Major Papers


Irish women's history, 19th century Ireland, infanticide, institutionalization and incarceration, social history, gender norms


A woman is nothing without her reputation. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, a conflict of values emerged for ordinary women in Ireland. It is this conflict that has been under-addressed in the historiography, particularly in the context of the roles institutions played in putting forth a prescribed ideal of womanhood for working class women. Ordinary women risked ostracization and condemnation when stepping out of the prescribed roles of daughter, domestic servant, and mother. In doing so, this increased the likelihood working class women would come into contact with moral reformists, the court system or religious organizations which would deem this behaviour as deviant. Examined within is the role infanticide, institutionalization and incarceration were opportunities for women to exert agency within the confines of prescribed gender roles.

Primary Advisor

Adam Pole

Program Reader

Miriam Wright

Degree Name

Master of Arts



Document Type

Major Research Paper

Convocation Year