Wild Workhouse Girls and the Liberal Imperial State in Mid-Nineteenth Century Ireland. Wild Workhouse Girls and the Liberal Imperial State in Mid-Nineteenth Century Ireland.

Wild Workhouse Girls and the Liberal Imperial State in Mid-Nineteenth Century Ireland‪.‬

Journal of Social History 2005, Winter, 39, 2

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Publisher Description

In 1860, a riot broke out in the South Dublin workhouse, quelled only by the arrival of the police. The formidable adversaries were sixteen-year-old girls, who jeered at workhouse officials, and hurled heavy glass soda water bottles, platters, stones, and stirabout gruel at them, finally jumping the master. In the 1850s and 1860s, riotous and refractory pauper girls disturbed workhouses, prisons and reformatories in England, Ireland and Australia. (1) But these Irish girls also found supporters, who used their plight as a weapon in their struggles against the British state. When a Roman Catholic chaplain was fired for defending the girls, he became a cause celebre for the Catholic Church. Lady reformers then stepped into the fray, using the fate of these girls to denounce the cold hard "machine" of the workhouse system. This incident revealed many of the tensions inherent to the liberal imperial state of the mid-nineteenth century. (2) Liberalism envisioned as subject the self-governing individual who could independently function in the market for free labor. To mold the working class into independent individuals, government officials instituted the massive poor law. Its centerpiece was the workhouse, a "total institution," in the Foucauldian sense, which was to run with perfect efficiency and rationality. But this ideal was far different from the reality of squalor and decay. The state relied on philanthropic and religious institutions to make up for its deficiencies and to discipline the poor more extensively. Yet female philanthropists and Irish Catholics, relatively disenfranchised, could use their own charitable institutions to challenge the state's moral hegemony. As female reformers and Catholic bishops pointed out, the workhouse also clashed with another prized institution of the nineteenth century, the family. Was this institution any place to bring up children who were poor through no fault of their own? Female philanthropists also argued that the workhouse did not help girls become self-governing subjects. But how much agency did the workhouse girls have? Was their violence an effective means of resistance?

GENRE
History
RELEASED
2005
22 December
LANGUAGE
EN
English
LENGTH
43
Pages
PUBLISHER
Journal of Social History
SIZE
235.6
KB

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