspectives

Where? Humanities Institute, University College Dublin, Ireland

When? 17-18 October 2014

Deadline for registration? 3 October 2014

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