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Wild workhouse girls and the liberal imperial state in mid-nineteenth century Ireland.

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?

The Irish poor law reflected Ireland's status as both part of the Union and as a subjugated colony. The English New Poor Law of 1834 was harsh enough, mandating that paupers receive meager relief only in the workhouse so that they would take any jobs they could. During the 1830s, Irish politicians and social investigators suggested that this model was unsuitable for Ireland, which had few jobs for poor people to take; instead, they advocated industrial development. But the British Parliament (where Irish members had few votes) imposed an even more strict version of the New Poor Law in 1838. The English poor law commissioners mandated that Ireland be blanketed with regimented workhouses, one for each union. Like its English equivalent, it forbade outdoor relief (outside of the workhouses). While local English boards of guardians soon evaded these rules and granted some outdoor relief, especially to deserted wives and widows, the Irish poor law remained much more restrictive. It was carefully constructed to deny that the able-bodied poor had any "right to relief," although in the midst of the famine this right was grudgingly extended to the aged, widows with two or more legitimate children, and the disabled--but still only in the workhouse. Few able-bodied adult men could gain entrance, so most workhouse inhabitants were women, children and the aged. (3)

The Irish poor law can be seen as a classic example of colonial modernity. The modern colonial state of the 19th century both imposed grandiose new institutions and exploited violence and poverty to ensure the imperial order. (4) The workhouses were supposed to run on a system of Benthamite order, with schedules, bells, and silence. They were mandated to impose elaborate classifications, men apart from women, parents from children, the sick from the able-bodied poor. A visitor to a strictly-run English workhouse gained an over-whelming sense of the institution's "Power" over the helpless children, enforced by "endless rules, endless iron-barred windows and padlocked gates." (5) But in Ireland, the idealized workhouse never materialized; instead of order, there was chaos and squalor. During the famine, workhouses were crammed with starving, fever-ridden people. By the 1850s and 1860s, there was some improvement, but behind the impressive workhouse facades still lay crumbling, ill-maintained buildings with sewage pooling in the yards, mothers and babies crammed into ill-ventilated, dark, low-ceiling basements, girls desultorily schooled in sheds. (6) Of course, many English workhouses were also unhealthy and decrepit, but the standards seem to have been much lower in Ireland.

This was not an example of backwards Ireland unable to live up to the prescriptions of English progress. After all, the principle of the poor law was "less eligibility"--the idea that in order to deter pauperism, conditions in the workhouse must be worse than those of the lowest paid laborer. In Ireland, where living conditions of poor laborers were lower than that of English laborers, the workhouse therefore had to be extremely grim to deter them. The poor law workhouse was also a symbol of English domination and Ireland's underdevelopment: as William Field observed, "Foreigners remark ... that our constitution seems to produce poverty and lunacy; because, either the immense ugly union or the big regular asylum is generally the leading architectural feature in county towns; instead of the fine church or cathedral, the handsome maison de ville, and the pleasurable, instructive galeries to be found in other countries." (7)

The Irish poor law was both highly centralized and locally administered. The Irish poor law commissioners were usually Englishmen, and/or Protestant, a fact which rankled Irish nationalists. The commissioners exerted tight control over the guardians, inspecting their minutes weekly. Yet as in India, the colonial state delegated many functions of local government to indigenous elites, dividing and ruling along sectarian or caste lines. Irish guardians were responsible for the day-to-day running of workhouses, and they were largely Protestant, since the franchise was heavily weighted to benefit landowners, and boards were also stocked with ex-officio guardians, such as magistrates. (8) However, Catholic guardians contended for influence as well, sometimes speaking up for Catholic paupers to ensure the consolations of the provision of mass and the services of a priest. As a result, the workhouses were divided into sectarian territories. Some unions, such as South Dublin, appointed separate Protestant and Catholic schoolmasters and mistresses, although the vast majority of paupers were Catholic.

The poor law ideal of perfect regimentation co-existed with the reality of a different system of power: based on personal connections, sectarianism, and violent authority--not unrelated to the hierarchies of Irish society. Masters and matrons left the wards to run themselves, delegating much of their duties to lower officials, who tended to be petty and corrupt. These officials could escape discipline, despite egregious incompetence. The commissioners did try to get the guardians to fire corrupt and incompetent officials, but they could often remain by manipulating their religious and kinship connections with guardians. (9) The commissioners occasionally tried to rebuke guardians for allowing abuses, but when public scandals erupted, the commissioners tended to defend the institution of the poor law rather than admit abuses publicly. (10)

Women and children composed the majority of workhouse inmates. For instance, in 1858, able-bodied men were only 6% of South Dublin workhouse inmates, but children were 34%. (11) Many pauper children spent most of their lives in workhouses. The Famine broke up families and left orphans to be raised in the workhouse. Some girls entered with their mothers, who died, leaving their children to be raised there. Parents sometimes left their children in the workhouse while they migrated for work and reclaimed them during better times. In the workhouse, children were badly fed, clothed and housed. Despite repeated scandals over the inadequacy of the food in the workhouse, the typical diet had very little meat and vegetables, consisting mostly of potatoes, buttermilk, and stirabout (a sort of cornmeal gruel). (12) As a result, workhouse children tended to be stunted and unhealthy, often afflicted with scrofula (tuberculosis of the neck and skin) and opthalmia (an eye disease). (13)

Almost twice as many 9-15 year old girls were incarcerated in the South Dublin union as boys, and many of them spent years of their lives there, although most went frequently in and out of the institution. (14) This article will therefore focus on teenaged girls between the ages of twelve and seventeen, a liminal stage between childhood and adulthood, between dependence and independence. While middle-class girls were supposed to be passive and dependent, poor girls were expected to maintain themselves from the age of 13. Workhouse officials sent girls of 12 or 13 out as servants, but only upper-working-class or lower-middle-class householders would take workhouse girls, and treated them harshly as skivvies, or maids of all work, and in the worst cases, assaulted or molested them. (15) As a result, many workhouse girls did not stay in their situations, and their only alternative was to return to the


Aside from service, young women had almost no opportunities for work in nineteenth-century Dublin. In the decade after the Famine, work opportunities for women drastically diminished in Ireland. (16) This fact explains why in the workhouse girls outnumbered boys, who had a slightly better chance at finding work on the streets of Dublin. Even if work existed, girls were not trained for it. Workhouse schoolmistresses taught the children to read and write, but the teachers tended to be underqualified, and the children also had to spend much of the day scrubbing floors or cleaning kitchens. Young girls were also set to needlework, but they usually sewed or mended the coarse cloth of work-house uniforms with plain stitching. Following the principles of liberal laissez faire, the poor law commissioners forbade any skilled labor in the workhouse because they rightly feared that employers would exploit cheap female workhouse labor, undercutting the already minimal wages of women outside the workhouse.

At the age of fifteen, girls would be taken from the children's wards and put in the wards with adult women, including prostitutes and unmarried mothers. Workhouse officials also complained that prostitutes would come into the workhouse to recruit girls for the brothels. (17) One of the most notorious refractory girls in the South Dublin workhouse, Jane Kane, had been abandoned to the workhouse by her prostitute mother at age 14, but she repeatedly left the workhouse to visit her mother in the brothel. (18) However, the fact that she so often returned to the workhouse suggests that Jane did not want to be a prostitute, and knew the workhouse was her only alternative.

