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In praise of the Women Writers’ Club, by Deirdre Brady

Celebrating Irish women writers: ‘This pioneering coterie left behind a literary legacy that advocated education for women, freedom of expression and egalitarian values which still hold true today’

Hollywood’s supernatural thriller The Uninvited (1944) was based on the book Uneasy Freehold (1941) by Dorothy Macardle, a prominent member of the Women Writers’ Club (1933-1958).

To succeed in the book trade in the mid-twentieth century, it helped if you were connected, or were part of an ‘arty’ set that mingled in the fringes of the theatres, clubs and cafés around Dublin’s city centre. One such coterie of writers that I admire was the Women Writers’ Club (1933-1958), whose impressive list of female authors included international writers such as Elizabeth Bowen, Kate O’Brien, Teresa Deevy, Helen Waddell, Dorothy Macardle; some of Ireland’s favourite writers, including Patricia Lynch (some might remember The Turfcutter’s Donkey), Maura Laverty (Tolka Row), and political activists Hanna Sheehy Skeffington and Rosamond Jacob, among others. As playwrights, poets, children’s writers, historians, novelists and journalists, they kept the spirit of literature alive during difficult times; supporting a female literary culture through well-publicised banquets in Dublin’s luxury hotels, literary prizes for the best book published, endorsing each other’s writing in periodicals and newspapers, and through private printing presses. This pioneering coterie left behind a literary legacy that advocated education for women, freedom of expression and egalitarian values which still hold true today.

Other favourites: Irish P.E.N.

Dr Deirdre Brady lectures in the School of Culture & Communication, University of Limerick. Deirdre.brady@ul.ie