CR: Hi, Im Caroline Rowan. Im an MA student doing Womens Studies in University College Dublin. Im doing my thesis on Gráinne, Granuaile. Shes sometimes known as Grace OMalley. Im just going to shorten her name to Gráinne when I refer to her.
Entrance to Rockfleet Castle
She was an Irish pirate. She had somewhere around 200 men under her command. She had about between 4 and 10 ships -- the number is unsubstantiated -- and she basically carried out trading and raiding between Galway, Mayo and Spain, Portugal, between the various coast lines. At that time Irish traders werent allowed to trade in the city of Galway, which would have been the closest port, so she just sailed to Spain and Portugal, traded goods there, and made a fortune. One of the reasons put forward for the men following her was because she was so successful in all her ventures, whether it was attacking English ships that happened to be passing, or selling off sheeps wool and things like that in Spain. She made an absolute fortune, and she always made sure that her men were well looked after, that their families were well looked after. She became sort of this notorious figure to the English because she saw them as legitimate targets for her piracy. They were foreigners, they were in what were technically her waters, as she saw it, so she would raid their ships, either take hostages, or just take whatever cargo they had on board and send them back to England with their tails between their legs.
She basically took control of the legal and social circumstances which surrounded her and became this incredibly powerful female figure in Irish history. Of course she isnt really in Irish history because she was completely ignored. Youll actually find no reference to her whatsoever before 1939 or 1942 when a paper was done by Commander or Captain Anthony McDermott for the journal Irish Genealogist . I dont know where he got his information from because of course he didnt reference it. Hes got like all these wonderful points in there about her and no references at all, which is really really annoying but you kind of have to live with it. There is a very very limited amount of information on her. Theres two comprehensive books, one by Anne Chambers and one by Mary Moriarty and Catherine Sweeney. Anne Chambers book is sort of the bible, my bible.
Im hoping to show how Gráinne manipulated the social and legal morays of her time to become a leader of men, to become a chieftain. She could never legally be a chieftain, you know, she would not be recognized as The OMalley because she was a woman. But she was in fact leader of huge amounts of men. She was responsible for smuggling English Protestants from England to Spain and France during Queen Marys or Bloody Marys rule. She was responsible for shipping goods to the ONeills and the ODonnells. She was recognized by all who knew her as a very very powerful woman. And my focus is on how she managed to achieve all this in a time when woman are commonly accepted to have been powerless.
Im going to research the laws, Brehon Law, English Law, the social customs, the status of women and things like that. There tends to be sort of a differentiation between, Heres how life was in Medieval Ireland, and, Heres how it was under English law. And Gráinne was kind of in the transition period, just after King Henry and during the time of Queen Elizabeth, so she kind of gets passed over a lot, or at least life gets passed over a lot there. She was born in 1530 and she died in 1603.
MT: Did the English already have a pretty good foothold in Ireland at that time or was it the beginning of the colonial period?
CR: Well, the English had strong footholds in Dublin, Galway, Wexford, and a few of the ports. But apart from that the rest of Ireland was pretty much Irish. Galway, Mayo and various regions in Connacht were sort of seen as the wild west. There were monsters and swamps and you know terrible things. The English were very much afraid to go over there because they couldnt stand the wet weather. I think its Edmund Spencer records that most of the Englishmen who came over to Ireland, the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of troops who were sent over, most of them caught what was known as Irish Auge which was a kind of a wasting disease that they got from the weather. They got really really sick, and they either died or they had to return home because they just wasted away.
So the English were very wary of heading over to Connacht, which was this completely unknown place, where there they sort of saw the Irish savages living their own lives, completely uncivilized and not under English rule. The Irish had their own laws, their own chiefs, their own family systems, which was a clan system rather than a patriarchal family system. They were completely responsible to themselves alone; they had no authority except for the chiefs of their clans and God. And that reference to God is not in the Catholic tradition, it was the sort of Celtic God. They took him when they needed him and left him alone at other times. It wasnt organized religion by any manner of means, you know, they sort of had the priests for baptisms and deaths and that was it. In the meantime they did their own thing and they werent really too bothered.
MT: As youve said Gráinne's not mentioned a whole lot in books, so how did you first find out about her?
CR: The initial way I found out about her was in second class in school. We had these kind of readers, you know, books to teach you how to read. Poetry and short stories. One of them had an excerpt from The White Seahorse by Elinor Fairburn. So I read that and I loved it, and then I went and got the book and I wore it out reading it from cover to cover. Then I decided that I would try and get more information on her and couldnt find any for years and years and years. I mean there was nothing, and I hadnt any idea of Anne Chambers book. It was out of print at that stage. When I went to find a new copy of The White Seahorse, I was told it was also out of print. Then about four years ago Wolfhound Press re-released The White Seahorse as the comprehensive novel on Gráinne. And then Morgan Llywelyn published another novel on her. And then I found Anne Chambers book, which is, Granuaile, the Life and Times of Grace OMalley [see Wolfhound Press]. And later on, Granuaile by Mary Moriarty and Catherine Sweeney.
And that was it, sum total of work about Gráinne. This year Ive just been researching various journals and historical books. Historians never write about her at all in fact, and its only in books written after 1980 that youll find sort of token references to Gráinne, and I mean like one or two lines maximum. And theyll be very dismissive of her in fact, sort of mention, Oh, that there was this woman who was marauding on the Galway coast, you know, which is technically a very English view of it because you know she wasnt marauding, she was providing for herself. I mean, one mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter, and she was just making sure that the families under her control were going to survive by whatever means necessary. It wouldnt have arisen if Galway hadnt been closed off because then she would have been able to legally trade with the families there. But she didnt have that option, so she took piracy as her way out.
MT: Why was Galway closed off?
CR: Galway was closed off because it was an English town and they were afraid of the wild Irish as they saw them. English colonists and settlers who were living in Galway had this terror and fear that the Irish would come in and kill them all in their beds. So, it was closed off, and on one of the city walls theres actually a little sign which says, From the ferocious OFlahertys, good Lord Deliver us. In a city ordinance, I think it was 1525, there was a law introduced that, Neither Mac nor O shall swagger through the streets of Galway, which basically meant that no Irish person was going to be allowed through the gates, on pain of death. Those who did enter werent allowed to wear Irish cloaks, because they were afraid that they would carry weapons under them or steal their goods and smuggle them out under their clothes. So they had some interesting laws about the Irish and very interesting ideas, too.
MT: So how old were you when you first read about Gráinne?
CR: I would have been 7.
MT: And did it seem a surprise, I mean, do you remember what your response was?
