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“Single mothers are fallen women and grave sinners, whose children are the product of wickedness” – Father Cecil Beaton, Head of the Catholic Social Welfare Bureau, 1952
The severe and judgmental attitudes towards women who became pregnant outside of marriage permeated the ethos of virtually all Church and State agencies in 20th century Ireland. Church and State were bound in their conceptualisation of unmarried motherhood as degenerate and sinful. The tragic outcome of this is that generations of mothers and babies were forced apart.
As an unmarried mother at the age of 21 in the Ireland of 2002, I had the choice to keep my daughter. But in 1975, for her mother, then aged 20, there was no choice and she was forced to give her son up for adoption shortly after his birth. A similar story can be told of two more of Gillespie's aunts, one as recently as 1985. Stirred by the secrecy and concealment of these events within my family, and inspired by an emerging familial and societal consciousness of the experiences of unmarried mothers and their children, this project seeks to recognise, respect, listen to and hear from those women our society so entirely failed.
The control of sexuality by the Catholic Church and the State in 20th Century Ireland was a powerful barrier to a woman’ s ability to make choices about her body and about her newborn child. Soon after the establishment of an Irish free state in 1922, “Mother and Baby Homes” began appearing to house and hide unwed pregnant women and facilitate the adoption of their children into ‘ proper’ , catholic marital homes. Religious orders claim that the newly formed Irish government invited the Church to deal with the growing ‘ problem’ of single mothers. In the adoption process, birth mothers were silenced, restricted from information and generally excluded from participation to the greatest extent possible. Illegitimate pregnancies, births and resultant adoptions were most often treated as shameful family secrets. Many of these homes are infamous for their cruel treatment of unwed mothersAbout Emer Gillespie
About New Irish Works
Selected by an international panel of 23 professionals, New Irish Works brings you a selection of 20 projects and 20 photographers representing the diverse range of practices coming from Ireland. New Irish Works 2016 is a year long project of 10 presentations and 20 publications that aims to highlight the great moment Irish Photography is experiencing.
The artists selected are Ailbhe Ní Bhriain, Aisling McCoy, Caitriona Dunnett, Dara McGrath, Daragh Soden, David Thomas Smith, Eanna de Freine, Emer Gillespie, Enda Bowe, Jan McCullough, Jill Quigley, Kate Nolan, Mandy O’Neill, Matthew Thompson, Miriam O’Connor, Noel Bowler, Robert McCormack, Roseanne Lynch, Shane Lynam, and Yvette Monahan.
Every month from July 2016 to July 2017, a special presentation will be hosted at The Library Project for two of the selected artists at a time. The presentation will include a display and a publication for each artist’s project. The two artists that will be presented during PhotoIreland Festival 2016 are Daragh Soden and Mandy O’Neill.
As part of the project, PhotoIreland will bring New Irish Works abroad at key events like PhotoEspaña, with the support of the Embassy of Ireland in Madrid, and to Paris during Paris Photo, with the support of the Centre Culturel Irlandais and Culture Ireland.
Find out more: newirishworks.com
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