‘A Sudden and Complete Revolution in the Female’: Female Adolescence and the Medical Profession in Post-Famine Ireland

  • Ann Daly
Chapter
Part of the Palgrave Studies in the History of Childhood book series

Abstract

The second half of the nineteenth century in Ireland saw the emergence of a newly professionalized medical profession, coinciding with the gradual rise of the tenant farmer. The former had gained a new level of professional recognition with the advent of the 1858 Medical Act, which required the registration of all qualified practitioners. The latter was strengthened by the consolidation of land holdings after the Great Famine (1845–1852), a process encouraged by the introduction of legislation supporting tenant land purchase.1 These developments helped determine and shape new criteria of respectability that would merge discourses on the body within frameworks of social aspirations. This chapter seeks to explore how the medical preoccupation with female adolescence in Ireland reflected both the anxieties of an emerging middle class eager to shed the trappings of pre-Famine poverty, and increasingly self-conscious medical professionals desirous of enhancing the public’s perception of them. What resulted was a construct of female adolescence that was defined as acutely vulnerable and precarious, necessitating protection by the family and legitimizing the involvement of the medical profession.2

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Notes

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© Ann Daly 2015

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  • Ann Daly

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