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Images and icons: female teachers’ representations of self and self‐control in 1920s Ireland

Una Ni Bhroimeil (Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick)

History of Education Review

ISSN: 0819-8691

Article publication date: 24 June 2008



This article addresses a particular episode that occurred in one of the main female training colleges in Ireland in the late 1920s when students1 founded the Mary Immaculate Modest Dress and Deportment Crusade (MDDC). Regarded by many scholars as the adoption of a prescribed image, a slavish following by institutionalised Catholic females of Catholic mores, the MMDC is cited by historians as an example of how women internalised the control of the Catholic Church and indeed sought to enhance and perpetuate it by their actions. Historians generally have maintained that Irish women were submissive and accepting of Catholic social teaching particularly in relation to sexuality and have highlighted the lack of organised and unified opposition to the erosion of women’s citizenship and employment opportunities during the period 1920‐1960. In drawing attention to the MDDC, this article seeks to understand and place the MDDC in the broader social context of 1920s Ireland and examine how women in general were represented. This comprises the first part of this article. More specifically it will explore whether the students in the training college were objects or agents of their own representation. Following Judith Butler’s concept of gender as performative, the second part of the article addresses how these female student teachers negotiated their relationship with the patriarchal basis of organised power. To this end visual and written data from the Mary Immaculate Training College Annuals 1927‐1930 are examined.



Ni Bhroimeil, U. (2008), "Images and icons: female teachers’ representations of self and self‐control in 1920s Ireland", History of Education Review, Vol. 37 No. 1, pp. 4-15.



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