CR: Oh, my response was: This is absolutely fantastic. Look, theres a girl in here! Because everything we read was still very much: girl in the house, boy in the field or having adventures. And if a girl does have an adventure its always related to the house -- you know a burglar is breaking in or whatever. So, I read this and I was absolutely fascinated, you know, heres this amazing woman who had completely defied every convention, didnt care what anyone thought, and her dad backed her up! On that point, Ill just qualify that, her father actually supported her when she was left destitute after the death of her first husband. He took her home and provided her with a ship to start her off, and then you know took his share of whatever she gained. But essentially she really defied this whole notion of the good woman at home who just bears lots of sons. Also the fact that she did combine motherhood and piracy was amazing. She had four children. She had three children by her first husband, two sons and a daughter, and a son by her second husband. And in spite of this she still continued to do whatever the heck she wanted to.
I think in she was fourteen the first time she defended her castle. She was fourteen and she was pregnant. She defended her husbands castle against the Joyces from the neighboring counties who had come over to attack the castle. Her attitude was that they were not going to come in there and get her infant son, you know, and she defended the castle. And it then became known as Hens castle. She was this protective person. Her husband Donal was known as Donal the Cock because he was always fighting, not for any reason but because he was always picking fights with the neighboring areas, things like that. So, that really inspirational -- you know here was this woman, not even a woman, I mean she was a girl, and she really did absolutely everything she wanted to. And she was very very successful at doing it. Even when she was hauled up before the English and thrown in prison she still got away with it. Right up until the day she died she was still doing exactly what she wanted. She petitioned Queen Elizabeth and got a full pardon for all her piracy.
She really inspired me to look for more women in Irish History and in history in general and to keep needling all my teachers. You know, Where are the women? Which really annoyed them because it meant they actually had to go research something outside the strict history text and what was already written.
MT: Do you think she was unusual for her time?
CR: I initially thought that she was very unusual because the image we get from historians is that during the 16th century women stayed at home, that they didnt do anything that their husbands didnt want them to do. But then when I was actually researching it I found out that Irish Law actually allowed women an awful lot more freedom than is generally acknowledged. They had the freedom to choose their own husbands with their parents approval, and they could divorce their husbands anytime they wanted. They could take lovers if they felt like it, if their husband was unable to give them a child, and they could own their own property. Depending on how much money or how much property they had brought with them into a marriage, they could officially control their husband. They could decide to pay his debts or not to pay his debts, to ransom him, to do anything they wanted. They were essentially very very free.
The only restrictions on them were in relation to the fact that they were at all times under the control of a male relative, not in the strict sense that they had to do what he said, but he was responsible for them. Irish Law was very restitutional rather than punishment based. If a mans wife stole something, instead of her being punished for it, what happened was that her husband would pay a fine up to the amount that she had stolen. If she wasnt married it would be her father. If she was married but widowed it would be her son.
So in a lot of ways that was actually very beneficial to women because they got away with a hell of a lot, you know, and it wasnt really until English Law was imposed that women lost all this freedom. To a large extent the first restrictions were because Irish lords were afraid that the fact that their daughters could own property would be used against them by the English. That the English would insist on the daughters being married to English lords and therefore the property would pass to English hands -- because English law was patriarchal it would pass from English father to English son instead of from Irish mother to Irish daughter, as had been the tradition.
MT: So, have you found any other women pirates from that time?
CR: Not from that time. Captain Anthony McDermott mentions that about 100 years after Gráinnes death there was another female pirate raiding on the Galway coast. He doesnt give her name, he just sort of tossed out this tantalizing reference and left it hanging, which really irritated me. I havent found anything more about it yet, but I am continuing to look. Later on we have Anne Bonny and Mary Read, but theyre kind of in a different tradition because they didnt really command. They were pirates but they werent leaders of men. They were members of a crew. Which is not to dismiss them in any way but its just that they arent in the same league as Gráinne.
But Irish history in general has a very strong tradition of powerful women, and a lot of that has been ignored. You know we sort of think of Queen Medbh, end of story, but there is a very strong Goddess culture and a lot of powerful women. There was another Grace OMalley before the 16th century one. She again had retained great control -- she would have been Gráinnes great great great great grandmother, I think. And there were various other women around. But they literally have been completely ignored by history, which tends to ignore the strong female control that was there. And of course a lot of that was because there was huge superstition about women as well. Women in Irish culture were reputed to have great magical power. They had the power of life, and they had the power of satire as well. For a woman to slight a man or to lay a curse on him was a very serious thing. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned was held to be this complete maxim. A woman was a very... you had to treat her with great respect. And again this follows through in law: husbands literally had to watch what they said about their wives. They had to always be very respectful, and they could be divorced at any time for criticizing her performance in bed. If he decided to take another lover she could divorce him. Or if he failed to give her her due in any way, either to give her children, to give her money, to provide support for her, to give her something that she wanted, she could dismiss him quite easily.
Rockfleet Castle, near Newport, Co. Mayo
Thats something that Gráinne apparently did, legend has it. Her second husband was Richard An Iarann, Richard in Iron is what it would be in English. She married him under Brehon law, which was the old Irish law, and the Brehon law entitled a woman to divorce her husband. So after one year, when Gráinne was now pregnant and had what she wanted, control of the castle, when her husband went to submit to the English and claim friendship with the English, he came back to Rockfleet Castle and found the gates barred against him. Gráinne stood up on the battlements and simply leaned down and told him, I dismiss you, and their marriage was finished, over. It was as simple as that because under Irish law a person who takes possession has only to hold it against the entering party. She was perfectly within her rights to do it, and if he couldnt break the siege then hed have to give it up. And in the end he did give it up. Now apparently she later on took him back, more as a convenience to her because she wanted access to his ships and things, but you know she did very much what she wanted in her own way. I wouldnt say that she had no respect for men but she knew what she wanted from them, and she didnt buckle into this whole idea that a woman in love should do this that and the other. Because I think she did love her husbands, both of them, but she just knew that she was the dominant one. She wasnt going to take any nonsense from either of them in marriage or in any other way.
MT: So how do you account for getting from this tradition of powerful women in Ireland to the point where women like Granuaile arent even in the history books?
