chapter  2
‘Too close for comfort’: re-membering the forgotten diaspora of Irish women in England BRE DA G R AY
Re-membering the forgotten diaspora of Irish women in England
ByBreda Gray
Pages 20

The idea that women in the Irish diaspora thrived more than men is often attributed to their determination to escape the confining roles of ‘spinsterhood’, of housewife and/or mother in Ireland and to their improved prospects outside of Ireland (Coogan 2000; Diner 1984; Nolan 1989; O’Carroll 1990). Although North America plays a huge part in the imaginings and representations of the Irish diaspora, Britain has also been a significant destination for Irish emigrants.1 However, the geographical, political and cultural proximities of Britain and Ireland tend, as Cherry Smyth suggests, to diminish Irish identity in this important site of the Irish diaspora. This chapter starts with the assumption that it is impossible to do justice to the ‘epic’ experience of Irish women in the diaspora, without considering the specific ways in which these women constitute their lives and identities in particular locations within the diaspora. The main focus of the essay is first-generation Irish women immigrants to England in the late twentieth century.