Despite these hardships, workhouse girls were active agents trying to exert some control over their own lives. Deprived of meaningful or lucrative work, workhouse girls embroidered, or "some got into secret places to knit fancy stockings, the sale of which enabled them to indulge in an illicit cup of tea." (19) Workhouse girls also asserted not only their femininity, but their humanity, by modifying the drab, ragged workhouse uniforms which were intended to humiliate them and render them sexless. (20) In the Cork workhouse, the girls paid great attention to their hair, "which was arranged with much skill, and never failed to exhibit a brilliant polish, produced by kitchen grease, the parings of mutton chops or castor oil." Outraged by this feminine weakness, the guardians ordered that the girls wear drab grey-brown caps, but the girls either wore them on a rakish angle, or refused altogether and destroyed the caps. (21) In Dublin, the girls also appropriated clothes from the laundry to make bustles under their petticoats. (22) Yet they were often punished for embroidering or ornamenting themselves.

Given the conditions of their lives in the workhouse, and the hopelessness of life outside it, it is not surprising that workhouse girls often seemed sullen and uncontrollable. Dr. O'Connor, medical officer of the Cork workhouse, wrote that they existed either in a state of "profound lethargy" or violent aggression--or alternating from one state to another. (23) The records list many girls in South Dublin punished for "insolence" and talking back to authorities. At the same time, it must be admitted, these girls were also violent to each other. One writer observed that about half the girls were bullies who tormented the quiet girls. (24)

When the girls defied or evaded workhouse rules in this way, they were subject to severe and often arbitrary discipline. It was not just the regimentation, but the unfairness of discipline that often provoked riotous behavior. The lower officials, the laundresses, the wardmasters and mistresses, were petty, ill-paid officials who often originated as paupers themselves, and who indulged in the tea- and whisky-drinking, cardplaying, and fighting they were supposed to suppress. (25) These officials sometimes colluded with the girls by allowing them to embroider for profit, or wander from ward to ward. But these petty officials could also exert their authority capriciously, granting and withholding favors. The workhouse matron and master could be even harsher, for they had the power to order girls to be nearly stripped naked and sent to filthy punishment holes for hours or days of solitary confinement, deprived of their milk.

Workhouse officials often sent refractory girls to prison, even for minor offenses such as talking back to the workhouse mistress or wearing their caps the wrong way. The South Dublin Union committed 495 girls to prison over an eleven year period. Many of them were sent to Mountjoy prison, whose reforming matron, Mrs. Lidwell, observed that they were among the most intractable of the inmates. Prison authorities regarded the girls from the workhouse as intelligent, but "reckless[ly] insubordin[ate]:" "when they are corrected, even in the mildest manner, for any breach of regulations, they seem to lose all control of reason, they break the windows of their cells, tear up their bedding." The girls from the workhouses also tended to stick together and react violently if one was punished: "a kind of clanship exists among them." (26) But girls sometimes broke windows in the workhouse in order to enter the predictable regime of the prison, where Mrs. Lidwell was respected for her reforming efforts. (27) In the prison, girls felt that the food was better and that the matron was fair, though strict; if they behaved well, they could also earn small sums for their work. (28)

Riots among workhouse girls were not uncommon in Ireland. (29) (Boys occasionally rioted, but they tended more to destroy property or abscond; adult paupers occasionally rioted as well.) Harsh discipline and sectarian divisions made these riots worse. North Dublin Union did not have such discipline problems, perhaps because it did not separate inmates by religion, which created resentment at favoritism, or send girls and boys to prison for minor infractions as did its South Dublin counterpart. (30) In Cork, these riots were brought under control when the Roman Catholic chaplain intervened, and ladies were eventually allowed in to visit the girls. The chaplain and the ladies provided sympathy and succor to the girls, ameliorating their alienation. (31)

The South Dublin Union finally tried a similar tactic by allowing the Sisters of Mercy to establish an auxiliary workhouse at Baggot Street. (32) The auxiliary institution gave the nuns a foothold in the poor law system; they wished to take the girls who they thought would be reclaimable and more amenable to religious discipline, and reward them with better food and "individualization." Of course, some Protestant guardians initially opposed the opening of the Baggot Street asylum because they objected to spending ratepayers' funds on a Catholicrun institution, but the discipline problem was so severe they finally relented. (33) However, the nuns and the guardians clashed over the criteria for admission. The nuns refused to take any girl who was known to be a prostitute. However, the guardians wished to send the refractory girls to Baggot Street to remove their bad influence from the workhouse. The nuns claimed by sending refractory girls to Baggot Street, their bad behavior was rewarded, and the other girls contaminated. However, the guardians refused to stop sending refractory girls there, claiming that since they paid for the auxiliary, they should control who was admitted. As a result, the nuns lost control of their inmates, who destroyed the Baggot Street clothing stock. (34) The nuns stopped accepting the refractory girls, wishing to obtain "better material" to save from a life of despair. (35)

The workhouse matron promised an alternative to Baggot Street for five of the girls, a shelter in Adelaide Street where they would be provided with work and well-treated, but when they got there the institution turned out to be Protestant, and would deny the Catholic girls the opportunity to go to mass. (36) The matron of Baggot Street also recommended that four girls be sent to Australia; for many poor Irish women, emigration had long promised an escape from the hopelessness of their lives. But the guardians delayed voting on this proposal. (37) As a result, the refractory girls feared they would never escape from the workhouse.

The morning of the riot on the 2nd of April, the workhouse matron ordered the wardmistress to search the girls for clothes they had pilfered from the laundry and hidden under their skirts. The girls cried out, "They're taking our bustles!" In the subsequent parliamentary inquiry, the master claimed that the male workhouse officials came in to keep order and turned their backs as the female officials searched the girls. In response, fifteen girls attacked the workhouse master, jumping on top of him, "wanting to tear the clothes off his back;" the ringleader, Eliza Dalton, also punched the wardmistress in the back. The police were called and suppressed the riot with some difficulty. They brought the girls before a magistrate, who condemned most of them to prison. (38) The board of guardians also decided to punish the girls by squelching the plan to emigrate some of them. (39)

But the Catholic chaplain Rev. Lawrence Fox claimed that the girls were actually victims of indecent assault. As he told the Catholic guardian George Godfrey Place, then the magistrates, he saw, from a window above the dining hall, male officers chasing younger female inmates, knocking one down, and throwing "her clothes completely over her head, and turn[ing] them down again one by one. The turning of the clothes caused a complete exposure of the person." Fox took his story to the press, describing the scene as scandalous, abominable and obscene, so horrifying it made him almost too faint to hold his pen. The Protestant guardians were outraged by his insubordination and dismissed him from office. (40) The commissioners then mounted a public inquiry into the riot, which raised questions of competing notions of rights: the rights of paupers to liberty and due process, the rights of the poor law commissioners and guardians, and the rights of the Catholic Church.

