Saving Ireland in Juteopolis : gender, class and diaspora in the Irish Ladies' Land League

Whelehan, Niall (2020) Saving Ireland in Juteopolis : gender, class and diaspora in the Irish Ladies' Land League. History Workshop Journal, 90. pp. 74-95. ISSN 1363-3554 (

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First established in New York in 1880, the Irish Ladies’ Land League soon held branches across Ireland, the USA, Britain, Canada and Australasia and it represented an unprecedented advance in Irish women’s political activism. In Dundee, Scotland the organisation found a particularly receptive environment due to the distinctive gender balance of the Irish community there, with working class women representing a large majority. The circulation of mobile agitators and newspapers connected local branches in Dundee with the wider world of the Irish land reform movement, yet this article also seeks to uncover a more textured picture of the people who collected funds, attended rallies, and who are too often considered in the plural, as anonymous supporters grouped together under ethnic or political banners. The picture that emerges challenges existing views of the Ladies’ Land League as a predominately middle-class affair. In Dundee the members were overwhelmingly working class and their harsh experiences in the city’s jute industry shaped their activism. Local Catholic networks and ideas of religious humanitarianism contributed significantly to the branches, yet clergymen did not direct their activities, rather they responded to women’s mobilisation. This article analyses how a transnational movement translated into a local setting and how emigrants’ activism was shaped by factors of class, gender and religion.