My personal story
R: Then the other thing was that, on the other hand, in my family, I am the eldest and I am absolutely convinced that my father was thrilled with his first child. The fact that it was a girl, if it mattered at any point, I have never experienced that it mattered. Do you know what I mean? Now, I'm not saying that wouldn't have been different with a boy, I'm not saying that, but I never felt any disadvantage because I was the first born and a girl. So that is that bit.
R: The other thing was then, was that my mother wouldn't really have been a feminist but she - well both my parents - were determined that we should be educated. Now it was at a time when an awful lot of people in Ireland didn't get secondary education and it was before the general secondary education was available, there was no secondary school in this town. And so they did, they went through a fair bit of trouble to see that we all got an education. And, in fact, when my sister... I actually got a county scholarship to go to the school. It wasn't a full scholarship, it was a sum of money and that system of scholarships was ending just when my sister was a year away from going to secondary school and rather than have her miss out, they made her jump a year and have a go with that and she went, I think she went away to boarding school a bit early, because there was still no school in this town. And, so that was quite a lot of effort to, you know, to give her the same chances my brother and I had got. So...
I: So, the scholarships were both available for boys and for girls?
R: Yes, these they never, yes, they were just available for children. And the distinctions, I mean the scholarships schemes was between the size of schools you went to. You now, if you were in a school where there were 6 teachers, so that every class had its own teacher, you know, whatever the size of the class, it was harder to get a scholarship than if you went to a school where there was only two teachers and the teacher was teaching half the school. Do you know what I mean? But, whatever, it would have been smaller schools, it had to be. And the fact that might have been a very false sanction in some ways, because sometimes the quality of education was better in those schools. But not necessarily. So, anyway, that's just about that at the other end. So, and my mother encouraged in two things. I was quite young, she used to let me take a bus into Dublin, do a very specific errand and get back in the bus and get home again. Which wasn't typical of how mothers were rearing their children. And certainly not their daughters! But she wasn't, - I not sure... that wasn't about being independent, it wasn't about being a feminist because it was all pre-feminist, if you like. The feminists hadn't come along - and then the other things - of course I did go through all that upheaval of the '60, all that social change and all the gender issues. I wasn't an active feminist and I'm still not an active feminist. But, (...) so I was very much part of all that thinking and things like that. And...
I: How was that in Ireland, because a lot of changes with regards - for example the right to divorce was from the mid-90 - so if you talk about the '60 that was a lot prior to all the legal changes that were eventually made?
R: Yeah, but I mean a lot of things were done, I mean the whole business of contraception that was fought by the feminists and the whole business, well, I'm not sure, well, you couldn't say that they be (...) homosexuality, that was fought by the homosexuals themselves. But it may well have, I'm not quite sure to what extend the campaign the feminists did kind of support that or feed into it or make it more possible. I don't know, I'm not sure about that, but in fact Mary Robinson who has been our president, she would have taken that case for David Norris and she took the Josi Eary case for contraception. So, there may have been a sort of cross over there. But, yes, but, I mean, there were several attempts. I mean, the attempts to legalise divorce, started long before that. There were three abortion referendums but there was more than one referendum about divorce so that went back a long way. But, you know, there was a lot that went on here. There was a whole thing about that. Up to the '60 if you were a civil servant, you had to retire when you got married if you were a woman. And the feminists fought and changed that. And there was a thing about inheritance right and they fought and changed that, there was probably quality in the social welfare law, so they did, they made a lot of difference. They really made an awful lot of changes. But the other things in terms of myself...
I: And then, did they make, so finally a lot of those things were put into laws, but do they, did they also really challenge the mentality itself?
R: Oh, yes! And labour law and everything. Yeah, yeah, and in fact most of the equality law we have was, came out of the feminists campaigns. We mean equality for everyone, for married and not married people, for disabled people and able bodied people, and all that. That's all rooted there, it is rooted there and campaigns followed on. Not necessarily seeing themselves as connected but the feminists really broke the ground. And all that social change if you ask me. Although there was a certain amount of social stuff anyway, but the feminists did a lot. They really pulled their weight in terms of social change in Ireland.
R: So, in terms of myself then, for example one of the things that became possible at that, was that I didn't have to change my name when I got married, that I didn't have to - because in Ireland you get your name by use and repute - my daughter could have my name and things like that. And even things like having your own bank account. Now, I'm not sure that women couldn't have a bank account, but became ordinary. You know, because my mother certainly had a bank account, but I'm not quite sure if she had them before that time.
I: Or maybe it was the type of bank account where the husband still had to sign that he approved, that kind of thing.
R: Yes, that kind of thing.
I: That was in Belgium also and it only changed in the '80 or something, really late.
Gender did matter