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P.M. Garrett, “The Hidden History of the PFIs: The repatriation of unmarried mothers and their children from England to Ireland in the 1950s and 1960s

This article starts by discussing the law of settlement and removal act of 1847 that was introduced after a large number of Irish came here during the famine. This law did not disappear until 1948. However, the removal of Irish citizens continued into the 20th century and may also have helped define the cultural and institutional responses of English welfare agencies to pregnant Irish women travelling to England to give birth and put their child up for adoption.

In the 1950s and 1960s the initials PFI (pregnant from Ireland) were part of everyday vocabulary for social workers who dealt with unmarried mothers from Ireland. The article details of a Dublin based agency called the Catholic protection and rescue society of Ireland (CPRSI) that would bring Irish girls that had travelled to England back home in the 1960s. When they brought them home, they would send them to an area where nobody knew them, they would have their baby and the agency would keep it all quiet and confidential.

The article also discussed the English catholic rescue society (ECRS). In the mid 1950s the registered ‘cases’ of the ECRS indicated that 61% of almost 800 expectant mothers referred to the agency originated in the Irish Republic. The Article notes many unmarried women that fled to England to give birth were in fear of the incarceration they would face in Ireland. In Ireland the mother and baby home stay was 2 years or longer but the say at and English mother and baby home was as little as 4 months. In most cases the mother would enter the home, the baby would be adopted, and she would leave the home like nothing had ever happened. However, this had some negative effects on the mothers.

The Article also notes the absence of Women and children from Irish historiography partly because of the secrecy of child adoption that many unmarried mothers and expectant children were involved in. However, some historians question what Irish history is.

The article ends by noting that no interviews of the women in these situations were conducted but it could be a subject for future research.

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J. Jenkinson and C. Verdier, “War Trauma among Belgian Refugee Women in Scotland in the First World War”

The article starts by discussing what different historians have studied in the past in relation to trauma and women during war but states that this article will explore the lives of wartime civilian refugees that came to Britain from Belgium that were diagnosed with mental illnesses relating to war trauma.

The article continues by discussing the key features of modern PTSD that used to be called ‘war trauma’. It also states that shell shock was associated with feminine weakness and that male combats that experienced shell shock were often emasculated by showing a form of mental disturbance that was associated with women. The article discusses women on the front and that they saw family and friends being shot for no reason while trying to flee.

The article then goes on to discuss the correlation between Belgian citizens war trauma and poor relief applications by looking at the poor relief records in Britain. In comparison to British citizens the Belgian applicants for poor relief had double the amount of diagnosed mental health disorders that the Brits suffered. It also states that there were more women than men applying for poor relief that were diagnosed as ‘insane’. Applications from Belgian refugees were marked with red ink and had the word ‘insane’ written in capital letters at the top where the applicant had been diagnosed with a psychiatric illness.

The article then gives some examples of women that were categorized as ‘insane’ and how they had tried to hurt themselves or their children. One example is Celine Debroven who was diagnosed with war anxiety. She was sent to an asylum and treated for trying to attempt suicide 3 times, she also believed a man was trying to kill her. The last entry in her record was on October 1918, and it stated that her delusions remained.

The article ends by noting that this article has opened up the filed for further research using analysis of similar records elsewhere in Britain.

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M. Durham ‘Women and the British Union of Fascists. 1932-40 ch in K. Lunn and T. Kushner ed. The politics of marginality: race, the radical right and minorities in 20th Century Britain (1990) Pg 3-16.

Durham starts by noting that there has been a lot written on the British union of Fascists, but there has been very little written on the role of Women that were involved in the movement. He notes that the movement was very male orientated but women also played an important role in BUF activity, especially the campaign against war.

The BUF wanted women to join and made an effort to recruit them so that they would be able to help develop the structure and policies in an attempt to make fascism appeal to women. The BUF were trying to campaign for equal pay for women, they wanted equal pay for equal work. They also wanted to remove the marriage barrier on all careers and hoped that working conditions would be improved and sex discrimination would be put to an end. The BUF were focused on equality and society viewing women as citizens and workers, as well as viewing them as mothers and wives. However, BUF writers had said that equal pay could lead to the dismissal of many workers but in the long run this would cancel out. This was because when a man married a woman there would no longer be any reason for the women to continue with her employment as the male’s wage would be enough to support them. It was the women’s birth right to be the mother and wife, not the breadwinner.

