Off to San Marino, California…

Marsh’s Library has teamed up with Trinity College Dublin and the Huntington Library in San Marino, California to offer travelling research fellowships. Here, the most recent award winner, Catherine Healy, tells us what she will be researching at the Huntington this summer……

Catherine Healy

In April 1895, amid advertisements for luxury hotels, carriages and ladies’ undergarments, The New York Times published a letter addressed to the editor by a concerned reader. “The kitchen is the terror of the American woman of the nineteenth century,” read the missive, surveying the state of middle-class housekeeping. “Most of our ladies are determined to neither cook nor wash dishes, and even bossing the job is undertaken with reluctance. This fact Bridget understands, and it is one of the secrets of her powers.”

Irish domestic servants were the subject of copious complaints and caricatures in Anglo-American newspapers, magazines, plays and films well into the twentieth century. My research as a PhD student examines the cultural history of those female immigrants who laboured in the homes of others, forming intimate, often difficult relationships with employers in the United States and Britain. I am particularly interested in seeing how the so-called “servant problem” was understood by middle-class women engaged in debates about the value of household labour.

The Huntington Library in San Marino, California provides a rich source of material for researchers, and I am delighted to be able to take up a one-month fellowship there this summer. Among the collections I will be working on are the papers and correspondence of women’s rights activists Frances Power Cobbe, Susan B Anthony, Anna Howard Shaw, Alice Stone Blackwell, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Alice Park, Clara Bewick Colby and Elizabeth Boynton Harbert.

I am very much looking forward to exploring these holdings, and I am thankful to Marsh’s Library and Trinity College Dublin for offering the fellowship.

Catherine Healy, PhD candidate, Department of History, TCD.