In the inquiry, female inmates emphasized their right not to be searched by male workhouse officials. Of course, a professional stenographer probably took down their words, smoothing out their speech. But their sense of oppression came through the professional filter. Bridget Healy, who had been in the workhouse for six years, said that as the female officer searched them, the male officers "never took their eyes off the women while they were searching ... many of the women cried out that they would not let themselves be searched before the male officers, it was too disgraceful." Official Brady, she claimed, tossed Eliza Dalton on the floor "and pulled the clothes completely over her head. You could see the rice bag on her back, some article they wear, made of the rice bags ... she was indecently exposed." Catherine Bergin said the master grabbed Eliza Dalton by her breast, and then Brady kicked her on the floor, leaving her almost complete exposed. Eliza Dalton herself testified that when the officers started to search, she protested, "Although we were mendicants and in the South Dublin Workhouse, we were not to be treated in so barbarous a manner." (41)

Paupers, and their supporters outside the workhouse, claimed their individual rights to liberty and due process under the law, as enshrined in the British constitution (which applied to Ireland). (42) For example, a month before the riot, inmate James Hyland sent a formal letter to the poor law commissioners asking whether the workhouse master had the legal power to "imprison an inmate without first investigating the truth of the alleged offense?" (43) In response to the riot, the Evening Post also claimed that the master had ordered an illegal search and argued that a police warrant should have been obtained in order to search the girls. (44) The workhouse girls also articulated a broader sense of their right to relief. Similarly, English paupers had long asserted a common-law right to relief; even though no such common-law right existed in Ireland, Irish poor people developed their own sense of rights. (45) The girls would often insist on their "legal right" to reenter the workhouse after discharge from prison. (46)

The workhouse girls became a cause celebre as the poor law became a nationalist and class issue in local newspapers. In a letter to the Evening Post, "Justitia" asked, "is it any wonder that workhouse-reared girls should be disorderly ... when they are subjected to such treatment." (47) The Nation denounced the poor law as the tool of the plutocracy and landed gentry. (48) This was a fraught time for such issues, as bad harvests and an economic downturn filled the workhouses, and nationalists agitated to repeal the union with Britain.

In response, the commissioners, workhouse officials and guardians asserted their rights, as given by the statutory creation of the poor law, to discipline inmates of the workhouse and fire the chaplain. The guardians also asserted that they had the right to refuse admission to anyone who would cause disorder in the workhouse. The poor law commissioners exonerated the officers from the charge of searching the women or indecently exposing the women. They faulted the matron's lack of supervision, but above all blamed the Rev. Fox for encouraging insubordination by taking the sides of the inmates.

As a result, the incident also became a flashpoint in the vexed relationship of the Catholic Church with the state. The controversy around Fox focused on who had the right to appoint and dismiss Catholic workhouse chaplains: the poor law commissioners and guardians, who claimed it by statute, or Dublin's Catholic archbishop, Paul Cullen. Cullen claimed that he alone had this "spiritual power" and refused to become "a passive tool for the execution of arbitrary and unconstitutional measures." (49)

The image of poor Irish girls indecently assaulted by Protestant workhouse officials also enabled the Catholic Church to assert its moral leadership. The poor law issue helped Archbishop Cullen in his campaign to increase the power of the Catholic Church vis-a-vis the British government; he insisted that the church should control the upbringing of Catholic children, including paupers. (50) Cullen also wished to take control over the nationalist movement away from the nascent physical force Fenians and the more moderate secular nationalist movement, which included some influential Irish Protestants among the Catholic majority. The Church did not believe that a nationalist revolution was feasible, but Cullen thought he could push through less drastic changes--and control politics himself. (51) Unlike the Fenians, friendless workhouse girls would easily assent to the Church's leadership.

Fox positioned himself as a defender of faith and the purity of Catholic womanhood (always an important rallying cry for Irish nationalism). Fox claimed, "I am not prepared to defend any refractory conduct or insubordination on the part of the inmates; but when the laws of man subvert or interfere with the laws of God, the Christian has a right to take his stand, even at the risk of being called refractory, and the Irish female, with her innate love of modesty, may be excused for resisting a search either on herself or on other females in the presence of a number of male officers." (52) Fox thus identified himself with the refractory girls and equated their violent resistance with the virtues of modesty and Christianity; the workhouse girls therefore served as a metonymy for the unruly Irish people, to be defended, tamed, and led by the Catholic Church. The nationalist Freeman's Journal praised Fox's "honest zeal for the morals of the poor" and denounced the commissioners for allowing "an irresponsible clique to trample on the guardian of the fatherless and orphan." (53)

Cullen used his clout to bring the issue of Fox's dismissal to the floor of the House of Commons. There, the South Dublin refractory girls became a perfect issue for the independent oppositionist Irish members of Parliament. Home Rule leader Isaac Butt defended Fox against tyranny of poor law commissioners: "What man with any decency or manly feeling in his breast would venture to join such an outrage against a defenseless woman, even though that woman be a friendless and hopeless pauper?" (54) Usually, the government would stoutly defend poor law officials against such accusations. But the Irish independent oppositionists exerted power as swing voters. They had turned against the Whig/Liberal prime minister, Lord Palmerston, when he fought the 1859 election on an anti-popery platform. (55) Only 19 out of 109 Irish members voted to retain Palmerston on a vote of no confidence, so the Liberals had to make concessions to Irish nationalist interests. Eventually, the Attorney General "admitted that the conduct of the workhouse officials, in laying violent hands on the woman, was illegal, and constituted an assault." The Secretary of State for Ireland, Cardwell, recommended that Fox be reinstated, and the board of guardians grudgingly assented. (56)

A new cause celebre emerged in 1861, when eight girls submitted a public petition to the commissioners to force the South Dublin union to readmit them into the workhouse. They had been put in prison for disruptive behavior in the workhouse, but once released from prison, had no place to go and no means of earning a living. But the guardians refused to readmit them to the workhouse. The girls sought shelter at the St. Joseph Night Refuge for homeless women and children, run by the Sisters of Mercy. The Rev. Spratt took up their cause, and probably wrote the petition, although four of the eight girls were literate, and among the girls was Eliza Dalton, a ringleader of the 1860 riots. (Indeed, Mrs. Kirwan had complained that "immoral books" circulated in the workhouse, probably penny dreadful novels.) (57)

The petition differs from Eliza Dalton's earlier assertion of her rights in the riot inquiry. Instead, it follows the line of the Sisters of Mercy, who had previously appealed to the public to save homeless girls from immorality, and the ideas of Spratt, who saw the recalcitrant poor as emblematic of the prodigal son, who could be forgiven and reclaimed by God. (58) In the document, the girls presented themselves as helpless creatures in need of moral succor, fearful of falling into prostitution, "daily and hourly subject to temptation, having no place to reside." (59) This rhetoric of morality was apparently more convincing than their earlier rhetoric of rights. Catholic poor law guardian George Godfrey Place defended the girls, "saying not one of them is a fallen girl." Chastity was more important than order for him. (60) However, this was not just a Catholic issue. W. Neilson Hancock, a professor at the Protestant Trinity College, complained that "instead of trying save the girls from destruction by seeking power to place them in some virtuous family, the guardians drive virtuous girls on the streets of Dublin without any means of support." (61) Hancock also claimed that the refusal of relief to Spratt's girls showed that the Irish poor law was much harsher than that of England. (62) In England, such girls would be easily admitted to the workhouse or indeed given outdoor relief. Hancock believed that women and children should be supported by men, or if that failed then by the state, but certainly not left to fend for themselves. (63)

