Read The Banshees: A Literary History of Irish American Women Online

Authors: Sally Barr Ebest

Tags: #Social Science, #Literary Criticism, #English; Irish; Scottish; Welsh, #Feminism & Feminist Theory, #European

The Banshees: A Literary History of Irish American Women

The Banshees

Irish Studies

James MacKillop,
Series Editor

Barr Ebest 1st pages.indd i

Barr Ebest 1st pages.indd i

7/3/2013 4:10:23 PM

7/3/2013 4:10:23 PM

Other titles in Irish Studies

Carmilla: A Critical Edition

Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu; Kathleen Costello-Sullivan, ed.

Collaborative Dubliners: Joyce in Dialogue

Vicki Mahaffey, ed.

The Irish Bridget: Irish Immigrant Women in Domestic Service

in America, 1840–1930

Margaret Lynch-Brennan

Making Ireland Irish: Tourism and National Identity

since the Irish Civil War

Eric G. E. Zuelow

Memory Ireland
. Volume 1:
History and Modernity
; Volume 2:

Diaspora and Memory Practices

Oona Frawley, ed.

The Midnight Court / Cúirt an Mheán Oiche: A Critical Edition

Brian Merriman; David Marcus, trans.

“Other People’s Diasporas”: Negotiating Race in Contemporary Irish

and Irish American Culture

Sinéad Moynihan

Samuel Beckett in the Literary Marketplace

Stephen John Dilks

The Second Coming of Paisley: Militant Fundamentalism

and Ulster Politics

Richard Lawrence Jordan

Suburban Affi liations: Social Relations in the Greater Dublin Area

Mary P. Corcoran, Jane Gray, and Michel Peillon

Barr Ebest 1st pages.indd ii

Barr Ebest 1st pages.indd ii

7/3/2013 4:10:26 PM

7/3/2013 4:10:26 PM

T H E

Banshees


A L I T E R A R Y H I S T O R Y

O F I R I S H A M E R IC A N

W O M E N W R I T E R S

Sally Barr Ebest

S Y R A C U S E U N I V E R S I T Y P R E S S

Barr Ebest 1st pages.indd iii

Barr Ebest 1st pages.indd iii

7/3/2013 4:10:26 PM

7/3/2013 4:10:26 PM

Copyright © 2013 by Syracuse University Press

Syracuse, New York 13244-5290

All Rights Reserved

First Edition 2013

13 14 15 16 17 18 6 5 4 3 2 1

Material from the following publications is used here with permission:

“Ahead of Their Time: Irish American Women Writers, 1945–1960,”
After the Flood: Irish

America 1945–1960,
James Silas Rogers and Matthew J. O’Brien, eds. (Portland, OR:

Irish Academic Press, 2009).

“Evolving Feminisms,”
Reconciling Catholicism and Feminism?: Personal Refl ections on

Tradition and Change,
Sally Barr Ebest and Ron Ebest (South Bend: Univ. of Notre

Dame Press, 2003).

“Introduction: Writing Green Thoughts,” “Mary McCarthy: Too Smart to Be Sentimental,”

and “Erin McGraw: Expanding the Tradition of Irish American Women Writers,”
Too

Smart to Be Sentimental,
Sally Barr Ebest and Kathleen McInerney (South Bend: Univ.

of Notre Dame Press, 2008).

“‘Reluctant Catholics’: Contemporary Irish American Women Writers,”
The Catholic Church

and Unruly Women Writers,
Jeanna Del Rosso, Leigh Eicke, and Ana Kothe, eds. (New

York: Palgrave, 2007).

“These Traits also Endure: Irish and Irish-American Women’s Novels.”
New Hibernia

Review
7.2 (Summer 2003): 55–72.

∞ The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of the American

National Standard for Information Sciences—Permanence of Paper for Printed Library

Materials, ANSI Z39.48-1992.

For a listing of books published and distributed by Syracuse University Press, visit our

website at SyracuseUniversityPress.syr.edu.

ISBN: 978-0-8156-3330-3

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

[CIP COPY TO COME]

Manufactured in the United States of America

Barr Ebest 1st pages.indd iv

Barr Ebest 1st pages.indd iv

7/3/2013 4:10:26 PM

7/3/2013 4:10:26 PM

To my favorite Irish American women:

Linda Barr Cobbe

Susan Barr Tesh

Mary Barr Goral

April Smith Barr

Andrea Barr Pisano

and our matriarch,

Helen Morris Barr

Barr Ebest 1st pages.indd v

Barr Ebest 1st pages.indd v

7/3/2013 4:10:26 PM

7/3/2013 4:10:26 PM

Sally Barr Ebest
is Professor of English and Director of the Gender

Studies Program at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. She teaches

courses in autobiography; literary, composition, and feminist the-

ory; and, whenever possible, Irish and Irish American women writ-

ers. Her publications include
Changing the Way We Teach
(Southern

Illinois Univ. Press 2005),
Reconciling Catholicism and Feminism?

(Notre Dame 2003), and
Too Smart to Be Sentimental: Contempo-

rary Irish American Women Writers
(Notre Dame 2008).

Barr Ebest 1st pages.indd vi

Barr Ebest 1st pages.indd vi

7/3/2013 4:10:27 PM

7/3/2013 4:10:27 PM

Contents

Acknowledgments

ix

Introduction:
The Banshees

1

1.
1900–1960:
Ahead of Their Time

18

2.
The 1960s:
The Rise of Feminism

52

3.
The 1970s:
A State of Upheaval

86

4.
The 1980s:
The War on Women

117

5.
The 1990s:
Fin de Siècle

152

6.
The New Millennium:

End of an Era?