The BUF were also campaigning against war and used the women for this campaign. They believed that women, as mothers had a natural attachment to peace. Therefore, it was up to the women to teach their children that they should not fight, and that Brits only fight when their country is under attack. Women wanted to fight for their children and for a government that would not bring war, so that their husbands did not have to leave again.

However, Durham suggests that there may have been some exaggeration about the women in the BUF, as it is hard to tell if the articles about the women joining the movement were authentic, or if they were a journalistic creation to help the movement gain followers. He also notes that when asked to recall their time in the BUF many women had problems remembering.

Durham ends by stating that women joined the British union of Fascists as they wanted to be part of something important and they got a thrill from it. He also states that the BUF attitudes were not straight forward, they were complex and hard to understand.

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P. O’Leary, ‘Networking Respectability: class, gender and ethnicity among the Irish in south Wales’ Immigrants & Minorities 23:2-3 (2005) 255-275.

In this article O’Leary discusses ways that individuals are viewed by society and how class, gender and identity can all play a part in this. He discusses respectable men’s societies and how they would help men become more respectable if they attended these societies. He focuses on the Irish and how they were viewed in society. He mentions that they were drunk and prone to wild and indecent behaviour, therefore, society viewed them as not respectable which would mean that they would not be allowed to become a member of a respectable society. He also discusses that the Irish were not respectable as many of them depended on parish relief to get by. He notes that any man who can send his wife begging is not respectable, as men should be able to support their family.

He discusses how living in certain areas were more respectable than other areas and that respectability was all about males being able to provide for their family. O’Leary discusses traditional roles where men go out to work and the wife was able to stay home and look after the children and keep the house in order. Respectable men were the breadwinner. This was something that the Irish did not do.

He then continues on by discussing friendly societies, these were set up for Irishmen so that they were able to learn organisation skills and other skills necessary to be viewed as respectable in society. These friendly societies reinforced the culture of the male being the breadwinner in the family.

The article then discusses parades and the way that the Irish were dressed on parade day would fit in with societies ideal of respectability. The children involved in the parades were often from the poorest parts of town but when they were in their parade clothes nobody would know their social class as these clothes were not their typical daily clothes.

He ends the article by stating that these societies were a great opportunity to help the Irish integrate with others. They are also there for the Irish to desire a better life and ward-off poverty.

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Caesar C. Aronsfeld, ‘Jewish Enemy Aliens in England During the First World War’

Aronsfeld writes about the treatment and experiences of Jewish people during the first world war. He details that German Jews living in England suffered during the war and were treated poorly. He notes that having a British citizenship did not protect those of alien birth.

The Times newspaper was also printing anti-Semitic propaganda and used the word “Jew” in a derogatory manner. As well as this, they used the words “German” and “Jew” as interchangeable terms. Antisemitic views were spreading through Britain fast.

Aronsfeld Further notes that Jewish M.Ps and people of power were discriminated against. For example, Mr Arthur Strauss, the conservative M.P for North Paddington was asked to resign because he was a native German. It did not matter that he was naturalized, only that he came from Germany. This Highlights that nobody was safe from anti-Semitic views and opinions during the war. if an individual was German or Jewish, they would be discriminated against. He also notes that Edgar Speyer was requested to resign from the chairmanship of the hospital that he worked at because of threats of large withdraws of subscribers if he remained on the board. His wife was also asked to remove their daughters from the school that they attended in London, in fear that English people would take their daughters away and enrol them in different schools.

Additionally, After the sinking of the Lusitania Sir Arthur Pinero, the playwright suggested that the Jewish community band together and express their detestation of Germanys welfare. However, the Jewish community did not think it was necessary to confirm their loyalty to Britain when they had lived there for so long, but a frenzy of public opinion forced them to do so. Aronsfeld highlights that there were consequences for the Jewish community if they did not affirm their loyalty to Britain. If they kept silent it may have led to suspicion of them “sitting on the gate”. Many members of the Jewish community felt humiliated that they were forced to show their loyalty to Britain through writing, as they had been showing their loyalty for many years through their deeds.

Aronsfeld concluded his chapter by noting that the Jewish community had been boycotted and abandoned from their adopted country. A country that they had proven their loyalty to many times had now shunned them because they were by law “aliens”.

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Henry Maitles ‘Attitudes to Jewish Immigration in the West of Scotland to 1905’ Scottish Economic and Social History 15 (1995)

Maitles article is about Jewish immigration to the west of Scotland. It gives detail on many of the reasons that the Jewish community were harassed and bullied when they came here. The article also gives reasons as to why parliament brought in the aliens act 1905.

