Red Washburn, "Irish Women’s Prison Writing: 1960 - 2010"

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

2:00 pm — 3:30 pm


Open to the Public

This event is part of the Book Salon Series.

Three Headshots of Washburn and co-speakers, Walsh, Smythe
Headshot photos of speakers, (left to right) Red Washburn, Ailbhe Smyth, and Roseleen Walsh.

Irish Women’s Prison Writing: Mother Ireland’s Rebels, 1960s-2010s explores 50 years of Irish women’s prison writing from the 1960s to the 2010s. It connects the work of women leaders and writers in the Six Counties of Ireland, especially during the Troubles. It analyzes political communiqués/ petitions, news coverage, prison files, personal letters, poetry and short prose, and memoirs. It highlights the personal correspondence, auto/biographical narratives, and poetry of the following key women: Bernadette McAliskey, Eileen Hickey, Mairéad Farrell, Síle Darragh, Ella O’Dwyer, Martina Anderson, Dolours Price, Marian McGlinchey, Ann and Eileen Gillespie, Roseleen Walsh, and Margaretta D’Arcy. It also includes interviews. This project builds on different fields and discourses to reimagine gender and genre as central to an interdisciplinary and intersectional prison archive. It repositions Irish women and their work in order to accurately archive social movements for civil rights and cultural productions about them – and this tradition is relevant even now during this moment of transatlantic solidarity with #MeToo and the Black Lives Matter Movement, including in Ireland, post-Easter Rising Centennial, as part of the big conversations happening now around the impacts of political repression and state attacks on social justice advocates and the harms of the carceral state.

About the Speakers

Red Washburn is a Professor of English and Women’s and Gender Studies at CUNY Kingsborough. They also teach Women’s and Gender Studies at Brooklyn College and are Affiliate Faculty in Women’s and Gender Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center. They are the co-editor of WSQ, published by the Feminist Press. Red’s articles appear in Journal for the Study of Radicalism, Women’s Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, and Journal of Lesbian Studies. They have essays published in several anthologies, including Theory and Praxis: Women’s and Gender Studies at Community Colleges, Introduction to Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies: Interdisciplinary and Intersectional Approaches, and Trans Bodies, Trans Selves: A Resource for the Transgender Community. They are the co-editor of Sinister Wisdom’s Dump Trump: Legacies of Resistance, 45 Years: A Tribute to Lesbian Herstory Archives, and Trans/Feminisms. Finishing Line Press published their poetry collections Crestview Tree Woman and Birch Philosopher X. Routledge published their academic book Irish Women’s Prison Writing: Mother Ireland’s Rebels, 1960-2010s. They are co-editing WSQ’s issue Nonbinary (forthcoming September 2023). They received an ACLS/ Mellon fellowship for their next project Nonbinary: Tr@ns-Forming Gender and Genre in Nonbin@ry Literature, Performance, and Visual Art.

Ailbhe Smyth is a long-time activist and campaigner on feminist, LGBTQ and socialist issues. She was the founding head of Women’s Studies at University College Dublin (UCD). She has written about feminism, politics, and culture in Ireland. She is the author of The Abortion Papers Ireland, The Irish Women’s Studies Reader, Wildish Things: An Anthology of New Irish Women’s Writings, and It’s a Yes! How Together for Yes Repealed the Eighth and Transformed Irish Society. Ailbhe left academia in the mid-2000s to work with women’s community organizations and in social movement politics. She has been involved in many campaigns and was on the Strategic Executive of the victorious same-sex marriage campaign in 2015. She has been fighting for women’s right to choose for over 35 years, and she was Co-Director of the Together for Yes national referendum campaign which removed the near-total ban on abortion from the Irish Constitution with a majority of 66% in 2018. Ailbhe is a regular contributor to media and national debate. In 2019 she was included in Time Magazine’s “100 most influential people” list.

Roseleen Walsh was born in 1950. Her literary journey began in Armagh Prison, where she was interned for 13 months and 2 weeks from 1973-4. She began writing poetry on her cell walls and ceiling. At home now more than 50 years later, two of her living room walls also are covered in her poetry. She is the author of a poetry collection, Poems and Monologues and short stories, Face to Face. She has written approximately 40 plays, 37 of which were produced in Belfast, Derry, Armagh and Dublin by Commedagh Productions and Irish Youth Theatre. Political Drama, which features 23 political plays, is available in universities and libraries across the United States. She is currently writing a book, My Internment, about her prison experience.

Co-sponsored with the Center for the Humanities, the Center for Place, Culture, and Politics, the CUNY Graduate Center MA Program in Liberal Studies, the CUNY Graduate Center Library, The Feminist Press, and Women's Studies Quarterly.