Prof. Elaine Farrell & Dr Leanne McCormick gave the Winter Discourse discussing the Bad Bridget project

On a cold December evening in Belfast, members of the Society assembled in the beautiful Harbour Commissioners building near Belfast’s docklands to hear about Irish women and girls who arrived in the ports of New York and Toronto in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Professor Elaine Farrell from Queen’s University Belfast and Dr Leanne McCormick from Ulster University provided a lively and engaging lecture on their Bad Bridget project, which considers the criminalisation of Irish women and girls in North America. Unusually among migration patterns at the time, these women and girls tended to travel unaccompanied, and many of them were in their teens or even younger. They found themselves before the courts and populating the prisons in staggering numbers, for everything from drunkenness to sex work to murder, and at one stage represented over 80% of the population of women prisoners in these cities. The lecture addressed how these women were portrayed in court and in the press, examining issues of gender, Irishness and the performative nature of court proceedings.

Attendees included the two patrons of the Society, Chief Justice Donal O’Donnell and Lady Chief Justice Siobhan Keegan. There was a lively discussion after the discourse, and Dr Coleman Dennehy proposed a vote of thanks on behalf of the Society.


(L to R: Prof. Elaine Farrell, Mr John Gordon, DL, Dr Leanne McCormick, Dr Coleman Dennehy)