Maitles begins this chapter by noting that in the West of Scotland Many claimed that resentment and harassment towards immigrants did not happen despite evidence to suggest otherwise from immigrants. He further notes that the reason that Jewish people were coming to Britain was following the Russian revolution as it was suggested the only way to solve the Jewish problem would be if 1/3 emigrated, 1/3 converting and 1/3 being killed. He also notes that fast and cheap travel made it easier to relocate as steam ships and trains developed throughout the 19th century.

Racism and hostility toward immigrants were and still are harmful features of our society. There were false reports that the Jewish community lived in small shtetls and were peasant farmers. However, they were actually restricted to certain trades; financing, cigarette making and clothing. Maitles details how sweating in Britain was a significant factor in anti-immigration attitudes. He notes that many refugees were employed by masters to work at rock bottom rates for long hours in terrible conditions, which cut the rate of fully skilled workers. Sweating caused disease, overcrowding and it also caused a lack of sanitation. In London there were thousands of immigrants involved in sweating but the number in Glasgow was unclear. Sweating was seen as an immigrant problem and then by the end of the 19th century it was seen as a Jewish problem. This Highlighting the hostility towards the immigrants, as the blame should have been on the masters employing the immigrants for such low rates.

Maitles Further details about Immigration controls that came at the end of the 19th century. He details how Some immigrants were even in favour of the aliens act, as there was a class divide between the west and south side Jewish communities. Media outlets were reporting that Britain was a dumping ground for the diseased and poor immigrants as America and Canada would only accept the healthiest. Trade unions were also backing immigration controls to protect workers against poor conditions, wage undercutting and disease.

On August 11th 1905 the aliens act was passed and had immediate effect as the number of immigrants arriving in Britain was decreasing from previous years. However, the liberal government that came into power in 1906 were not harsh on this new law and were accused of flouting the law by the conservatives. The aliens act highlights how easily the British government were swayed by racist attitudes towards immigrants. Even though the immigrants were not to blame for their poor conditions and wages they were given the blame and treated poorly.

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D.R. MacRaild ‘Crossing migrant frontiers: comparative reflections on Irish migrants in Britain and the United States during the 19th century’

Donald MacRaild is Pro vice-chancellor for research and knowledge exchange at London Metropolitan University and is known for his work published on Irish, Britain, Social and labour history.

In this chapter MacRaild starts by detailing that from 1815-1930 more than 50 million people left Europe in the most striking population movement in history. He then continues on to discuss why migrants would choose to go to one place over another. One reason is that Government Legislation made America and Canada major destinations for those wanting to start a new life. He states that for some of the Irish they wanted to be way from Britain and America gave them good job prospects. For others Britain was as for away from Ireland as they could afford. Money was also a large factor as some people could not afford the £20 to travel to America, whereas it cost 2d to get to Britain. Hence why Britain received many of the poorer migrants.

By 1870 95% of Irish born Americans were in 20 of the states, mostly heavy urban states like new England. The Irish were the largest 1st generation of migrants in 27 states and 2nd in the rest of the states.

During the industrial revolution the Irish were used as scapegoats in both America and Britain because of the social unrest. Poorer Irish individuals found themselves labelled with the criminals. Many others made to return to Ireland under laws of settlement and removal as they were seen as an economical threat during hard times. MacRaild continues on by discussing how Irish migrants and free blacks had Similar experiences in America. Irish were seen as “not quite white” and were outcast, just like the free black people. There was competition for labour between the Irish and Black people. This race competition was not as big in Britain as slavery wasn’t as Big in Britain as it was in America.

Britain had less migrants trying to establish themselves Politically. The Irish in Britain shaped urban infrastructure as they would only give job contracts to their own. However, in America the Irish were bribed in elections as there were large numbers of them that could help candidates win.

MacRaild notes how the civil war was an opportunity for the Irish, the union army recruited 150,000 Irishmen and in the heat of battle the Irish American created a new sort of Irish identity. However, the Irish soldiers were often condemned for their drunkenness and brawling while being praised for their valour. There was no opportunity like this in Britain for the Irish as being a soldier in war was an obligation under the act of union, so they had less opportunity to integrate into society like the Irish Americans were able to.

MacRaild concludes the chapter by stating that Irish immigrants were influential in Britain and America, but in different ways. He then finishes on the words of Oscar Handlin, “Once I thought to write a history of the immigrants in America. Then I discovered that the immigrants were American history.” The same could never be said of Britain.