The Orange Order began as an Irish Protestant society in rural Co. Armagh, following the Battle of the Diamond against the Catholic 'Defenders' on 21 September 1795. By the beginning of the nineteenth century, the organisation had consolidated its position as a Loyalist, anti-Catholic bulwark against revolution in Ireland and had begun to spread across the rest of the British Isles. Exploring the experience of Orangewomen in England, Scotland and Canada tells us far more than just how and why they became members of the Orange Order. This book demonstrates how largely ordinary, working-class women engaged in conservative associational life and political activism during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, subverting various gender norms in their public work. Through migration and diasporic networks, these women were connected to their Orange sisters throughout the world and played a central role in upholding a British imperial identity well into the twentieth century. The Orange Order is often characterised as a thoroughly masculinist brotherhood, associated with Irish sectarian violence. While the Order in Scotland was largely dominated by working-class women, in England we see the organisation embracing a far broader spectrum of social backgrounds. Irish politics and identity were clearly important to Potter and the many thousands of women who were members of Canada's Ladies' Orange Benevolent Association (LOBA). The world of Protestantism conventional gender ideologies and women's public activism, came to prominence through the women's Orange Order.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. By the 1930s, the songs of the Orange Order reflected women's prominence and visibility in an organisation often portrayed as thoroughly male-dominated. While focusing on women's great success in the Scottish institution, this song highlights many of the key themes explored throughout the book. Female Orangeism came to play a key role in the Orange Order and tens of thousands of women became 'Orange sisters' because they wanted to help maintain a British world founded on the Empire and Protestantism. The Orange Order is often characterised as a thoroughly masculinist brotherhood, associated with Irish sectarian violence. The book provides an important contribution to our understanding of Irish women within the diasporic contexts of Britain and Canada and addresses the broader questions within migration history about the gendered nature of ethnic associational activity.
The First World War was portrayed by the Orange Order in England as an imperial event. In the pavilion of Trent Bridge, Orangewomen demonstrated their commitment to the Orange soldiers who were fighting for Ulster and for the British Empire. The Orangewomen of England have much to tell us about the nature of working-class women's activism during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and the gendered nature of popular imperialism and Toryism. This chapter outlines the overall patterns of growth of female Orange lodges in England. Having established how the female Orange Order developed in England and the largely English-born working-class nature of its membership, it is important to consider what these women actually did. Exploring the weekly, monthly and yearly activities of the English Orangewomen, at their lodges, in their streets and in their broader communities help us to understand the motivations women had for joining the Order.
This chapter examines how the female Orange Order was established in Scotland and how it grew to become the most numerically significant section of that country's organisation during the 1930s. The experience of the Orangewomen of Scotland was focused on migration and a sense of imperial identity rooted in the Irish Protestantism of many of the Order's members. Moreover, the chapter demonstrates the diversity of working-class women's activism in Scotland, emphasising how women from Protestant and Unionist backgrounds could be active political agents. It analyses the emergence of female Orange lodges in early twentieth-century Scotland, demonstrating how women's entry into the masculinist world of the Orange Order was shaped by a wider debate about suitable public roles for women. Female lodges were not only numerically superior to men's lodges, but they also held an increasingly high status within the Orange Order.
This chapter explores the remarkable scope of the Canadian Orangewomen's public activism. It discusses a song, penned by Mrs Charles E. Potter from Saskatoon, indicating the complex relationship with the British Isles experienced by many Orangewomen in Canada at the beginning of the twentieth century. Irish politics and identity were clearly important to Potter and the many thousands of women who were members of Canada's Ladies' Orange Benevolent Association (LOBA). The chapter shows how the LOBA's engagement in Canadian political debate was framed by the British Empire, an overarching identity that reconciled their position in Canada with Orangewomen's overlapping Irish Protestant, Scottish and English identities. While Irish and Scottish ethnicities were clearly prominent within the LOBA and informed a strong sense of diasporic identity, some Orangewomen in Canada also articulated an attachment to a sense of Englishness.
This conclusion presents some closing thoughts on the concepts discussed in the preceding chapters of this book. By looking at the women's Orange Order, the book examines much broader questions about women's activism and identity in the British world during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Orangewomen became active agents in the public life of their immediate communities and beyond. Working for the Orange Order, women subverted the 'tea and buns' stereotype that characterised many men's perception of their role in the organisation. The book demonstrates the complex set of identities held by female members of the Orange Order in England, Scotland and Canada during the twentieth century. Orangewomen's public and political work also nearly always involved some aspect of identity politics. In Scotland, women used their Orange activism to raise money for potentially besieged Ulster Unionist women and children during 1913, emphasising their commitment to Ireland's position within the Empire.
During the interwar period, Orangewomen in Canada came from a diverse set of backgrounds, encompassing both recent migrants from Ireland, Scotland, England and elsewhere in the British world with those who were from more long-standing Canadian families. While a Scottish identity and an interest in Canadian politics came to the fore in the Ladies' Orange Benevolent Association (LOBA) during the 1920s, this chapter argues that an Irish Protestant ethnicity remained central to these women's sense of identity. These Orangewomen embraced the multiple identities of the LOBA across Canada, reflecting the importance of migration and diaspora to the organisation's growth during the twentieth century. Writing in the pages of the Toronto Sentinel, Mrs Charles E. Potter from Saskatoon, articulated the complex relationship with Ireland experienced by many Orange men and women in Canada at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Bringing together leading authorities on Irish women and migration, this book offers a significant reassessment of the place of women in the Irish diaspora. It demonstrates the important role played by women in the construction of Irish diasporic identities, comparing Irish women's experience in Britain, Canada , New Zealand and the United States. The book considers how the Catholic Church could be a focal point for women's Irish identity in Britain. It examines how members of the Ladies' Orange Benevolent Association (LOBA) maintained a sense of Irish Protestant identity, focused on their associational life in female Orange lodges. The book offers a lens on Irish society, and on countries where they settled, and considerable scope for comparative analysis of the impact of different cultures and societies on women's lives. It reviews key debates in Transnational Studies (TS) and Diaspora Studies (DS) before discussing the particular contribution of DS in framing 1990s study of migrant and non-migrant Irish women. Feminist and queer theory scholarship in Irish DS has begun to address the gender and sexual politics of diaspora by attending to the dynamics of boundary expansion, queering and dissolution. The book suggests that religion can be both a 'bright' and a 'blurry' boundary, while examining how religious identities intersect with ethnicity and gender. It also includes the significance of the categories of gender and generation, and their intersection with ethnicity in the context of the official London St Patrick's Day Festival.
Irish diaspora studies and women: theories, concepts and new perspectives
D. A. J. MacPherson and Mary J. Hickman
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book demonstrates the important role played by women in the construction of Irish diasporic identities, comparing Irish women's experience in Britain, Canada, New Zealand and the United States. It considers how the Catholic Church could be a focal point for women's Irish identity in Britain. The book examines how members of the Ladies' Orange Benevolent Association (LOBA) maintained a sense of Irish Protestant identity, focused on their associational life in female Orange lodges. It also examines communication between migrants and their 'home' lodges in Scotland which were published in the Belfast Weekly News and the Toronto Sentinel. The book emphasises the varying ways in which gender features in the articulation of social relations within the Irish diaspora.