Cara Delay

Murder and Motherhood in 1950s Ireland: The Trial of Abortionist Mamie Cadden

On the evening of April 17, 1956, thirty-three-year-old Helen O. visited nurse Mamie Cadden at 17 Hume Street, Dublin, for what she likely thought would be a routine, if illegal, abortion.1 Helen O.’s death after the attempted abortion provoked a national controversy that complicated dominant constructions of motherhood and domesticity in mid-twentieth-century Ireland. In the… Read more →

The Lady with the Alligator Purse

A Tisket a Tasket, Three Little Fishies, Baa Baa Black Sheep — these nursery rhymes were an integral part of my childhood experience. The rhyme that most captured my attention when I was a child, however, was Miss Lucy Had a Baby: Particularly fascinating to me were not the presence of the nurse, doctor, or… Read more →

A Referendum – and A Path Toward Reproductive Justice for Ireland?

Citizens of the Republic of Ireland will vote on a referendum on May 25, 2018 to potentially overturn the state’s notoriously harsh anti-abortion laws.1 This moment is being characterized as a defining one, a  watershed moment for a state that Amnesty International and the United Nations have chastised for its misogynistic, anti-feminist policies. Indeed, for… Read more →

“No-Tell Motels”: Abortion in Pre-Roe South Carolina

“Charleston was the place to come before Roe v. Wade, for abortions.” Reminiscing about illegal abortion in South Carolina in the 1960s and early 1970s, this woman in her 60s, an oral history narrator, highlighted the roles of “backstreet” abortion networks in Charleston. She also told a story about a college friend who needed an… Read more →

Women, Prayer, and Household Authority in Irish History

Traveling through Ireland in 1909, writer Robert Lynd described “a strange crying—almost a lamentation” that one might hear “on some evenings, if you are in a Catholic house in the most Irish parts of the country.” This strange sound, he elaborated, “was the hour of family prayer.”1 In almost all Irish households, nightly prayers were… Read more →

Fantasy and Folklore in Childbirth Narratives

Before the age of Facebook and parenting blogs, how did women exchange knowledge and beliefs about reproduction? Without What to Expect When You’re Expecting, how did society and “experts” tell women how to manage pregnancy? These are questions often posed by students in my classes, who assume that “in the past,” there was a deafening… Read more →

The First Communion Dress: Fashion, Faith, and the Feminization of Catholic Ireland

In late 2012 the Irish Times and National Museum of Ireland selected the Roman Catholic First Communion dress as one of the most important 100 objects in Ireland’s history. A girl’s dress thus took its place alongside bronze age funerary pots and the Book of Kells as items essential to Ireland’s history and culture. Articles… Read more →

The Girl and the Grotto: Remembering and Forgetting in Irish History

Walking home from school on a frigid day in January 1984, two Irish boys came across a shocking scene: in a grotto at the local Catholic Church, alongside a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, lay the still bodies of a teenage girl and a newborn infant. The girl, fifteen-year-old Ann Lovett from Granard, County… Read more →

Back to the Back Alley? Abortion Rights and Realities in the Trump Era

On the first day of his presidency, Donald Trump reinstated the global gag rule on abortion. This is no great surprise; Trump is certainly not the first Republican president to restrict access to abortion when assuming office. Still, there is something different about the Trump election and administration: already, of course, when it comes to… Read more →

At the Mercy of the Sea: Women, Reproduction, and Europe’s Migrant Crisis

In 2015 over a million women, children, and men from conflict-ridden parts of Africa and the Middle East made their way across the Mediterranean Sea, seeking a better life in Europe. Thousands, as we now know, died in the process. In 2016 the tide of migrants, as well as casualties, only increased, and it shows… Read more →