Online Seminar, Melbourne Irish Studies Seminar

Tuesday 12 September 2023, 6.30pm AEST
Dr Sophie Cooper, Queen’s University, Belfast
Connecting through ‘stuff’: Material culture, women and the Irish diaspora

This paper will use material culture to explore connections between women, and particularly women religious, across the Irish diaspora. Limerick lace veils were used in ceremonies designed to introduce Sisters of Mercy to often-suspicious Australian communities while Perth-based Sisters wrote back to Ireland requesting coloured eyeglasses be sent to enable them to maintain their health and therefore their work. Across the world, women religious swapped tips and materials to help them to sustain their emerging communities. In turn, the Irish diaspora used the built environment to encourage a sense of belonging abroad. Looking at these religious and ethnic communities through a material culture lens allows for greater insight into the tools that women across the Irish diaspora, especially women religious, used to establish and crucially, to sustain, communities during the nineteenth century.

Dr Sophie Cooper is Lecturer in Liberal Arts at the Queen’s University of Belfast. She is a social and cultural historian of Ireland and the Irish diaspora, with a particular emphasis on gender, religion, and urban space. Sophie’s first book, Forging Identities in the Irish World: Melbourne and Chicago, c.1830-1922, was published by Edinburgh University Press in 2022 and was awarded the ACIS Lawrence J. McCaffrey Prize for Books on Irish America (2023). Sophie’s work has also been published in Women’s History Review and Social History journals in addition to edited collections.

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