In contrast, the guardians continued to regard the girls as disruptive forces which should be kept out of the workhouse. While the central commissioners rebuked the girls for their very unthankful spirit while in the workhouse, they only allowed the guardians to keep the girls out for ten days. (64) Dr. Spratt again appealed, claiming that the girls had been behaving well while under his care, and the girls were finally readmitted. (65) Once back in the workhouse, the Rev. Spratt claimed that they were disciplined "For minor offenses such as "walking on the grass, not wearing a cap, wearing a blue ribbon on the neck in presence of the mistress, singing a hymn in the hall on a Catholic holiday, or not being respectful in some particular way to the master or matron." The workhouse master could order male officials to drag a young female," kicking and screaming, "to a dark loathsome cell, damp, and without ordinary personal conveniences, opening into a dark passage" and infested with rats--or even worse, committed to prison. Spratt evoked a constitutional notion of individual rights. "I submit, that the punishment of this kind, inflicted on the mere ipse dixit of an official, influenced perhaps by prejudice, dislike or infirmity of temper, is quite contrary to the spirit of the British constitution, and the frequent and capricious infliction of which, forms one of the reasons why this workhouse is so remarkable for its number of committals as compared with others." The girls' opposition to this tyrannic power was therefore understandable. (66) The Protestant guardian Mr. Bonsall denied these accusations, asserting that solitary confinement in the workhouse was nothing compared to the "dungeons of Rome, Spain, and Naples," where Protestants were imprisoned for reading the Bible. He pointed out that these supposedly helpless girls had set the workhouse on fire, smashed windows, and assaulted officials. (67) Some months later, two of these girls, Maria Usher and Anne Scully, lured a thirteen-year-old workhouse girl from her domestic service place into a brothel; the brothel keeper gave them a shilling each for delivering the girl, who, soon after, became infected with venereal disease. (68)

The South Dublin girls also became part of a much wider political controversy in 1861, when the House of Commons mounted an investigation into the Irish poor law, under pressure from the Catholic Church and other reformers. Ireland's Catholic bishops had circulated a petition throughout the churches calling for poor law reform, an extension of outdoor relief, protection of Catholic rights, the boarding out of orphaned and deserted children, and the appointment of Irish Catholic commissioners. Children should not be brought up in institutions, but in families, argued critics. While the workhouse was generally accepted as a test for the able-bodied male, critics of the workhouse argued that it was an improper place to rear children, because it treated children as criminals when their poverty was no fault of their own. Archbishop Cullen especially emphasized this point, upholding the sanctity of the family over the power of the state. (69)

Much of the debate centered whether the girls of the South Dublin Union were refractory because they had been reared in the workhouse, or because they imported evil ways from their slum upbringing. For the parliamentary inquiry, the South Dublin guardians were ordered to investigate the histories of 46 girls who constituted the "refractory class." Indeed, 34 of them had entered the workhouse under the age of 12, and 28 at ten and under. Twenty seven spent more than four years of their young lives in the workhouse, but most went frequently in and out of the institution. For instance, Eliza Dalton, the ringleader of the 1860 and 1861 incidents, had entered the workhouse at age 9, although she spent only a year and a half all told in the workhouse over a ten year period; she had also been committed twice to prison. (70)

Most, but not all commentators on the poor law obsessively focused on the question of "classification." The obsession with classification required further and further minute demarcations, especially in the case of young women, who ranged from the insubordinate, to unmarried mothers with one child, to prostitutes. The bishops wished to keep "innocent" girls away from sinners. (71) Ellen Woodlock, a Catholic philanthropist, asserted that she would "not let a girl in my school who had been supposed to be a fallen one, any more (to use a coarse expression) than you would allow a glandered horse to come into your stable." (72) However, the master of the North Dublin Union, Michael Weddick, a Catholic, did not see the necessity for classification. He feared that if young women were stigmatized and labelled as prostitutes, they could never be reclaimed and returned to society. (73) Indeed, some of the girls who were marked as "contaminating" had actually been the victims of sexual assault. (74)

Abashed by this relentless bad publicity, the guardians, after much sectarian wrangling, hired an educated female superintendent to supervise, train, and classify the workhouse girls. Grudgingly, the guardians realized that the girls needed incentives and rewards for good behavior, so they began to emulate the techniques of the Rev. Fox, who rewarded schoolboys for good behavior, and the Sisters of Mercy at Baggot Street, who advanced girls through more privileged classes. The girls were classified into three ascending classes: the general workhouse population, those who had behaved well for two years, and those who were suitable to work as servants or emigrate. (75) Miss Eliza Boone was duly hired and tried to enforce order in her classes of workhouse girls, hoping to induce them to conform to the rules (such as giving up their crinolines) with the hopes of gaining access to improving literature and emigration. The incorrigible girls were to be punished with a humiliating, coarse uniform. (76) However, this utopian program of Benthamite classification, rewards and punishments soon foundered on the cruder realities of power in the South Dublin workhouse. Mrs. Connors, the wardmistress (who had been involved in the 1860 riot) and Mrs. Somers, the laundry mistress, sabotaged Mrs. Boone's efforts by allowing the laundry girls to peer in the window and laugh at her class, by refusing to give Boone a key to lock up the refractory girls, instead, letting them wander at will and flirt with male inmates. With the rank of an assistant matron, Eliza Boone did not have the necessary power in the workhouse to enforce her classificatory ambitions. Instead, the refractory girls ganged up on her; Maria Usher and Ann Scully, two of the girls who Spratt had befriended, "threw tea on her face ... beat her and tore her hair" and ripped her bonnet and cloak to pieces." Eliza Boone had to give up her reforming ambitions and to resign herself to be just another disrespected assistant matron. (77)

Since the late 1850s, philanthropic ladies claimed that the solution to the refractory girls could never be found in the workhouse administration. (78) Ladies would be able to tame the girls where officials could not by developing alternative institutions to the poor law. But guardians fiercely resisted their overtures. Irish Catholic female philanthropists had begun to set up orphanages and reformatories. (79) For instance, Ellen Woodlock founded the St. Joseph Institute, which trained poor girls in needlework. (80) Margaret Aylward, who ran an orphanage, got to know the South Dublin workhouse girls in Grangegorman prison, where she had been confined after being accused of refusing to give up a Catholic girl to her Protestant mother. (81) But Woodlock and Aylward's Catholic connections sparked opposition from Protestant guardians, who objected to using government money to fund religious institutions. The Packet claimed that Woodlock would immure the poor in convent-like institutions. (82)

Protestant female philanthropists were also interested in setting up independent institutions to rescue girls from the clutches of the workhouse. For instance, Louisa Twining led a phalanx of "wives and daughters of members of Parliament and men of high position and influence," who could sway public opinion independently of the poor law. (83) The ladies who wished to visit the South Dublin workhouse, for example, were related to the Lentaignes (including a guardian and a poor law and education inspector), Judge Berwick, and Captain Crofton, a prison reformer. The National Association for the Promotion of Social Science also gave both Protestant and Catholic female reformers a power base; when it met in Dublin in 1861, both Twining and Woodlock gave papers on Irish workhouse girls. (84)