CR: Well, I think a lot of that is basically because the English law took over and English culture, and English culture is very much patriarchal. Father and son are what matter and women are literally there just to produce sons and thats it. Theyre not acknowledged in their own right. I mean the only powerful women that youll hear mentioned are sort of the Queens and the you know maybe the odd Duchess or whatever who caused a scandal, but apart from that women arent even noticed. And this you know filtered through into the Irish culture then and they were completely subsumed and everything was done by the English law. I mean you had thousands of English settlers coming over and deciding, creating this whole new way of life, and in order to survive an awful lot of the Irish lords had to forfeit their lands and then be regranted them by the King or by the Queen. And this meant that they had to accept English customs, English laws, English behavior, and this affected the women very very badly. Because once Brehon law was gone, all their rights effectively disappeared. So this whole male dominant culture arose and was perpetuated and is perpetuated today.
I mean even now in the 1990s, youll still very rarely see a history book that mentions women except as an aside. And its not just in Ireland of course. I saw this wonderful book of photographs and documents from Auschwitz, and there were no women, absolutely none. This book was printed I think in 1992. I turned around to the guy who owned it and I said, Well, where are the women? And he turned to me and he was like, Well, Caroline, you know it was the 1930s. And I was like, what does that mean? There were no women in the 1930s? Did we not exist? Did we just spring into existence in the past 10 years? But that just really indicated this whole attitude that people have, and not just men because I have met women who say exactly the same thing, this whole idea that women were a complete irrelevancy in history. I took history for the Leaving Cert, and girls in my class would tell me, Women didnt do anything in history.
Every piece of education in our schools is focused on the male, the very strict historical scientific cultural idea in which women supposedly had no part to play at all because women stayed at home and bore children. Now thats an achievement in itself, if it wasnt for women you know there wouldnt be a human race, but you know theyre kind of dismissed. And there is no acknowledgment of women who did differ, like Gráinne, like Anne Bonny, like Mary Read. And if they are mentioned theyre practically criminalized. Its like these are the exceptional women, and exceptional in a bad way, that this is not what a good woman does. A good woman stays home, minds her children and doesnt actually participate in history. She doesnt take control of her own destiny. And thats still something that comes through in Irish schools. I mean Im only out of school for five years now and that was still what we were getting coming up through school, still no mention of women in science, no mention of women in history, geography, music, art. So Im not sure how it stands in other countries but I know in Ireland its still very very much the focus on the woman in the home, and I dont see that changing in the near future.
MT: I know youre trying to do a project thats different then the other pieces of writing about Granuaile. What stuff is out there and what stuff is not out there and how do you see your project as being different?
CR: Okay, theres Anne Chambers and Moriarty and Sweeneys books. Theres the two novels, The White Seahorse and Grania. And there are kind of little snippets of information. All the information that we have on Gráinne, everything that these books are based on, comes from England. It comes from the English State papers and it comes from information which Gráinne had to give to Queen Elizabeth when she went over to ask for her pardon and pardon for her family and the families under her control. She had to fill out several questionnaires about her life, about her family, about everything in Irish culture. If it wasnt for that visit actually we wouldnt have any information about Gráinne, she would have sort of disappeared, because Irish historians dont mention her. The Four Annals, the books which would have been written during Gráinne's lifetime, make no mention of her at all. They mention the ODonnells, the ONeills, all the marauding men. They mention her father, they mention her sons, but they do not mention Gráinne at all. And it just seems to be this incredible dis. I dont know whether it was a dislike of the idea that a woman could do this or it was fear that it would incite other women to behave in this way, but there is absolutely no mention of her in the Irish records of the time.
So, the difficulty is that all this information is in England, its in the British museum, and well I cant exactly nip over to England anytime I want to research these things. Thankfully Anne Chambers has a very very detailed transcript of the actual papers: letters which Gráinne wrote, letters from her son, and poems which were written around the time. Apart from that its keep digging, keep digging, and keep questioning anyone whos written about her to find out where they got their information. Its very very difficult. Anyone whos researching women in Irish history, certainly before the 18th or even the 19th century, will have great difficulty in doing it because they really arent mentioned at all. You have to go back to the original source work, the original transcripts, poems, anything written at the time.
Its also very annoying to have to read English versions of stories about Gráinne because theyre biased, which is not to say they wouldnt be biased if they were Irish, but you know they were coming from the view that this notorious pirate, shes marauding and shes impudently passed the point of womanhood and that she was this complete anomaly in the system. And on top of that then you have the whole language barrier. I mean do you have any idea how annoying it is to be trying to read people who cant spell her name right or spell place names right or trying to figure out what towns theyre talking about or what people theyre talking about cause their names are so badly mutilated? That I find very very frustrating. And I think its an absolute shame that Irish historians didnt write about her because I think she really could have been inspirational to so many women. I think its a terrible loss for those of us coming up now who are looking for these women and cant find any information -- not because the women didnt exist but simply because their existence was not acknowledged.
MT: Im curious about how theres all these different names for her. Like Granuaile, is that an Irish name that somehow got anglicized into Grace OMalley?
CR: Well theres various theories about how she became Granuaile. The story about how she got her name was that when she was seven years old she wanted to go to sea with her father and she was told that she couldnt because she was a girl and girls didnt go to sea. And you know her long her would blow in the sailors eyes. So, when her father arrived home that night he found his wife and all the women in the household crying, and they were totally distraught over Gráinne, and he asked what was going on, and Gráinne came out, and she had skinned her head. She had cut off all her hair with his hunting knife and was completely bald. And when her brothers came in and saw this they started teasing her, calling her Gráinne Mhaol, because mhaol means bald. And so she in English that would be Gráinne the bald, but the Irish became Granuaile. So the nickname was picked up then and used by those who knew her.
Another version of it is that when she went to Spain and people asked her her name she knew that they wouldnt be able to pronounce Gráinne Ui Máille so she simply said Granuaile. And so this became this name for this little girl, little boy, they couldnt tell because she had her head shaved and she wore boys clothes. So they called her Granuaile and the name stuck. Again, I mean thats the folklore surrounding her; its possibly more likely that it was simply that the English couldnt get the hang of the name Gráinne Ui Máille and so they simply called her Gráinne or Grani Malley or Granny y Malley, or Grace of the Umhalls, which was the area that the OMalleys ruled. Over time this simply became commuted to Granuaile because it was a name that they could pronounce, terribly mutilated.
I prefer the version where she cut off her hair!
MT: Ive never heard that, thats great. Also, to go back a bit, why did she have to go ask for a pardon? I never heard about that either.
