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Emeritus Professor Maria Luddy

Maria Luddy


Academic Profile

BEd, MA, PhD (National University of Ireland)

Fellow of the Royal Historical Society

I specialise in the social and political history of 19th and 20th century Ireland, examining in particular the history of women.

From 1997 to 2001 I acted as the Director of the Women's History Project, which was based in Dublin and funded by the Irish Government. The publications that resulted from this Project included:

Jean Agnew and Maria Luddy (eds), The Drennan-McTier Letters 1776-1817, 3 vols., (Dublin: Women's History Project/Irish Manuscripts Commission, 1998/1999).

A Directory of Sources for Women's History in Ireland (Women's History Project/Irish Manuscripts Commission: Dublin, 1999), published as a CD-ROM, but also available on the web at: This resource contains in the region of 100,000 pieces of information relating to women's place in Irish society from the earliest times to the present.

Also available at the same web address is a database of information on Women in Twentieth-Century Ireland. This contains information from the files of the Department of the Taoiseach from 1922-1962. The information covers issues such as women and work, women in Irish political life and contains substantial information on the role of women in Irish society in the twentieth century.

I am especially interested in the social and political attitudes expressed towards 'deviant' or 'outcast' groups in Irish society, the impact such attitudes had on the material lives of such groups and the significance of such attitudes in developing concepts of Irish national identity, particularly in the period between 1890 and 1930. Some of these themes are explored in my book Prostitution and Irish Society, 1800-1940 (Cambridge, 2007).

Undergraduate Modules Taught

Selected Publications  

  • Marriage in Ireland 1660-1925 with Mary O'Dowd (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020).
  • Children and Childhood in Irish Society, 1500 to the Present ed. with James M. Smith (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2014).
  • Matters of Deceit: Breach of Promise to Marry Cases in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Limerick (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2011).
  • Cultures of Care in Irish Medical History, 1750-1970 ed. with Catherine Cox (Basingstoke: Palgrave /Macmillan, 2010).
  • Prostitution and Irish Society, 1800-1940 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).
  • The Crimean Journals of the Sisters of Mercy, 1854-56 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2004).
  • Women in Twentieth-Century Ireland: Sources from the files of the Department of the Taoiseach, with Leeann Lane, Orla Fitzpatrick, Catherine Cox. Available on the web at www.nationalarchives/wh.
  • Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, vols. 4 and 5, Irish Women's Writing and Traditions (Cork: Cork University Press/New York, New York University Press, 2002), co-edited with Angela Bourke, Siobhan Kilfeather, Margaret MacCurtain, Gerardine Meaney, Mairin Ni Dhonnchadha, Mary O'Dowd, and Clair Wills.
  •  Female Activists: Irish Women and Change, 1900-1960 (Dublin: Woodfield Press, 2001), co-edited with Mary Cullen.
  • A Directory of Sources for Women's History in Ireland (Dublin: Women's History Project/Irish Manuscripts Commission, 1999) with C. Cox, L. Lane, D. Urquhart). This Directory was published as a CD-ROM and is also available on the web at
  • Women and Philanthropy in Nineteenth-Century Ireland (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995). Winner of the James S. Donnelly Sr. Prize for best book in Irish history. Awarded by the American Conference of Irish Studies, 1996.
  • Hanna Sheehy Skeffington (Dundalk: Irish Historical Association, 1995).
  • Women in Ireland, 1800-1918: A Documentary History (Cork: Cork University Press, 1995, reprinted 1999, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2009, 2011).
  • Women, Power and Consciousness in 19th-Century Ireland: Eight Biographical Studies, (Dublin: Attic Press, 1995), co-edited with Mary Cullen.
  • Women Surviving: Studies in Irish Women's History in the 19th and 20th Centuries (Dublin: Poolbeg, 1990) co-edited with Cliona Murphy.

