Irish Women at Work

Catherine Walshe (engineer)

The Irish Women at Work Oral History Project, archived at the Digital Repository of Ireland, includes 42 oral history interviews focused on the working lives of women (1930-1960) living in three counties of Ireland (Cork, Kerry and Limerick), as well as related photographs. The women’s accounts of work are woven into the broader narratives of their lives extending from childhood to adulthood and old age.

This project was part of an interdisciplinary research initiative entitled ‘Women and Irish Society: Understanding the Past and Present Through Archives and Social Research’ at University College Cork, funded under the Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions (PRTLI 1). Launched in February 2000, the initiative sought to illuminate the transformation of women’s lives in Irish society over time and place, through sociological, literary and applied social research.

The oral history strand of the project documents the working lives of women in the Munster counties of Cork, Kerry and Limerick, during the period 1936-1960. It provides a rich repository of data about women’s experiences of work, family life and schooling, and their impressions of change in women’s lives in Ireland.

A number of publications emerged from this project, including Elizabeth Kiely and Máire Leane’s 2012 book Irish Women at Work 1930–1960: An Oral History (Irish Academic Press). A report that documents the process of archiving the collection with the DRI is available to download from the Cork Open Research Archive.