CR: She had to go for a pardon because Sir Richard Bingham was the Queens emissary in Connacht at the time and he was persecuting her. He saw her as this dangerous pirate and so what he was doing was, he had murdered one of her sons in cold blood and he stole her live stock, he had soldiers on her land so that she couldnt maintain herself. She decided that the only solution to the problem was to go over his head and go straight to the Queen and ask for a pardon. So she went to the Queen and instead of approaching her you know sort of begging for a pardon, she walked in there, walked straight up to the Queen as an equal and demanded that she be pardoned, and also demanded that she be given the lands that were due her from her marriage to her first and second husbands. She demanded that all her family be pardoned and spared and that she would be allowed to continue her raiding, which she called lawful maintenance by land and sea. And apparently the Queen was so impressed that she did in fact concede to all those demands.
Gráinne was a very skilled diplomat because she knew if she went in there and she begged the Queen that she wasnt going to have a hope in hell. There was no way the Queen was going to pay any attention to someone groveling. Whereas when she walked in and treated her as an equal the Queen saw her as an equal. She saw her as a woman who essentially mirrored everything Elizabeth was dealing with at the time. She was a leader of men, she was very powerful in her own right, and she was surrounded on all sides by men who would give their eye teeth to see her fail. No doubt this had a great effect on Elizabeth because she gave Gráinne everything she wanted. She gave her a royal pardon, she gave her full license to return to her trading, and she allowed her in her in lifetime control of the lands which had been due to her but denied to her at the death of her first and second husbands.
MT: What was the story you were telling yesterday about Howth castle?
CR: Well, on her return visit from Queen Elizabeth apparently Gráinne stopped in Howth. She sailed up to Howth castle and she stopped. She was looking for you know dinner and a place to spend the night because Irish hospitality dictated that any stranger was entitled to a meal and a bed. But when she got to Howth castle she was informed that the lord of the castle was having his dinner and didnt want to be disturbed. She was absolutely infuriated and when she was returning to her boat she met one of the maid servants with a young boy and asked who the boy was and was told that he was the son of the castles lord. She took the boy, sailed away, and sent a message back demanding a ransom for him, and the lord of the castle was totally horrified at this. He was going to give anything to get his son back, didnt care what she asked for, and what she did in fact ask was that from now on the gates would never be shut at Howth castle and that anyone who came would always be entitled to a meal and a place to stay. And right up until this day the family that live in Howth castle still set an extra place at dinner so that if an uninvited guest turns up they will always have food for them.
MT: Wow. And what was the bit about her son had being taken hostage by Elizabeth?
CR: In Ireland there was a system of fosterage where when a child was 5 or 6 years old they were sent off to be fostered with a different family. This sort of created very strong ties between two families and also insured that they werent mollycoddled. It brought them up to be very strong and independent. And the English saw this as a way of maintaining control if, for example, Gráinne was disobeying the English law and she was raiding them. In this case what happened was that she had been imprisoned and in order to secure her release she was ordered to hand over her son, not technically as a hostage, not as a hostage as in he was kept in captivity. What happened was that he was sent to be fostered with an English family and this meant that he would be brought up learning the English language, learning English customs, and what Elizabeth hoped was that he would be brought up as an English lord, so that when he returned to Ireland he would be more English and rule by English law. And this was a policy that she followed with an awful lot of the Irish nobles and their families and it was in fact a very effective way of securing their good behavior. Until of course Sir Richard Bingham decided to murder people in his captivity, and then all hell broke loose, and the Irish were completely enraged and drove the English back, only for a few years but it still worked for a while.
MT: Did she ever get the son back?
CR: She got him back but he was changed. He wasnt her son anymore. I mean biologically he was her son but there was now a huge gap between them because he had been brought up with English manners, English ways, and he would have perhaps viewed her as a blemish on his status, you know. Here was this Irish pirate, still living this sort of savage life and doing her own thing instead of behaving like a good English woman and staying home and doing what her husband told her to, or her sons.
MB: Im just wondering in the books that youve read, is there any particular attitude there, any questioning from a womans central point of view? Or are they just telling the story neat? Do you get the sense because they are all women who are writing about a woman that thats made a difference?
CR: I think the fact that theyre women made a difference in that they have a lot more respect for Gráinne. And they tend to view what she did as extraordinary, that what she did really transcended huge boundaries. I mean even today if you think about it, the idea of a woman with four children, being a pirate... I dont know what would be a modern day equivalent, a terrorist or a sort of a Robin Hood character.
I wouldnt say that they were extremely feminist in their attitudes. They try to be as historical as possible; they try to be very objective. I think theres a great degree of admiration which actually comes out through their work. But no, I wouldnt say that they are woman centered. They focus a lot on the men in Gráinne's life and her relationships to these men.
Gráinne wasnt a feminist by any means at all; in fact she married her only daughter off when she wouldve been I think 16, which actually was quite late. She married her off to Richard Burke who was known as the Devils Hook, and that was the last that was heard of her. She didnt encourage her to become a sailor, she didnt encourage her to follow in her mothers footsteps, she simply married her off and that was that. But it was a political alliance, and I think Gráinne saw it as a way of cementing a friendship or an alliance rather than as a way of making her daughter happy, which is probably no bad thing. I think she was very focused. She knew what she wanted and she did whatever it took to get it. So she certainly wasnt feminist and never in fact encouraged any other women to join her on ship or to do any of the things that she was doing, which is an interesting fact in itself. She may have recognized that there was no hope for anyone to follow, or she may simply have thought that there was no one who was quite her equal, because from what we know about her it appears that she had a very high opinion of herself. She was extremely self confident, she knew what she wanted, and generally saw herself as superior to most of the men that she knew. This wasnt pride; it was an actual fact. She was more skilled, more intelligent, and more politically aware than most of the Irish men that she was dealing with, and certainly an awful lot of the English. She was extremely well educated. She spoke Spanish, Latin, English and Irish. She was able to deal with men, and it was all men except for Queen Elizabeth that she was dealing with. She commanded over 200 men and she did all of this simply through force of will. She simply demanded that they accord her the respect that they would give to a man in her situation, and she got it.
MB: And she also combined the idea of making sure that her people were looked after well, that the families were looked after.
CR: Yes, she was very well aware of the fact that if her mens families were in danger the men werent going to be focused on what they were doing, so she insured that whenever she took the men off on a raiding trip or a trading trip that the women always were well fed and organized. That the families were all right and that they would be defended should the need arise. Again there was a very strong matriarchal situation there where women controlled the running of the castles and organized various things like that. So all Gráinne would have had to do would be say to her daughter or her daughters-in-law, Make sure that theyre well fed and if anything happens simply contact my father, my brothers, whoever and have them send men to protect the families. But financially what she did was she insured that as soon as the men had finished trading or the raid had been completed that the men could stop at the nearest port and buy little bits and bobs, jewelry or scent or clothes or silks for their wives, toys for the children, various gifts. So, they all thought that they were the most important thing in her life, you know. If they were happy they would be loyal and this was one of her ways of insuring that she was always in control.