Recent Articles and Book Chapters

  • ‘Feminism’, in R. Bourke and I. MacBride (eds.), The Princeton History of Modern Ireland (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015), 470-89.
  • ‘Gender and Irish history’, in A. Jackson (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Modern Irish History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 193-213.
  • ‘Abductions in nineteenth-century Ireland’, New Hibernia Review, 17:2 (2013), 17-44. (Awarded the Roger McHugh Prize for 2014 as an ‘article likely to prove essential for future scholars’.)
  • ‘Possessed of fine properties’: Power, authority and thefunding of convents in Ireland, 1780-1900’, in M. Van Dijck & J. De Maeyer (eds.), The Economics of Providence (Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2012), 227-46.
  • 'The problem of equality: women's activist campaigns in Ireland, 1929-40', in T. E. Hachey (ed.), Turning Points in Twentieth-Century Irish History (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2011), 57-76.
  • 'Unmarried mothers in Ireland, 1880-1973', Women's History Review, 20, 1 (February 2011), 109-126.
  • 'The early years of the NSPCC in Ireland', Eire-Ireland, 44, 1 & 2 (Spring/Summer, 2009), 62-90.
  • 'Magdalen asylums in Ireland, 1880-1930: welfare, reform, incarceration?' in Inga Brandes and Katrin Marx-Jaskulski (eds.), Armenfursorge und Wohltatigkeit. Landliche Gesellschaften in Europa, 1850-1930 [Poor Relief and Charity. Rural Societies in Europe, 1850-1930] (Berlin: Peter Lang, 2008), 283-305.
  • '"Women of the pave": prostitution in Ireland', History Ireland, 16, 3 (May/June 2008), 16-19.
  • 'Sex and the single girl in 1920s and 1930s Ireland', The Irish Review, 35 (Summer, 2007), 79-91.
  • 'Introduction: an overview of the suffrage movement', in Louise Ryan and Margaret Ward (eds.), Irish Women and the Vote: Becoming Citizens (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2007), xiii-xxii.
  • 'A "sinister and retrogressive" proposal: Irish women's opposition to the 1937 draft Constitution', Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, xv (2005), 175-95.
  • 'Working women, trade unionism and politics in Ireland, 1830-1945' in Fintan Lane and Donal Ó Drisceoil (eds.), Politics and the Irish Working Class, 1830-1945 (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 44-61.
  • Women, Philanthropy and the Emergence of Social Work in Ireland (pamphlet) (Trinity College Dublin, 2005).
  • 'Convent archives as sources for Irish history' in Rosemary Raughter (ed.), Religious Women and Their History: Breaking the Silence (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2005), 98-115.
  • 'Women's history' in Laurence M. Geary and Margaret Kelleher (eds.), Nineteenth-Century Ireland: A Guide to Recent Research (Dublin:University College Dublin Press, 2005), 43-60.
  • 'The army and prostitution in nineteenth-century Ireland: the case of the wrens of the Curragh', Bullan: An Irish Studies Journal, 6, 1, (Summer/Fall, 2001), 67-83.
  • 'Moral rescue and unmarried mothers in Ireland in the 1920s', Women's Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 30, 6 (2001), 797-817.
  • 'Women and philanthropy in nineteenth-century Ireland' in Kathleen D. McCarthy (ed.), Women, Philanthropy and Civil Society (Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2001), 9-28.
  • 'Women and work in nineteenth and early twentieth century Ireland' in Bernadette Whelan (ed.), Women and Paid Work in Ireland, 1500-1930 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2000), 44-56.

Research Projects

With Professor Gerardine Meaney, Department of English, University College Dublin, I have co-edited an AHRC-funded project entitled Women in Modern Irish Culture. This consists of a database of information on Irish women writers, working in the Irish and English languages, and writing in all genres for the period 1800-2005. The database is freely available at

I worked with Professor Mary O'Dowd (Queen's University, Belfast) on the AHRC-funded project, Marriage in Ireland, 1660-1925.

The aim of the project was to produce a major study on of the history of marriage in Ireland, north and south, from 1660-1925. The time frame begins with the Restoration of Charles II as King of Ireland and ends with the prohibition of divorce in the Irish Free State. The primary focus was on the logistics of marriage among the social classes below the level of wealthy landowning families: how marriage was perceived, negotiated and controlled by church and state as well as by individual men and women. Although a significant amount of research has been completed on aristocratic marriage in Ireland surprisingly little has been written on the history of marriage among the 'middling' and lower social classes in rural or urban society. The project has, therefore, opened up a new field of Irish social history . The book will be published in 2017.

My current research focuses on life in pre-Famine Ireland.

Research Supervision

I have supervised MA and PhD dissertations on a range of topics relating to women in British and Irish history. The subjects have included nuns and convent life in 19th century England; the 'dirty protest' in Armagh Prison; women at the front during World War I; medical, social hygiene and youth work perspectives on young women, 1918-1939; Irish women who migrated to England from the 1940s and joined religious communities, and children in Irish workhouses.

Editorial Work

I am currently co-editing with Professor Enda Delaney (Edinburgh University), a book series ‘Reappraisals in Irish History’ for Liverpool University Press. There are currently five published volumes in the series.
Jonathan Wright, The ‘Natural Leaders’ and Their World: Politics, Culture and Society in Belfast, c. 1801-1832 (2013).
Virginia Crossman, Poverty and the Poor Law in Ireland, 1850-1914 (2013).
G. Meaney, M. O’Dowd, B. Whelan, Reading the Irish Woman: Studies in Cultural Encounters and Exchange, 1714-1960 (2013).
Emily Mark Fitzgerald, Commemorating the Irish Famine: Memory and the Monument (2013).
Paul Taylor, Heroes or Traitors? Experiences of Southern Irish Soldiers Returning from the Great War 1919-1939 (2015).