Look! It’s a Woman Writer! An important new essay anthology

Book review: Writers pushing the boundaries long before prominence of female novelists

 Éilís Ní Dhuibhne (right) with author Marita Conlon Mc Kenna and poet Celin De Freine.

Éilís Ní Dhuibhne (right) with author Marita Conlon Mc Kenna and poet Celin De Freine.

The phrase “the shoulders of giants” is possibly overused, but reading this anthology of essays by female Irish writers, it is at the forefront of the mind. Edited by Éilís Ní Dhuibhne, this hugely important publication tracks the journeys of several writers who were pushing the boundaries long before the prominence of the notable Irish female novelists of the past decade.

In her foreword to Look! It’s a Woman Writer! Martina Devlin observes that “not everybody born with the capability of becoming a writer can fulfil their potential. Life throws up obstacles: lack of means, lack of self-belief, lack of opportunity, lack of supports”. Many of the basic challenges for women in Ireland throughout the latter half of the 20th century such as the assumption that women belonged in the home (90 per cent of women were “official homemakers”), the late introduction of free education, and tax laws that deemed women to be an extension of their husbands made the presence and emergence of professional female writers rare.

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