Both the Catholic ladies such as Woodlock and the Protestant ones such as Twining approached the ideology of the self-governing individual in quite a different fashion than did the dominant poor law reformers. Poor law ideologues believed that if workhouse schools were reformed and better discipline inculcated, they would succeed in turning poor children into self-governing individuals. (85) If poor children were kept separate from adult paupers and educated in workhouse schools, they were actually better off than free children raised in poor, squalid Irish homes. Poor law administrators believed that the well-run workhouse school, which constantly employed children at learning or labor, would instill self-reliance. (86) In a classic example of Foucauldian discipline, some reforming inspectors also set up district schools in England, where boys were subject to marching and drilling, and every minute of their day was ruled by the bell; industrial schools, ragged schools and reformatories in Ireland sometimes followed this model. One author praised a very disciplined Irish ragged school because "the whole machinery moves, as it were, of itself--no noise,--no bustle,--no disorder of any kind." (87) By having their lives so regimented by a time-table, they would learn principles of order and time, internalizing their own self-discipline.

In contrast, the philanthropic ladies believed that the workhouse system destroyed paupers' individuality and turned children, especially girls, into automatons who could not function outside the institution. They regarded the poor law system as a "hard, cold, cruel machine which destroyed the individuality of the children, especially girls. (88) Ellen Woodlock found that even the girls of the North Dublin Union, which did not have the refractory problems of its South Dublin counterpart, "have no energy, and no feeling of independence, and no life;" totally unsuited to work outside the house, they were sullen and passive. (89)

The ladies did not depict the girls as passive victims, as did Hancock, to be protected by male authority. Instead, they wanted to instill individual self-reliance. One anonymous reformer praised the nuns of the Baggot St. asylum for the process of "individualization" which improved even the worst girls. Ellen Woodlock paid small wages to the girls of her St. Joseph's Industrial Institute and allowed them to buy their own food, so that they could choose how to spend or save their pittance, and what kind of food they wanted. (90)

The ladies counterposed the ideal of the family to the harsh dictates of political economy. They believed, like W. Neilson Hancock and many other reformers of the time, that orphan and deserted children should be boarded out in foster families, not raised in a regimented workhouse. Of course, until that happened, they would have to recreate the ideals of the family--personal moral influence and individual attention--for the poor girls who were stuck in the workhouses. This family ideal was also a way of ameliorating class conflict at this time. (91) Of course, this ideal of the family was very class-based: for the lady philanthropists, it was the middle-class household, run by the lady, who had personal influence over her servants, representing the poor.

The philanthropic ladies genuinely sympathized with the girls and wanted them to develop as individuals, but their institutions also functioned to discipline girls for their place in the industrial economy. Some institutions and ladies tried to train the girls in fine needlework, different kinds of knitting, and embroidery, supplying English and Scottish manufacturers. But their efforts to make these institutions self-supporting through inmate labor ran afoul the laws of supply and demand. Unlike boys, who were taught carpentry, shoemaking and tailoring, girls were taught only the one, overstocked trade of needlework. The widespread availability of extremely cheap female labor in Irish institutions such as training schools, workhouses, and convents meant that employers could undercut the wages of independent female laborers. Such institutions, including Woodlock's St. Joseph Industrial Institute, failed when the vagaries of fashion, or, the economic disturbances of the American civil war, rendered their girls' skills unnecessary. (92)

The ladies also quite openly proclaimed that they needed to gain access to workhouses so that pauper girls could become proper servants for the middle class. Philanthropists and employers insisted that that girls reared in the workhouse did not know how to use knives or forks or handle glasses, having eaten their bread and potatoes with their hands and sipped milk and gruel from tin cups; some did not even know how to climb stairs. They could scrub a floor, but did not know how to clean a parlor. (93) The ladies believed that a certain amount of self-motivation was necessary for a servant to work in a household, to know how to carry out her tasks one after the other without constant supervision. The workhouse visiting societies often tried to set up alternative institutions to the workhouse where they could train servants who could acquire these qualities and skills suitable to wait on private families. In North Dublin, they wished to set up a room with a bedstead, chest of drawers and so on so the girls would know how to clean a room in a middle-class household. In Cork, they set up an auxiliary training institution, where the girls waited on the ladies. (94)

In order to set up these institutions, the philanthropic ladies had had to overcome fierce opposition from the guardians. The North Dublin Union guardians were very indignant at these ladies' "flighty notions" that they would know more about the management of the workhouse than guardians. (95) The South Dublin board of guardians also obstructed efforts by Twining and others to visit the workhouse. At first, the South Dublin union interpreted the request of the ladies to visit in sectarian terms. Some guardians declared that if they allowed the Sisters of Charity to provide services, Protestant ladies should be able to visit as well. However, the ladies committee was actually mixed; it did not operate on sectarian grounds. The guardians finally gave in, in part because these ladies were so well-connected in government circles, and in part because their own efforts to solve the problem of refractory girls with Eliza Boone had utterly failed. (96)

Twining and her supporters believed that only the moral influence of ladies could solve the problem of refractory workhouse girls, ladies who were not subject, as was Miss Boone, to the corrupt hierarchy of the workhouse. By the late 1860s, the lady visitors claimed to have solved the problem of the refractory girls in the South Dublin union, by establishing a separate training institution within the workhouse and facilitating the appointment of a Lady Deaconess. As Florence Hill observed, "it was not until a woman of education and refinement--in other words, a lady--undertook the post, that these poor, undisciplined, and stupefied creatures could be successfully treated." (97) However, by 1864, only Protestant women belonged to the ladies' visiting society, so they only visited Protestant girls, who were a small minority in the workhouse. (98)

Over the next seven years, the workhouse records certainly show an improvement in female inmate behavior, but several girls and women were imprisoned each year for insubordination, and by that time, boys had taken up the riotous, rebellious behavior. The improvement in the girls may have been due to a system, first instituted in 1862, of punishing bad behavior with confinement to the probationary ward, where they had even less food and uglier uniforms, but also rewarding them after one month's good behavior with a return to the regular ward. Emigration schemes also provided more hope for the girls. (99) Sadly, Jane Farrell, Eliza Dalton and Sarah Burton, ringleaders of the 1860 disturbances, were still in and out of the workhouse and the probationary ward, burning beds and defying the masters, Farrell and Dalton through 1863, and Burton at least through 1867. (100)


How efficacious were their actions as a form of resistance? Using first violence, and then a constitutional language of rights, the workhouse girls did win attention to the dismal conditions of their lives. Gaining the Rev. Spratt as an ally helped them get back into the workhouse by portraying themselves as poor helpless girls. Although Eliza and Sarah continued to live miserable lives, tormenting themselves and others, conditions in the workhouse did improve a little due to the scandal.

Another question was how much the philanthropic ladies were complicit in the liberal political state and how much they tried to change it to help women. Clearly, they did function as an adjunct of the liberal state--this is how they saw their role--in shaping the unruly poor into a disciplined servant class. Given the 19th century liberal idea of a strictly limited state, the myriad voluntary institutions of Victorian England and Ireland were essential. The ladies focused on the ideal of individualism and personal autonomy in part because this served the interests of their class in gaining more efficient servants.

