Paper Proposal

Paper Proposal

I plan to research the portrayal of Irish American female immigrants in the visual arts from 1870 through 1920. The portrayal of female Irish American women in the visual arts of 1870-1920 represent the stereotypes of these immigrant women at this time. Such stereotypes revealed the discrimination and social classification that female Irish immigrants experienced during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These stereotypes arrived from a racial, class, and gender lens often associated with Irish Americans. Irish immigrant women were portrayed as masculine, untamed, domestic females due to their race and their Irish heritage. The use of visual arts such as short films, plays, and photographs highlight such representations and portrayals of the social constructs that female Irish American immigrants faced during this time.

The sources for this research project will range between both primary and secondary sources. One useful primary source is the short 1909 film A Servants Revenge. A Servants Revenge explores the life of a working Irish American woman who seeks revenge for her former employer disrespecting her. This source portrays the iconic “Irish Bridget” image of Irish American women in a short film in visual arts. A secondary source that is similarly related is the article: “How Bridget Was Framed: the Irish Domestic in Early American Cinema, 1895-1917” by Peter Flynn. The article uses examples of 19th and 20th century visual arts to highlight the popular stereotype of the wild, female Irish maid and servant. This article is useful to this research project because it explores the stereotypes Irish American women experienced during the late 19th and early 20th centuries and how they were portrayed in American cinema.

The portrayal of female Irish American women in the visual arts of 1870-1920 is significant because of the largely unfocused history of female Irish immigrants in the United States. Not only is there little literature on female Irish immigrants during the 19th century, but the representation of these women in the visual arts signifies the gendered, class, and racial lens at which women and the Irish were viewed at this time. Specifically, the disciplinary field of gender studies is seen through the portrayal of Irish American women as butch and masculine domestic workers. Since there is little literature on female Irish American immigrants, the analyzation of these women in the visual arts are some of the few ways in which these women can be studied through their portrayals.

Bibliography:

Primary

A Servants Revenge. Produced by Lubin Manufacturing Company. Distributed by Lubin Manufacturing Company. 1909.

Fickle Bridget. Produced by Solax Film Company. Distributed by Motion Picture Distributors and Sales Company. 1911.

Secondary

Diner, Hasia. Erin’s Daughters in America: Irish Immigrant women in the Nineteenth Century. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983.

Flynn, Peter. “How Bridget was Framed: the Irish Domestic in Early American Cinema, 1895-1917.” Cinema Journal 50. No. 2 (2011): 1-20.

Murphy, Maureen. “Bridget and Biddy: Images of the Irish Servant Girl in Puck Cartoons, 1880-1890” in New Perspectives on the Irish Diaspora. Southern Illinois University Press, 2000. 152-175.