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Women and Public Policy in Ireland: A Documentary History 1922-1997


Richard B Finnegan and James L Wiles

Examines legislation that affected the role of women; Looks at the changes in law relating to employment, social welfare, education, health, divorce and abortion;  An essential book for anyone with an interesting gender studies.

‘The book… will become an established source of information for students of Irish social policy and those interested in the story of women in twentieth-century Ireland’ ~ Irish Democrat

‘Clear and comprehensible’  ~ Irish Literary Supplement 

ISBN: N/A Categories: ,


This book concentrates on Ireland’s public policies,cases and laws on women after 1922. It examines the policies in place before1972 and the extensive changes heralded by the 1972 Report of the Commission on the Status of Women: equal pay, employment and social welfare.  In the 1980s and 1990s the debate shifted from the formal equality of women to issues of equity,fairness,opportunity and participation, as emphasized by the Report of the Second Commission on the Status of Women (1993). The constitutional issues of divorce and abortion as well as the changes in family law, violence, education, health, and political and economic opportunity are tracked through government reports up to 2000.

Table of Contents

1.) Women’s pay and employment: practice and problems

  • Historical background
  • Equal pay
  • Women in employment
  • Conclusion

2.) Women’s pay and employment: public policies since 1972

  • The ‘equality contract’ between the state and Irish women
  • Pension
  • Child Care
  • Conclusion

3.) Social welfare and disadvantage

  • Eliminating discrimination
  • Rural women
  • Women in situations of double disadvantage
  • Conclusion

4.) Married women

  • Legal status of married women
  • Proposals on community of property
  • Guardianship of infants
  • Succession to a husband’s estate
  • Maintenance for deserted wives
  • Taxation of married women
  • Access to loans and mortgages

5.) Constitutional Issues

  • Divorce
  • Contraception
  • Abortion
  • Equal status

6.) Violence and abuse

  • Rape
  • Domestic violence against women
  • Sexual abuse of children

7.) Women and education

  • Barriers to equal opportunity in the 1970s
  • Policies for change in the 1980s
  • Further developments in the 1990s

8.) Women’s health

  • Specific issues in women’s health
  • Proposals for improving health services
  • Developing A Plan for Women’s Health

9.) Women’s participation in politics and public life

  • Low levels of participation
  • Women on boards of state-sponsored bodies
  • Proposals for quotas and targets
  • The response of the government and the parties


About the Authors:

Richard B Finnegan is Professor of Political Science and Director of Irish Studies at Stonehill College, Massachusetts.

James L Wiles is Professor Emeritus, Economics at Stonehill College, Massachusetts.