But these ladies also undermined the assumptions of the liberal state that only men were to be self-governing. In their own lives they wrestled with their desires for more personal autonomy. They also came to realize that the personal influence of lady visitors could only have limited efficacy, because recalcitrant boards of guardians could always block their efforts. Eventually, the ladies agitated for the right of women to stand as poor law guardians. They obtained this right in Ireland in 1896, much later than in England, when the first female poor law guardian was elected in 1875. (101)

The refractory workhouse girls of South Dublin--violent, foul-mouthed and bold--might seem to be the opposite of the Catholic nationalist ideal of the virtuous, pure, Irish woman. But in claiming that they could tame the wild work-house girls, Catholic chaplains, Protestant reformers and female philanthropists each asserted their ability to control, and therefore lead, the unruly Irish people. W. Neilson Hancock argued crime and disorder were not inherent characteristics of the Irish, but caused by the lack of an effective and compassionate poor law system. (102) Fanny Taylor, who eventually became a nun, praised Irish female philanthropists, especially Catholic ones, for their work with pauper inmates and female prisoners, and asserted that the problem with the Irish was that the English government was not loved or trusted. By working to save their country from disorder, these philanthropists proved the worth of the Irish nation. (103)

By the late 19th century, the Catholic Church ran most social service institutions even before Irish independence. The Catholic hierarchy tended to take over institutions founded by lay Catholic female philanthropists soon after they were founded, and put nuns, more amenable to control from the bishops, in charge. By the late nineteenth century, it reestablished more institutional forms of discipline as opposed to the earlier individualist emphasis. (104) These Catholic institutions were much more efficient than the poor law institutions in disciplining refractory girls. The poor law system shaped only the pauper girls' bodies, not their minds, unlike the Catholic Church with its prayers and penances. Indeed, Foucault traced the origins of total institutions to the medieval Catholic monasteries. But for all its many faults, the poor law system was accountable to the commissioners and to the court of public opinion, so that the horrors of the workhouse would be periodically exposed, even if few improvements transpired. The institutions of the Catholic Church, such as the Magdalen Institutions, which incarcerated wayward girls, were not accountable in that fashion. (105) As we have seen from the recent scandals about these institutions, they tamed the refractory girls, at a terrible price.

Department of History

Minneapolis, MN 55455


I would like to thank Maria Luddy and Margaret Preston for generously contributing their expertise and comments on this piece. Audiences at the Women's History seminar at the Institute for Historical Research in London, and the Comparative Women's History Workshop at the University of Minnesota also made useful comments. I would especially like to thank M.J. Maynes. Kelly Donahue and Anne Heubel were able research assistants. As always, Anne Carter provided encouragement and support.

1. For a fascinating study of a later riot, see Virginia Crossman, "The New Ross Work-house Riot of 1877: Nationalism, Class, and the Irish Poor Laws," Past & Present, Vol. 179, no. 1 (2003): 135-158. For refractory women in prisons, see Henry Mayhew and John Binny, The Criminal Prisons of London and Scenes of Prison Life (London: 1862), 188. For similar outbreaks in Australian reformatories, sometimes instigated by Irish immigrant girls, see Noeline Williamson, ""Hymns, Songs and Blackguard Verses": Life in the Industrial and Reformatory School for Girls in New South Wales, Part 1, 1867-1887," Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society [Australia], Vol. 67 (1982): 375-387; Kerry Wimshurst, "Control and Resistance: Reformatory School Girls in Late Nineteenth Century South Australia," Journal of Social History, Vol. 18 (1984): 273-287; Noeline Williamson, "Factory to Reformatory: The Founding and the Failure of Industrial and Reform Schools for Girls in Nineteenth Century New South Wales," ANZHES Journal [Australia], Vol. 9 (1980): 32-41. For London workhouses, see Seth Koven, Slumming: Sexual and Social Politics in Victorian London (Princeton, 2004): 68-70.

2. This discussion is relevant to Foucault's concept of governmentality; however, Foucault does not acknowledge the problem of whether women can be self-governing, and he tends to see non-governmental institutions as simply carrying out the state's task of overseeing and disciplining populations. For governmentality, see Colin Gordon, "Government Rationality: An Introduction," in Graham Burchell, Colin Gordon, and Peter Miller, eds., The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality (Chicago, 1991): 56. In later work, Foucault began to work with a different concept of the individual, which I will explore in a future article on boarding out. See Michel Foucault, "'Omnes et Singulatim': Toward a Critique of Political Reason," in The Essential Works of Foucault, 1954-1984, ed. Paul Rabinow and Nikolas Rose (New York, 2003), 183; Mary Poovey, "The Liberal Civil Subject and the Social in Eighteenth-Century British Moral Philosophy," Public Culture 14 (Liberal Civil Subject, 2002): 139, Colin Gordon, "Government Rationality: An Introduction," in The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality, ed. Graham Burchell, Colin Gordon, and Peter Miller (Chicago, 1991), 38. Laren Goodlad, Victorian Literature and the Victorian State: Character and Governance in a Liberal Society (Baltimore, 2003), 43. Patrick Joyce, The Rule of Freedom (New York, 2003), 1.

3. For some useful works, see Helen Burke, The People and the Poor Law in Nineteenth-Century Ireland (Dublin, 1987); John O'Connor, The Workhouses of Ireland: The Fate of Ireland's Poor (Dublin, 1995); Christine Kinealy and Gerard MacAtasney, The Hidden Famine: Poverty, Hunger and Sectarianism in Belfast, 1840-1850 (London, 2000); Gerard. O'Brien, "The New Poor Law in Pre-Famine Ireland: A Case History.," Irish Economic and Social History Vol. XII (1985): 35-49; Dymphna McLoughlin, "Workhouses and Irish Female Paupers, 1840-70," in Maria Luddy and Cliona Murphy, ed., Women Surviving: Studies in Irish Women's History in the 19th and 20th centuries (Dublin, 1989): 117-147; Jacinta Prunty, Dublin Slums 1800-1925: A Study in Urban Geography (Dublin, 1998).

4. For colonial modernity, see Satadru Sen, "A Separate Punishment: Juvenile Offenders in Colonial India," Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 63 (2004): 81-104; David Scott, "Colonial Governmentality," Social Text 43 (1995): 195-220.

5. Florence Hill, Children of the State: The Training of Juvenile Paupers, 1st ed. (London: 1868), p. 12; Frances Power Cobbe, "The Philosophy of the Poor Laws and the Report of the Committee on Poor Relief," Fraser's Magazine, Vol. 70 (1864), p. 376.

6. William Ansell Day, The Famine in the West (Dublin, 1862), p. 34; John Arnott, The Investigation into the Condition of Children in the Cork Workhouse with an analysis of the evidence (Cork, 1859): 15; C. B., "A Country Workhouse in Ireland," Journal of the Workhouse Visiting Society 2 (1864): 149; Sligo Board of Guardians Minute Books, 1861, 1864, Sligo County Library; Survey of Workhouses, 1861, Bishop Gilloolly papers, Elphin Diocesan Archives, Sligo, Box Section III C; "Belfast Workhouse: Copy of Dr. McCabe's recent report on the state of the Belfast workhouse," Parliamentary Papers LXII (1880): 147, where he observes that although the workhouse is much improved, it is still over-crowded, and filthy water comes up through the tiles in the nursery.