MB: Why did she have such a good education and how do we know anything about that?
CR: The Irish were very much into educating their families, unlike the English, who felt that only sons should be educated and only then if they were going to be sent to a higher career. The Irish were very much into learning and its a very strong ethos. Gráinne wouldve traveled with her father and been in these places. It was very important that she would learn all these languages. Now she wouldnt have had a good command of English, in fact she would have had a very poor command of English, because Galway was so far away and because you know she would really have had no interest in contact with them. She would have spoken Latin because Latin was commonly spoken by all the Irish nobility and most of the common people as well would have spoken Latin. It was sort of a universal language because it meant that you could then trade with people from other countries.
MB: Did I hear that it that it was Latin she spoke with Queen Elizabeth?
CR: Yes. She spoke to Queen Elizabeth in Latin and I think that that probably impressed Queen Elizabeth as well because the Irish were commonly considered savages and barbarians and therefore the idea that they would be able to converse in languages other than Irish was completely unheard of. It would have been quite a shock to Elizabeth to discover not only was Gráinne treating her as an equal but that she required no interpreter and was able to speak to her quite freely and voice her own opinions.
MB: Has anybody else done a thesis on her, you know in academia?
CR: Yeah, as far as I know, no one else has done it, no. Thats a huge sweeping statement to make because Ive only actually had access to the theses in UCD and Ive seen a list of ones done in Trinity and Cork which, you know, their titles didnt indicate that they were about Gráinne. But they were only for the past I think 3 years, so I would have to look further and contact all the colleges first to find out if those theses have been written and if they are available to me for further information.
MT: You said something a couple times and I think you were talking to Marie before we were rolling about how a lot of the information is in folklore sources. What kind of sources are there out there and what are some of the frustrations you are having of doing more research on her?
CR: Oh, everything is a frustration! The lack of information is the main frustration. An awful lot of the information we have about Gráinne is folk lore and unsubstantiated folk lore at that. The library in UCD or rather the manuscript archives do have several manuscripts of folk lore about Gráinne, basically covering the stories Ive already told you, how she got her name, the story with Howth castle, also the story about the birth of her son by her second marriage, and you know the generally known myths about Gráinne. They vary from teller to teller, depending on where or what part of the country you hear it, it will be different! I mean folk lore, you sometimes just have to take it as a basis because its the only written record we have -- or oral record -- of anyone, and especially with women. An awful lot of their history is oral because women throughout centuries have always been the story tellers. They have been responsible for passing on these you know simple things like poems, songs, telling stories to their children at night. But it is frustrating that there isnt more known about her, more written about her, and that there isnt a wider access to information about her.
The OMalley clan, which is a genealogical society all claiming descent from Gráinne, do have some of her original letters and things like that, but theyre not available to be accessed by the public. First of all because they are very old and theyd be damaged by everyone handling them. Second of all because the government is unwilling to finance the restoration of them. They are not considered of national importance. There was an article, I think it was in the Connacht Sentinel, about 2 years ago, about this very fact that we have a huge amount of historical documents about Gráinne which are literally under lock and key and just molding away. Theyre turning to dust because the government is unwilling to have them rehoused either in the National Museum or to have them restored in any way. They simply dont view it as financially viable. They viewed it financially viable to put up a big spike in the middle of a OConnell Street, but their not interested in saving our history! I wonder if it had been the letters of Eamonn DeValera or Robert Emmett, would they have the same qualms about spending that much money on them?
I mean, I think I am incredibly biased because shes always been this hugely inspirational figure to me. So, I cant stand to have anyone sort of be negative about it and I get very annoyed when people sort of go, Oh Granuaile, Grace OMalley, like you know, Big deal, so what? And Im just like, yes it is a big deal, its a huge deal in fact. You know this woman was incredible. She was incredibly powerful. She was charismatic, she was very very much in control of her sexuality. I mean she didnt let anyone boss her around. She had kids when she wanted to have kids and she did exactly what she wanted. So you know I think thats just incredible. I think given her circumstances, given the time she was living in and all the transitions that were taking place, I think what she did was amazing.
So, I reckon my thesisll probably turn out something like that you know, having this wonderful glorification of Gráinne, how she was fabulous, she did this that and the other, and then comments on various men whove written about her afterwards -- and not very complementary ones either!
MT: How are you going to do your research, are there places youre planning on going?
CR: Yeah, first of all I need to get in touch with Anne Chambers and Catherine Sweeney and Mary Moriarty, and Morgan Llwyelyn, who wrote Grania, which is kind of a... I wont say its a romance novel, I mean there is romance in it but its a novelization of Gráinnes life. Its very psychological, you know, you really get into her head and what she was thinking and how she manipulated every situation. Its really fascinating and recommended reading by me.
Im hoping to go to Louisburg in county Mayo where theres a Granuaile heritage center. Im not sure how helpful that will be because you cant access a lot of the actual material, but Im sure theyll be able to point me in the right direction as for visiting places of interest. My interest will be in sort of the social and legal aspect rather than the actual buildings and things like that, but I do want to go and visit Clare Island and see all her areas. I want to visit Rockfleet. I will be going to Mayo, and Ill do the grand tour of all the heritage sites there.
Rockfleet is where Gráinne's home with her second husband was. Rockfleet Castle is the one she locked Richard out of. Clare Island is where she lived a good deal of her life. Its where she controlled from. The Irish leaders of the time, especially the ONeills and the ODonnells and any of the Irish male leaders who were standing up to the English, saw her as this fanatic who would defend her territory, you know come hell or high water. And so they wanted her on the furthest outpost, so that she would give it her all before the English got any further. So thats where Clare Island would be, where the OMalleys lived and grew up and possibly where Gráinne is buried. Thats debatable there, you know, she is rumored to be buried at the Abbey on Clare Island. There is also a castle at Belclare I think. An awful lot of them are in ruins, there isnt much left. I think like with most old Irish sites at one stage or another people took the stones away, to build their own houses and walls, and what was left was a ruin.
MB: You talked about her story coming down through folk lore, and do you know the tradition of Shanogs, old songs, that kind of thing. Has anything come down of her through music?
CR: Well, there are various poems, but theres only one song and it was actually written by Pádraig Pearse. Its actually in here, [in Anne Chambers book]. Its called Oro se do bheatha bhaile and we used to sing it in school. It kind of sounds like, What shall we do with a drunken sailor. Its an old Irish tune, they put whatever words they want to it.
MT: So what does it mean?
