Cara Delay

“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 →

Sex, Death, and Three Irish Women

In November 1984 the Catholic parish of Tynagh, County Galway, Ireland, gathered to bury a woman who had been dead for 150 years.1 Local tradition asserted that the woman, Áine, gave birth to three illegitimate children in the 1830s or 1840s and then became gravely ill. Citing her sexual transgressions, Áine’s parish priest would not… Read more →

Venus Revisited

“Creepy.” “Weird.” “Messed. Up.” Such are the visceral responses of my women’s history students to an admittedly bizarre and complex historical phenomenon: the Anatomical Venus. Designed to be realistic and anatomically correct wax models of the female body, Anatomical Venuses emerged in eighteenth-century Europe (primarily Spain, Italy, and Austria) to help train medical students who… Read more →

The Brexit and Women’s Rights in the UK

Although women comprise the majority of voters in the UK, they were noticeably absent in the debates and discussions surrounding the potential “Brexit” — Britain’s proposal to leave the European Union. For the duration of the Brexit battle, middle-aged white men — surprise — remained the public faces of both the “Leave” and the “Remain”… Read more →