7. William Field, Suggestions for the Improvement of the Irish Poor Law, (Dublin, 1883): 9.

8. Virginia Crossman, Local Government in Nineteenth-century Ireland (Belfast, 1994): 46-52.

9. Denis Charles O'Connor, Seventeen Years' Experience of Workhouse Life: With Suggestions for Reforming the Poor Law and Its Administration (Dublin, 1861): 22. Susanne R. Day, The Amazing Philanthropists: Being Extracts from the Letters of Lester Martin, P.L.G. [poor law guardian] (London, 1916): 50-75, for a later explanation of this; for apparent examples, see South Dublin Union Board of Guardians Minute Book, Dublin, National Archives of Ireland, BG 79 A 12, 10 Jan. 1859; BG 79 A 11, 5 July 1858.

10. The worst example of this was the Cork workhouse scandal, where children who played in sewage pools in the workhouse yard were stunted, scrofulous, and often died. The commissioners claimed that they brought their bad health with them from the slums. The Report of Terence Brodie, poor law inspector to the Commissioners for the administering of the laws for the relief of the poor in Ireland, upon an investigation held by him into the condition of the children in the cork Workhouse (Cork, 1859): 105-110.

11. Burke, The People and the Poor Law in Nineteenth-Century Ireland, 192.

12. Proceedings of the Select Committee on Poor Relief (Ireland), Parliamentary Paper Vol. X (1861): 212.

13. Joseph Robins, Lost Children: A Study of Charity Children in Ireland, 1700-1900 (Dublin, 1980): 267.

14. Poor Relief (Ireland) Proceedings 1861, p. 541; South Dublin Union Board of Guardians Minute Books, 13 Nov. 1858.

15. For such a case, see South Dublin Union Board of Guardians Minute Book, Dublin, National Archives of Ireland, BG 79 A 13, 14 May 1860.

16. Janet E. Nolan, Ourselves Alone: Women's Emigration from Ireland 1885-1920 (Lexington, 1989): 30-50.

17. Robins, Lost Children, 254; O'Brien, "The New Poor Law in Pre-Famine Ireland: A Case History," 45.

18. Burke, The People and the Poor Law in Nineteenth-Century Ireland, 349.

19. O'Connor, Seventeen Years Experience of Workhouse Life, 19.

20. Mayhew also noted that female prison inmates in London ornamented themselves ingeniously, for instance, scraping whitewash off cell walls to powder their faces. Mayhew and Binny, Criminal Prisons, 185.

21. O'Connor, Seventeen Years Experience of Workhouse Life, 21.

22. Poor Relief (Ireland) Proceedings 1861, 208.

23. O'Connor, Seventeen Years Experience of Workhouse Life, 19.

24. Poor Relief (Ireland) Proceedings 1861, 225. This was the testimony of Ellen Wood-lock, a Catholic social reformer.

25. O'Connor, Seventeen Years Experience of Workhouse Life, 22.

26. "Extracts from the Sixth Annual Report of the Directors of Convict Prisons in Ireland for 1859. Mountjoy Female Convict Prison," Journal of the Workhouse Visiting Society, Vol. 1 (1860), 291.

27. South Dublin Board of Guardians Minute Book, Dublin, National Archives of Ireland, BG 79 A 15, 27 Sept. 1862.

28. "A Glance at Irish Charitable Institutions," Irish Quarterly Review, Vol. 8 (1859): ix.

29. Crossman, "New Ross Workhouse Riot," 38.

30. Poor Relief (Ireland) Proceedings 1861, 239.

31. "Cork Union--Ladies' Visiting Committee," Journal of the Workhouse Visiting Society 1 (1862): 572-574; "Annual Report of the Commissioners for Administering the Laws for Relief of the Poor in Ireland," Parliamentary Papers XXIV (1862): 13; Colman O'Mahony, In the Shadows: Life in Cork 1750-1930 (Cork, 1997): 225.

32. Maria Luddy, Women and Philanthropy in Nineteenth Century Ireland (Cambridge, 1995): 21.

33. "A Glance at Irish Charitable Institutions," 506.

34. "The Adult and Young of the Poor-House," The Irish Quarterly Review, Vol. VIII (1858): 705; Poor Relief (Ireland) Proceedings 1861, 206; South Dublin Union Board of Guardians Minute Book, 31 Mar. 1860.

35. Sir Walter Crofton to Louisa Twining, 13 July 1860, Women's Library, London, Louisa Twining Papers, 7/LOT/17b.

36. South Dublin Union Board of Guardians Minute Book, 7 April 1860.

37. Ibid. 24 March 1860; for emigration, see Richard Reid and Cheryl Mongan, "'A Decent Set of Girls" ... The Irish Famine Orphans of the Thomas Arbuthnot 1845-1850 (Yass, 1996).

38. South Dublin Union: minutes of evidence taken before the South Dublin Union and the Assistant Poor Law Commissioners, Parliamentary Papers Vol. LVIII (1860): 28.

39. South Dublin Union Board of Guardians Minute Book, 7 April 1860.

40. South Dublin Union Minutes of Evidence ... taken before Assistant Poor Law Commissioners, 42.

41. Ibid, 923.

42. Similarly, in Marylebone, London, three girls successfully appealed to a magistrate in 1856 after they had been caned by workhouse officials; the magistrate ordered the officials fired. Lynn Hollen Lees, The Solidarities of Strangers: The English Poor Laws and the People, 1700-1948 (Cambridge, 1998): 149.

43. South Dublin Union Board of Guardians Minute Book, 17 Mar. 1860. The commissioners said the master did not have such power.

44. Evening Post 5 Jun. 1860 in Larcom papers, Dublin, National Library of Ireland, Manuscripts dept., Ms. 7782.

45. Lees, Solidarities of Strangers, 176.

46. For other examples of paupers' sense of their rights, see Ennistymon, Union Letter Book, Dublin, National Library of Ireland, Manuscript Dept., Ms. 12,766.

47. Evening Post 26 Apr. 1860 in Larcom papers.

48. Nation 19 May 1860 in Ibid.

49. South Dublin Union Minutes of Evidence ... taken before Assistant Poor Law Commissioners, 932.

50. S.J. Connolly, Priests and People in Pre-Famine Ireland, 2nd ed. (Dublin, 2001): 43; Emmet Larkin, The Consolidation of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, 1860-1870 (Dublin, 1987): 139.

51. R. V. Comerford, The Fenians in Context: Irish Politics and Society 1848-1882 (Atlantic Highland, NJ, 1985): 64.

52. South Dublin Union Minutes of Evidence ... taken before Assistant Poor Law Commissioners, 922.

53. Freeman's Journal 1 Jun. 1860 in Larcom Ms. 7782.

54. Packet 7 Sept. 1860 in Ibid.

55. Comerford, Fenians in Context, 57.

56. Packet 7 Sep. 1860, Post 4, 11 Aug. 1860 in Larcom Ms. 7782.

57. "The Garret, Cabin and the Goal," Irish Quarterly Review (1853), 375.

