Irish History Lecture: These Wildish Things – Ann Rossiter Surveys Contemporary London-Irish Women’s Radical Political Activism

… wildish things these/little newbreed Irish girls scarce/parented, not to be grooved into/rectangular requisite…(Eithne Strong)

In this lecture, Ann Rossiter explores the political activism of London-Irish women, focusing on their involvement in the Irish National Question during the Troubles and their advocacy for Irish women’s reproductive rights leading up to the repeal of the Republic’s 8th amendment in 2018.

Wed 01 May 2024

Doors: 6.30pm; Lecture Starts: 7pm

Tickets: £7 each OR £25 for the Series of X4 Lectures

Dissident, unorthodox – and what the poet Eithne Strong labelled ‘wildish’ – contemporary Irish women émigrés and their political works, especially in the women’s movement, have not fully left their mark on the dominant narratives of the Irish in Britain. For sure, political activism in the London-Irish Women’s Centre and the London-Irish Women’s Abortion Support Group have been memorialized respectively in the film, Breaking Ground (2013), and the book, Ireland’s Hidden Diaspora (2009). Both the film and the book have done the rounds in feminist circles, but far less so in the mainstream Irish community where they are largely ‘hidden from history’.

This lecture is based on Ann Rossiter’s own experience as a London-Irish activist and on her forthcoming book which airs a historical account of some of the radical feminist groups stretching back to the years of the Troubles when The Women on Ireland Collective (1973-4), The Women and Ireland Group (1976-80), and the London Armagh Group (1980-c.1987) were active on issues concerning the Irish National Questions  This is followed by a focus on the reproductive rights groups, IWASG (Irish Women’s Abortion Support Group, 1980-2000), Iasc (Irish Abortion Solidarity Campaign, 1990-2008), and by the performance art group, Speaking of IMELDA (Ireland Making England the Legal Destination for Abortion) set up in post-Troubles London in 2013.  Through its employment of humour, parody,  satire and performance, IMELDA’s activities presented a colourful, but sharp, challenge to the Republic of Ireland’s tradition of exporting abortion to Britain until the repeal of the 8th Amendment to the constitution in 2018.

About Ann Rossiter

Ann Rossiter, a long-standing feminist activist living in London, hails from the village of Bruree, Co. Limerick from where she emigrated in 1961 to live in France and Spain before finally settling in London in the late 1960s. She attended the Sorbonne University in Paris, City and South Bank universities in London, receiving a doctorate in the history of Irish and British feminism during ‘the Troubles’ from the latter. She taught Irish Studies at various institutions, including Birkbeck, Kilburn Polytechnic, Luton, and London Metropolitan universities. She has appeared in a number of documentary films and videos; her writings are extensive, ranging from academic essays to journal and magazine articles, as well as The Other Irish Journey, a survey of Northern Irish women attending British abortion clinics conducted with Mary Sexton in 2000/2001 and published jointly by Marie Stopes International and Voice for Choice in 2001. Her book, Ireland’s Hidden Diaspora: the ‘abortion trail’ and the making of a London-Irish underground, 1980-2000 was published in 2009. As an octogenarian, Ann is still campaigning on feminist and international issues, writing her memoir, and working on HOWL (History of Women’s Liberation), an online repository for UK-wide, diverse grassroots recollections of the Women’s Liberation Movement from 1969 to the 1990s.

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