CR: Its, Welcome home, summer is here. Granuaile is coming home with all her Irish soldiers. Theyre Irish, not English, not Spanish, and they will get rid of the foreigners, the English. Its not very politically correct, now that were trying to welcome them all in!
MB: Is there any imagery of her at all, any sort of engravings or...?
CR: There are no images of her. There are no pictures. There are no engravings. There are no wood carvings. There is nothing, we only have our imagination to tell us what she was like. Of course the Irish didnt really go in for portraiture or anything like that. What we have are vague descriptions, and again it depends on who youre talking to. Some describe her as a red head, some say she had long black hair, that she was tall. They all agree that she was very beautiful and she charmed both the English and the Irish. Edmund Spencer was particularly taken with her, as was Thomas Ormond. Morgan Llwyelyn suggests that the reason she never married for a third time is because of the whole theory of being available to all men and yet to none, you know that if she was unmarried they could all sort of lust after her, whereas if she was married therefore she belonged to one man, although I dont think Gráinne would ever have belonged to anyone. But shes very much em an enigma. She was extremely feminine and very beautiful and yet she combined all of this with getting exactly what she wanted and doing what she wanted and embodied an awful lot of what are considered masculine qualities.
MT: Could you hold up the various books and tell us about them?
CR: Okay, this is Anne Chambers book, this is my bible. Anyone who is interested in Granuaile should read this book because it is the most comprehensive. It has the photos of various sites, it has the transcripts of her letters to Queen Elizabeth, to her sons, the articles of interrogatory that she had to do. It also has the poems and the songs which I sang. It also has a very comprehensive bibliography at the back. So, if you want to do further research yourself, this is where you should start.
This is Moriarty and Sweeneys book. I recommend reading this before you read Anne Chambers one because otherwise its going to appear very childish. Thats not to put it down -- its an excellent book -- but its just much smaller and doesnt have the sort of the depth of historical fact that Anne Chambers one does. It is an excellent introduction though, has all the folklore, has an excellent time line at the back of it and has some interesting photos of artifacts from the time.
This is the book that started it all, this is Eleanor Fairburns The White Seahorse. It is newly available now from Wolfhound press. It also has a very good bibliography at the back. The only fault I would find with it is that it is phonetically written so the spellings are all wrong. You wont have any idea that these are Irish names. But its an excellent book.
MB: Is there any significance in the white seahorse?
CR: That was the pennant that the OMalley clan used or that Gráinne used. Her flag on her ships was a white seahorse.
This is Morgan Llywelyns book, a lovely novel whether you like Gráinne or not. Its a wonderful romance novel. Morgan Llywelyn has written various books on figures from Irish history. Shes written about Fionn McCool. Shes written about Cuchullain.
So those are the sources on Gráinne.
MT: This has been a great education, thank you. Before we finish Id like to ask you some more general questions about women in Ireland given your background in Womens Studies. Hearing you talk about Gráinne, and about how she was such an inspiration for you, makes me wonder if you have any more recent role models.
CR: I would have to say I think there are very few. And I think to a certain extent, the girls who are growing up today are looking outside Ireland for their role models. Theyre looking at the Spice Girls and Madonna. Hillary Clinton. I think Mary Robinson was a very good role model. As a woman in Ireland she achieved an awful lot. Before she became president she tried to push bills through for abortion and divorce. But in terms of Irish role models I think were very limited. Girls looks to pop stars, film stars, not politics.
The history books are still male oriented. Youll find Countess Markievicz. Youll find Maud Gonne. In English courses youll find very few women poets. You wont find Lady Gregory; you wont find her until you come to university if you can make it to university. The books are still stereotyping: Sean is out in the garden playing with the ball; Marie is inside helping Mommy in the kitchen. It needs to be changed. We do need to find role models. But in order to provide the girls coming up with role models, its up to women my age and older to go and hunt them down and find them out. We need to contact agencies which produce text books, write to publishers, to ensure there are more equal gender roles and that the stereotyping is cut down. I dont think its even conscious, its accepted, its seen as normal. And a lot of people dont question. They dont argue. It s left up to the individual to do something. If you want your daughter or your son to learn about women in Irish history, you have to go yourself and tell their teachers you want them to learn this. And even then its still structured within the curriculum so that its very limited. The whole point system in Leaving Cert encourages you not to read outside the course. You just dont have time. Youre cramming as much information as possible into your head so that you can pass these exams and get to college, where you can hopefully choose what you want to study.
MT: To me it seems like there are these two different stereotypes about Irish women. One is women in Ireland have no power. And then theres this other stereotype of incredibly powerful women. Do either of these have any truth in them?
CR: I would say that Ireland is ideologically woman centered. Ireland is always portrayed as a woman: a beautiful woman, or an old woman mourning for her four green fields and the loss of her sons. Theres great lip service paid to women. We have a constitution which acknowledges that by her work within the home, woman provides services to the state without which the state would not be viable. Women have been put on a pedestal. And an attempt has been made to mold them into shapes that they dont fit. We have the Maud Gonnes, beautiful women who send men off to die. We have the Countess Markieviczs who inspire men to fight. And then we have the mothers who stay at home and look after all the other children. I think theres a degree of truth in most stereotypes. I think that Irish motherhood has had a focus on keeping the family together. I dont think all of this came from women, a lot of it was imposed. It was imposed by the state, it was imposed by the church, but it was taken to heart by a lot of women because it did empower them. By giving women this central role in the family, it did empower them, at least they had some power. They had control over their children, they were seen as a force in their community, even though they were not accepted in the community. I dont think they are extremely dominant figures in the family. Women have a lot of emotional power and authority but they have no economic power. An awful lot of Irish women are full time housewives. They may receive an income from their husbands, but at the end of the day they are still dependent on him. This is not a bad thing if its an equitable relationship but it has given rise to a lot of women who are unable to make independent decisions because they have to consult with their husbands.
Women are expected to do an awful lot. They are expected to look after the children, nurse the old and the sick, look after the family relatives, to provide an awful lot of services, and yet they are still accorded no status. A housewife is an incredibly powerful figure, you know, she affects so many people and yet is treated by the state as almost a child. Any tax benefits will be paid to your husband. When you marry, it is automatically assumed that your husband will control the finances unless you specifically state otherwise. I think the ideology has failed women in a lot of ways, it has restricted them. It has some positive aspects, but I think there is a need to branch outwards, to acknowledge women as people rather than as you know relations of men. They are more than just wives and sisters and mothers and aunts, they are people, and they should be accorded the respect and the financial support that would be accorded to a man in that situation.