58. Luddy, Women and Philanthropy, 192; Rev. Dr. Spratt, A Sermon on the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Dublin: 1870); Prunty, Dublin Slums 1800-1925: A Study in Urban Geography, 261.

59. Poor Relief (Ireland) Proceedings 1861: 187, 346-360

60. Poor Relief (Ireland) Proceedings 1861: 203.

61. W. Neilson Hancock, "Difference between English and Irish Poor Laws," Journal of the Dublin Statistical Society, Vol. III (1862): 225. W. Neilson Hancock, The Difference between the English and the Irish Poor Law, as to the Treatment of Women and Unemployed Workmen (Dublin: 1862); W. Neilson Hancock, A History of the Irish Poor Laws, and the Differences between the Administration of the English and Irish Systems: Being a Lecture delivered in the Mechanics Institute, Lurgan, on Monday Evening, 12 May, 1862 (Lurgan: 1862).

62. W. Neilson Hancock, "The Effects of the Employment of Women in Occupations Attended with Publicity as illustrated by the result of the Factory System at Bradford," Journal of the Dublin Statistical Society, (1860): 439-443.

63. W. Neilson Hancock, "The Workhouse as a Mode of Relief for Widows and Orphans," Journal of the Dublin Statistical Society, (1855): 84-91; W. Neilson Hancock, "On the Importance of Substituting the Family System of Rearing Orphan Children for the system now pursued in our Workhouses," Journal of the Dublin Statistical Society (1859): 317-331.

64. Poor Relief (Ireland) Proceedings 1861, 208.

65. Ibid., 208, 587.

66. Freeman's Journal 1 Oct. 1861 in Larcom Ms. 7782.

67. Express 18 Oct. 1861 in Ibid.

68. South Dublin Union Board of Guardians Minute Books, Dublin, National Archives of Ireland, BG 79 A 14, 19 Dec. 1861.

69. Poor Relief (Ireland) Proceedings 1861, 177.

70. Ibid., 541.

71. Ibid., 376.

72. Ibid., 216.

73. Ibid., 239.

74. Ibid., 203. For one case, in which a thirteen-year-old girl was raped by a man who turned out to be a poor law guardian from another union, see South Dublin Union Board of Guardians Minute Books, 7 Nov. 1861.

75. "South Dublin Union," Journal of the Workhouse Visiting Society, Vol. 1 (1861): 511-512.

76. South Dublin Union Board of Guardians Minute Books, Dublin, National Archives of Ireland, BG 79 A 14, 29 Aug. 1861.

77. Express 20 Sept. 1861 in Larcom Ms. 7782; South Dublin Union Board of Guardians Minute Books, 26 Sep. 1861.

78. For women and philanthropy, see Maria Luddy, "Religion, Philanthropy and the State in Late Eighteenth- and Early Nineteenth-Century Ireland," in Hugh Cunning-ham and Joanna Innes, eds., Charity, Philanthropy and Reform from the 1690s to 1850 (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998): 157. Margaret Preston, "Women and Philanthropy in Nineteenth-Century Dublin," Historian, Vol. 58 (1996): 763-776; Margaret Preston, "Lay Women and Philanthropy in Dublin, 1860-1880," Eire-Ireland, Vol. 28 (1993): 74-85.

79. Mary Peckham Magrey, The Transforming Power of the Nuns: Women, Religion and Cultural Change in Ireland, 1750-1900 (New York, 1998): 100.

80. "St. Joseph's Industrial Institute, with Special Reference to its Intern Class of Work-house Orphans," Irish Quarterly Review, Vol. 8 (1859): 7.

81. Jacinta Prunty, Margaret Aylward 1810-1889: Lady of Charity, Sister of Faith (Dublin, 1999): 98.

82. Margaret Preston, "Discourse and Hegemony: Race and Class in the Language of Charity in Nineteenth-Century Dublin," in Tadhg Foley and Sean Ryder, eds., Ideology and Ireland in the Nineteenth Century (Dublin, 1998): 100-112

83. Louisa Twining, Recollections of Workhouse Visiting and Management (London, 1880): 6.

84. Express 6 Sept. 1861 in Larcom Ms. 7782; Ellen Woodlock and Sarah Atkinson, "The Irish Poor in Workhouses," Transactions of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science, (1861): 645-652.

85. Prunty, Dublin Slums 1800-1925: A Study in Urban Geography, 216; Felix Driver, Power and Pauperism: The Workhouse System, 1834-1884 (Cambridge, 1993): 58.

86. Edward Carleton Tufnell to Louisa Twining, 18 May 1860, Women's Library, London, Louisa Twining Papers, 7/LOT/27b; Report of the Select Committee on Poor Relief, Parliamentary Papers X (1862) (Shannon): 26, 467.

87. "Reformatory and Ragged Schools," Irish Quarterly Review, Vol. II (1854), 425.

88. Louisa Twining, Workhouse and Women's Work (London: 1858): 24.

89. Woodlock, "The Irish Poor in Workhouses"; Poor Relief (Ireland) Proceedings 1861 220.

90. "A Glance at Irish Charitable Institutions," iv.

91. Eileen Janes Yeo, The Contest for Social Science. Relations and Representations of Gender and Class (London, 1996), 135.

92. "A Glance at Irish Charitable Institutions," xxiii.

93. "St. Joseph's Industrial Institute, with Special Reference to its Intern Class of Work-house Orphans," 7.

94. "Cork Union--Ladies' Visiting Committee," Journal of the Workhouse Visiting Society, Vol. 1 (1862), 572; Fanny Taylor, Irish Homes and Irish Hearts (Dublin: 1867): 154.

95. Express 20 Sep. 1861, Packet 20 Sep. 1861, Freeman's Journal 10 Sep. 1861 in Larcom Ms. 7782.

96. Express 20 Sep. 1861 in Ibid.; South Dublin Union Board of Guardians Minute Books, 21 Aug. 1861, 19 Sep. 1861. The ladies' visiting society in Cork had faced similar problems. See Taylor, Irish Homes and Irish Hearts, p. 152; "Cork Union--Ladies' Visiting Committee," 574.

97. Hill, Children of the State: The Training of Juvenile Paupers, pp. 111-116; Lady Visitor, "Society for Visiting the South Dublin Workhouse," Journal of the Workhouse Visiting Society, Vol. 2 (1864): 143-7.

98. "Report of the Dublin Workhouse Visiting Society," Journal of the Workhouse Visiting Society, Vol. 1 (1862): 708-9.

99. South Dublin Board of Guardians Minute Book, 9 May 1863.

100. South Dublin Board of Guardians Minute Book, Dublin, National Archives of Ireland, BG 79 A 16, 14 Mar. 1867.

101. Crossman, Local Government in Nineteenth-century Ireland, 55.

102. Hancock, A History of the Irish Poor Laws, 1.

103. Taylor, Irish Homes and Irish Hearts, 218.

104. Luddy, Women and Philanthropy, 211; Magrey, The Transforming Power of the Nuns: 100.

105. Frances Finnegan, Do Penance or Perish: A Study of Magdalen Asylums in Ireland (Piltown, Kilkenny, 2001).

By Anna Clark

University of Minnesota
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