186

Works

Cited

227

Index

253

Barr Ebest 1st pages.indd vii

Barr Ebest 1st pages.indd vii

7/3/2013 4:10:27 PM

7/3/2013 4:10:27 PM

Barr Ebest 1st pages.indd viii

Barr Ebest 1st pages.indd viii

7/3/2013 4:10:27 PM

7/3/2013 4:10:27 PM

Acknowledgments

In 1998, I fell in love. Although I had jumped through the requisite

hoops in graduate school, attended many a conference, and published

enough to earn tenure, I had never felt so academically enamored. The site

was Charles Fanning’s Carbondale Symposium on the Irish Diaspora. For

two days, I listened, rapt, to intellectually challenging, interdisciplinary

research covering a range of topics. Intimidated but impressed, I longed to

be a part of this erudite group.

I was also intrigued. As I listened to papers on Irish American unique-

ness, imagination, and immigration, as I learned about writers such as Donn

Byrne, Colum McCann, and Frank McCourt, I wondered: Where are the

women? While Maureen Murphy discussed depictions of the Irish servant

girl and Ellen Skerritt described the Irish in Chicago’s Hull House neighbor-

hood, no one addressed the works of Irish or Irish American women writers.

How could such an impressive array of scholars overlook half the population?

I was hooked.

Thus began this scholarly endeavor. For that, I am forever grateful to

Charlie Fanning.
The Irish Voice in America
provided an impressive starting

point, but Charlie himself was a gracious and informative mentor through-

out my research. Jim Rogers was also instrumental. Recognizing the fi eld’s

gender gap, he published my fi rst essay in
New Hibernia Review
,
called on

me to review manuscripts on the topic, and invited me to contribute a chap-

ter on Irish American women to
After the Flood: Irish America, 1945–1960
.

Likewise, Kathleen McInerney, Mary Ann Ryan, Patricia Gott, and Beatrice

Jacobson helped raise awareness of Irish American women writers thanks

to their contributions to our edited collection,
Too Smart to Be Sentimen-

tal
.
My colleagues Eamonn Wall, Kathy Gentile, Peter Wolf, and Barbara

i x

Barr Ebest 1st pages.indd ix

Barr Ebest 1st pages.indd ix

7/3/2013 4:10:27 PM

7/3/2013 4:10:27 PM

x | A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S

Harbach helped promote this work by inviting me to present colloquia for

the University of Missouri-St. Louis’s Irish Studies Program, Institute for

Women’s and Gender Studies, English department, and Women in the Arts,

respectively. Thanks also to the ACIS regional and national conference plan-

ners for accepting my papers at events in Omaha, Milwaukee, Minneapolis,

St. Louis, St. Paul, Bloomington/ Normal, DeKalb, Kansas City, Carbon-

dale, Davenport, New Orleans, and Liverpool—and to the UMSL Offi ce

of Research, College of Arts & Sciences, and Department of English for

funding these trips. This could not have happened without the support and

approval of Deans Mark Burkholder and Ron Yasbin and my department

chair, Richard Cook.

In fall 2009, support from the University of Missouri-St. Louis Research

Board and Joel Glassman, director of UMSL’s International Studies Pro-

gram, funded a semester’s research leave to compile the manuscript. As I

cranked out the chapters, Nancy Cervetti and Carolyn Brown provided

invaluable feedback. Equally important, as I created and rejected various

titles, my colleague Drucilla Wall listened and offered a brilliant suggestion:

Why not call these writers
The Banshees
? Thanks, Dru.

Finally, none of this would have happened if not for my husband, Ron

Ebest. His interest in Irish Studies piqued mine; his research brought me

to Charlie’s symposium. Our happy hour discussions regarding the lack of

research on the confl uence of feminism and Catholicism led to our collabo-

ration on
Reconciling Catholicism and Feminism?
Indeed, his tactful persis-

tence convinced a reluctant editor to use that intriguing title. As I delved

into early twentieth-century Irish American history, Ron’s book,
Private

Histories: The Writing of Irish Americans, 1900–1935
,
revealed the satirical

strengths of Irish American women writers of that period. Not least, his

many readings of the
Banshees
manuscript brought a sharp eye, insightful

commentary, and wealth of knowledge to the project. His support is the

source of my strength.

Thanks to everyone who helped me bring this project to fruition. Their

contributions helped introduce the banshees to the fi eld of Irish Studies.

Barr Ebest 1st pages.indd x

Barr Ebest 1st pages.indd x

7/3/2013 4:10:27 PM

7/3/2013 4:10:27 PM

The Banshees

Barr Ebest 1st pages.indd xi

Barr Ebest 1st pages.indd xi

7/3/2013 4:10:27 PM

7/3/2013 4:10:27 PM

Barr Ebest 1st pages.indd xii

Barr Ebest 1st pages.indd xii

7/3/2013 4:10:27 PM

7/3/2013 4:10:27 PM

Introduction
The Banshees

Numerous books have been written about American feminism and its

infl uence on education and society. But none have recognized, let

alone demonstrated, the key role played by Irish American women writers in

exposing women’s issues, protecting women’s rights, and anticipating, if not

effecting, change. Irish American women’s writing is particularly appropri-

ate for this approach, for theirs has been a battle against patriarchal bonds

on two fronts: society, which has imposed such bonds, and the Catholic

Other books

Knife Sworn by Mazarkis Williams
Embroidered Truths by Monica Ferris
Garden of Lies by Eileen Goudge
The Eskimo Invasion by Hayden Howard
Invisible Girl by Mary Hanlon Stone