There has been a lot of talk about having women in Parliament, the fact that four of the last presidential candidates were women. I think it was just tokenism. The women were put up there to fill the gap left by Mary Robinson. It wasnt because the political parties thought that they would be the best candidates. It was because they thought it would be good to have a woman. A good figurehead. And I think this is really obvious from the state that the country is in now. There is still lip service being paid to women: Yes we have one of those in management positions, one of those in government. I think theres an awful long way to go before we break any of the stereotypes and change any of the attitudes toward women in Ireland.
MT: What do think the impact has been of having more women in government?
CR: I dont actually think its made that much of a difference. Ill be quite honest about it. We havent actually got that many woman in Parliament. If you compare the amount of women who are in government now to the amount of women who have been in government throughout the history of the Irish Republic, even from the Free State times, I think weve had a total of 81 women in government during that time.
MT: Thats how many years?
CR: Thats in let me see, say from 1918 to 1998, 80 years. In 80 years weve had 81 women. Its a pretty bad track record. I dont think that women in government have made that much of a difference, which is not to say that women in government dont make a difference, I just think there arent enough of them there. I think that the women we have are career women, and I would say that unless we have a lot more women , younger women, married women, women with children in there making decisions that we are going to continue to see a very poor track record on women in Ireland.
Ireland is still one of the only countries which hasnt ratified the UN convention on women -- and also one on torture. The justification for that is because they havent actually got around to dealing with womens issues. Well I think they just dont want to deal with womens issues. This year in the budget they completely dismissed womens calls for improved child care, but last year in the budget they gave 20 million to the Gaelic Athletic Association. Now I think its wonderful that theyre willing to put money into sports but I think they need to pay attention to the fact that children need other things besides sports. They need child care. Women need child care.
The attitude is still very conservative towards women working. You know, if you are working you still have to look after your children as well because child care is far too expensive. There are women who will work because they love their job, and all the money that they earn will be spent on child care so that they can work. I really think until we have 50/50 women to men in the government were not going to see that position change, because theres still a very strong attitude that a womans place is in the home. They can deny it all they want but all social and legal policies are still concerned with women as dependents of men, their relationship to men. I mean even claiming social welfare you are a lone mother, not a single parent. You are a deserted wife, you are a widow. These are the allowances you get, and if you do receive an allowance its based on your relationship to a male, if you are living with a male. You may not be having a sexual relationship, you may actually just be sharing a house with a man, but you can still be denied benefit because the assumption is that he is taking care of you.
MT: Are there any other issues in particular that you think need to be addressed in terms of womens issues?
CR: In terms of womens issues, oh yes. And Im going to start straight off with abortion and the lack of sex education in Ireland. I think theres an attitude with a lot of people that if you give children contraception theyre going to just jump into bed. And I say children in the broadest sense of the word because under Irish law youre a child up until youre 21, something not a lot of people know. However Im talking about everyone from 0-21 -- they should have access to sex information. Whether its in school or through private programs. I dont think giving contraception is encouraging sex. Sex is happening all the time. People are going to have sex, with or without contraception. If you give them contraception, and give them an education, at least they can make an informed decision. If you educate them about feelings, if you educated them about their own biological cycles, then they have the information to make an informed decision. I think theres a failure to acknowledge children and teenagers as rational human beings.
We also have a serious problem in Ireland around abortion. There is a tendency to dismiss women who have crisis pregnancies or to push them into a situation they dont want, be that to keep the child or to abort the child. Yes there is pressure to have an abortion because like it or not there is still a stigma on women who are unmarried who have children. This is reinforced through the social welfare system; its reinforced through societys attitudes; its reinforced by the media. There are pressures on these women to have an abortion, to not have a child. I dont believe women should be prevented from having an abortion. I believe they should make an informed decision. They should have the option to have it in Ireland if they want. I think it is penalizing women to make them go to England -- its exporting a problem.
Its a problem which obviously isnt going away. It means that only women that have money can afford to go to England. Other women are left to resort to means less effective. They will get themselves kicked in the stomach; they will try self abortion. They will use knitting needles or hangers. Or they will resort to infanticide. And as weve seen there have been cases of girls of 14 and 15 like Anne Lovett who hide their pregnancies, and then leave the child to die or die themselves in childbirth. I think people are ignoring this situation. Its not going to go away. It is an issue and it needs to be addressed comprehensively. I think the government needs to address the situation; I think schools do, too. And I think people have to face up to the reality that premarital sex is happening, that crisis pregnancies happen, and that abortion happens.
I dont think women should be stigmatized because they have been let down by the system. Theyre let down by the school system which educates them in a moral code that just doesnt live up to what theyre feeling. Theyre told that sex is wrong. Theyre not told that its pleasurable, theyre not told that its going to make them feel good. So when they do experiment, and they do find out these things, everything goes out the window. Theyre uninformed so they believe boyfriends or friends who tell them, You dont get pregnant the first time you have sex... I think they also fail to recognize the issue of sexually transmitted diseases. I remember two years ago having a conversation with a friend of mine, who would now be 24, she is sexually active, and she casually informed me that HIV does not happen to heterosexuals. This is an attitude that comes to us through Irish society. There was an article in the Irish Independent two weeks ago in which the author claimed that it was homosexual sex that was spreading AIDS and HIV. This is an attitude that is extremely pervasive in Ireland. It doesnt happen to me. If we ignore it it will go away. Well it wont go away. Women dont go away. Girls dont go away. Theyre here, theyre having problems, and we need to address them in a serious and rational manner. We need to take the time to tell our children, our friends, whats happening. And we need to have the information to do it. We dont need a government telling us that theyre going to bow down to a Catholic hierarchy or to pressure from various groups, pro-life or whatever else.
I don't think anyone has the right to tell you what you can or cant do with your body. Its your own decision. And I think anyone who tries to enforce a situation in which you cant make an informed decision is a fascist. A dictator. And they have no business calling this country a democracy.
MT: Do you have any idea what youd like to do as a career? Will you continue with Womens Studies?
CR: First of all I thought Id like to be a solicitor. Then I wanted to go into schools, as an equality inspector, to change the curriculum, to ensure that women receive an equal amount of time in certain subjects. But then I realized that was never gong to happen -- the government was never going to elect an equality inspector in the schools. It would require an acknowledgment that there is a gender imbalance, and theyll never admit to that. We still have a predominantly male government, and they like the way things are. So then I thought Ill go and be a lecturer, Ill teach. But now I cant see that happening either. Theres a shift away from Womens Studies. A lot of schools are now calling it Gender Studies and theyre trying to equalize. The last thing they want is a radical feminist in the ranks. Now personally I wouldnt consider myself a radical feminist, but my friends consider me a radical feminist. Most of the people who meet me will tell me that Im an extreme feminist. For me, an extreme feminist means Andrea Dworkin.
