Drumming wombs & fanny farts: Listening to the widow’s belly in seventeenth-century Ireland.

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 month Clodagh Tait shares a quirky story about mistaken pregnancy and fanny farts (queefs!) in c17th Ireland.

Mary Gage, an Englishwoman who arrived in Ireland with her brother at around the time of the Ulster Plantation, had several misfortunes in the years prior to 1620. Her husband, John Rowley of Castleroe, near Coleraine, Co Derry, died in 1618, and she had lost one of her four children in infancy.[1] In early 1620 she remarried, to Sir George Trevelyan, a former soldier from a Somerset gentry family who had been in Ireland about twenty years. George became ill that July, and on 13 September he died at Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim. Five days later George’s uncle and patron, Sir Arthur Chichester, Lord Deputy of Ireland, wrote to John Trevelyan about his brother’s edifying death. ‘He died a good Christian and in perfect memory to his last gasp, for which God be praised!’ This, Chichester continued, with ‘his lady’s being with child…is all the comfort he hath left behind him’.

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“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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Ralph Samuel Memorial Lecture 2015

This year lecture at the Ralph Samuel History Centre is on politics of motherhood in 20th Century Britain.

Thursday 10 December 2015 

6.30 pm (wine reception to follow)

Free of charge, no booking required, everyone welcome. 

Clore Lecture Theatre, Clore Management Centre, Birkbeck, University of London, Torrington Square, London WC1E 7JL

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