MB: What about an Irish extreme feminist?
CR: Ailbhe Smyth! I would consider myself quite conservative. I dont go round breaking windows and saying no pornography. I ask awkward questions, I needle people, and Im very happy with that. When people ask, What political party do you vote with? I say, I dont vote with any political party, I vote for women, and that scares them! When I say that Im a feminist I might as well say that Im an IRA terrorist, Id get the same response.
Probably I will end up going into law. I think theres a very pressing need to change the legal system. I have several friends who have experienced sexual abuse and rape. They have been very badly treated by the system. If I were in that situation and went to court Id be very badly treated by the system. Thats something that has to change.
MB: Arent there a lot of women in the legal profession?
CR: There are a lot of women solicitors. There are fewer women barristers. It is barristers who become judges, and it is judges at the end of the day who decide sentencing. Thats a serious problem. I think Irish women who choose to study the law choose to become solicitors because they lack the self confidence to stand up in front of the courtroom and put their opinions forward. To a degree theyre afraid of being seen as aggressive, as career women, as if this is in some way a bad thing. We have a situation where women are discriminated against in the legal system, and there is still an attitude of, I dont want a woman solicitor. More and more women are using women lawyers, women bricklayers, women doctors. But its up to women to change.
I think the legal system will require radical change. A lot of our laws are based on English law, from the 19th century. The law against abortion is based on the 1861 Offenses Against the Person Act. A hundred and forty years later were still in a situation where woman are being dictated to. I think its through the law where the changes might come. The government is not going to legislate. I think the only way the legislation will be beneficial to women is if its made by women. We need to achieve critical mass, 50/50. Saying we need 30% to affect change wont work. Men will still be in the majority. And I think they are at the end of the day very conservative. Most men do not want to see women in power positions, it threatens them. They wont admit it. Most of them will tell you theyre perfectly happy seeing women doing this, that, and the other. But at the end of the day, if it was up to them, if they could do it anonymously, they would have all men. And I think to a certain extent women do that too. There is still a suspicion of a woman who wants to change things, who wants to have power, who wants to have a career.
Women have to work twice as hard, be twice as good, to get the same status as men. There is inherent discrimination against women. The most confident of my female friends -- and I do it too -- if Im in a situation where theres a large amount of men it is very intimidating. It may be blatant or it may be subtle but there will always be the put-downs. Dont be shy about saying your a feminist or what you believe. I think women should be taught that feminism is not a dirty word. I think they should be taught to assert themselves in school. Girls are still being educated into this role of the passive woman, caring woman. Theyre getting mixed messages: be competitive, get into college, get into the male roles and systems. And on the other hand, theyre told: be caring, be passive, be the nurturer. Its this kind of schizophrenia thats required to deal with the situation. You have girls coming up who say, I dont need feminism, I know what I want, I know where Im going. Well thats great but the girls coming up behind you are in a backlash. Because there is a backlash towards women. Thats been really obvious from the budget, from sentencing in womens cases, from the media. Theres still very much a regressive tendency -- we take three steps forward and two steps back. Were inching our way towards getting what we want. We need to make sure that the backlash doesnt affect those coming up behind us.
MB: Why is it that young girls are so anti-feminist?
CR: I think theres such a visible difference between where women in Ireland were 20 years ago and where they are now. The marriage bar is gone. There is theoretically equal pay. Women have achieved a lot. There are women heads of companies, women getting into management. They are getting into the Dáil and the Senead. But I think also the media has vilified feminism. Its this dirty word conjuring up these man-hating psycho bra burning women who are completely unfeminine, who wont let you wear make up and high heels. As if feminists are dictating to girls what they can and cannot do and say. This is the image being put across in the media. We need to counteract that image. The problem is how to do it. A lot of womens work is done at the community level, so its invisible. If I didnt know Dublin, Id think theres no womens movement here. Its invisible. Unless youre in Womens Studies, unless youre working in a rape crisis center or an outreach program, youre unlikely to know. How do woman get in touch, find out that these things exist, when the media is completely backlashing against them? Another attitude thats prevailing now is that men have changed. We have the new man, the caring man, who stays at home. So women are saying we dont need feminism -- because men have changed. But men havent intrinsically changed. Individual men have changed -- theyve changed their attitudes, they are more liberal, they are more willing to share power. But men on the whole, older men especially in power positions, are not going to relinquish that. So they perpetuate the idea that you dont need feminism. You dont need to organize. Because the greatest rule of all is divide and conquer. If you have younger women turning against older women because they feel that they are being dominated or controlled, then theyll spend time fighting the older women instead of joining them and fighting oppression by men, by the government, and by various systems.
The problem is getting the message across, short of going to the schools and bringing women and feminists and getting them to speak to girls. I dont think thats going to change. We still have a large population that subscribe to the idea that of the good wife at home. A lot of girls like that. And there is an extent to which that is very beneficial. Its wonderful that girls feel that they want to stay home. But they need to realize they have the choice to leave and go to work if they want. Thats something that women have had to fight for. And unless we make the younger generation realize this, it will slip away. We can see it now in recruiting people who are younger or who are past childbearing age into careers. There is a focus on the younger person, premarried. And also I think the later age of marriage is having an effect. Theres more pressure to have a career. And girls who dont fit into that category, because they have a boyfriend or whatever, they feel threatened by feminism. They feel that feminism will encourage them to break up with this person or is looking down on them for being involved with a man. Again its the media stereotype -- that you cant be a feminist and have a relationship with a man. Its very intimidating. Because these girls are growing up in a much more egalitarian society. Theyre growing up where they can relate to men, they can go out to the pubs, they have male friends, without this being seen as sinister or strange. And they like it. Its very positive. So theyre afraid that theyll be taken away from them by feminism -- because they dont realize that thats not what its about.
MT: And one last question, one that Im asking all the women Ive interviewed: Were you named for anyone in particular?
CR: No. I was named Caroline because my parents could agree on that, and then I was named Nora and Frances for both my grandmothers, theyre my second names. Caroline was nice and neutral with no favoritism on either side. I wasnt named for anyone in particular, just a nice name, sort of reach into the baby book and there you go.
MT: Do you have any idea what it means?
CR: Caroline, yeah, its apparently a feminization of Charles, and it means little womanly one, which I think is completely ridiculous, given that I was always a tomboy when I was little!
Top of Page