‘Storm and Stress’: Richard Devane, Adolescent Psychology and the Politics of Protective Legislation 1922–1935

  • Susannah Riordan
Chapter
Part of the Palgrave Studies in the History of Childhood book series

Abstract

Between 1922 and 1935 successive Irish governments came under pressure from an alliance of feminist, religious and social work organizations to introduce legislation that would give greater protection to children, girls and women from sexual exploitation.1 Throughout this chapter, these organizations and the individuals who supported them are referred to as the ‘protectionist’ or ‘social work’ lobby. Their campaign had its origins in nineteenth-century efforts to address the sexual double standard — the ethical system which condemned female lapses from chastity as unforgiveable while simultaneously regarding male incontinence as being natural and venial.2 The campaign reflected connected discourses around unmarried motherhood and prostitution. To synopsize crudely, while campaigners had little sympathy with older women who were deemed to have embraced a life of immorality — the mothers of more than one illegitimate child, married women who became pregnant by men other than their husbands, and women who were sometimes called ‘deliberate prostitutes’ — they sought to establish the fundamental innocence, victimhood and amenability to moral reclamation of the sexually-compromised adolescent. Their preferred narrative was one of seduction and betrayal, in which a girl, often a domestic servant, was impregnated by an older and more powerful man, perhaps her employer. Ostracized by society and unable to support herself or her child, she drifted into prostitution.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    These organizations included the Irish Women Citizens’ Association, the Dublin Christian Citizenship Council, the Dublin Council of Women, the Infant Aid Society, the Irish Christian Fellowship, the Irish Women Workers’ Union, the Nursery Rescue and Protestant Aid Society and the Union of Christian Churches. Sandra McAvoy, ‘Sexual crime and Irish women’s campaign for a Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1912–1935’ in Maryann Gialanella Valiulis (ed.), Gender and power in Irish history (Dublin & Portland, OR: Irish Academic Press, 2009), 94.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See Lucy Bland, Banishing the beast: English feminism and sexual morality, 1885–1914 (London: Penguin, 1995);Google Scholar
  3. Anne Summers, Female lives, moral states: Women, religion and public life, 1800–1930 (Newbury: Threshold Press, 2000), 127–9;Google Scholar
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  5. 3.
    The convoluted history of the Carrigan committee and the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1935 has been the subject of several scholarly studies. See Finola Kennedy, ‘The suppression of the Carrigan report: A historical perspective on child abuse’, Studies, 89: 356 (2000), 354–63;Google Scholar
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  10. 6.
    See, for example, Maryann Gialanella Valiulis, ‘Defining their role in the new state: Irishwomen’s protest against the Juries Act of 1927’, The Canadian Journal of Irish Studies, 18: 1 (1992), 43–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  12. 7.
    Frank Duff, Miracles on tap (New York: Montfort, 1961), 6.Google Scholar
  13. 8.
    For example, in Michael Adams, Censorship: The Irish experience (Dublin: Scepter Press, 1968)Google Scholar
  14. Peter Martin, Censorship in the two Irelands 1922–1939 (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2006).Google Scholar
  15. 9.
    One significant exception to this general comment is Eoin O’Sullivan, ‘“This otherwise delicate subject”: Child sexual abuse in early twentieth-century Ireland’ in Paul O’Mahony (ed.), Criminal justice in Ireland (Dublin: Institute of Public Administration, 2002), 176–201.Google Scholar
  16. 10.
    R. S. Devane, ‘The unmarried mother: Some legal aspects of the problem: I’, Irish Ecclesiastical Record, 23 (1924), 55–68, and ‘The unmarried mother: Some legal aspects of the problem: II’, Irish Ecclesiastical Record, 23 (1924), 172–88.Google Scholar
  17. 11.
    Lindsey Earner-Byrne, ‘Reinforcing the family: The role of gender, morality and sexuality in Irish welfare policy, 1922–1944’, History of the Family, 13:4 (2008), 360–9, 364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 26.
    Regina G. Kunzel, Fallen women; problem girls: Unmarried mothers and the professionalization of social work, 1890–1945 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1993), 47.Google Scholar
  19. 27.
    Caroline Skehill, ‘An examination of the transition from philanthropy to professional social work in Ireland’, Research on Social Work Practice, 10: 6 (2000), 688–704.Google Scholar
  20. 40.
    R. S. Devane, ‘Adolescence and the Vocational Education bill’, Irish Ecclesiastical Record, 36 (1930), 26. The Vocational Education Act, 1930 established a secular system of technical and continuation education. Devane regarded the absence of moral education in the vocational schools as a missed opportunity to mould Irish youth.Google Scholar
  21. 42.
    Richard S. Devane, Challenge from youth: A documented study of youth in modern youth movements (Dublin: Brown and Nolan Ltd., 1942), 14.Google Scholar
  22. 46.
    R. S. Devane, ‘The legal protection of girls’, Irish Ecclesiastical Record, 37 (1931), 20–40, 33–4.Google Scholar
  23. 47.
    G. S. Hall, ‘Preface’ in Phyllis Blanchard, The adolescent girl (New York: Moffat Yard, 1920), vi.Google Scholar
  24. 48.
    Devane, Challenge from youth, 9. For other contemporary Irish enthusiasts for adolescent psychology and their battle with the spectre of Freud, see Tom Feeney, ‘Church, state and family: The advent of child guidance clinics in independent Ireland, Social History of Medicine, 25:4 (2012), 848–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 54.
    James M. Smith, Ireland’s Magdalene laundries and the nation’s architecture of containment (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007), 44–84.Google Scholar
  26. 59.
    Irish Women Citizens and Local Government Association to Attorney General’s office, 11 Jan. 1924, cited in Diarmaid Ferriter, Occasions of sin: Sex and society in modern Ireland (London: Profile Books, 2009), 135.Google Scholar
  27. 63.
    Edward J. Tilt, The change of life in health and disease (2nd edn, London, 1857), 265, cited inGoogle Scholar
  28. Elaine Showalter, ‘Victorian women and insanity’, Victorian Studies, 23: 2 (1980), 157–81. See also Ann Daly’s chapter in this volume.Google Scholar
  29. 65.
    Minute of meeting of 20 Nov. 1930 (NAI, Jus. 90/4/2). The implied argument that girls in other societies were comparatively well-informed about sex does not necessarily hold. As Hera Cook has noted, in England in 1949 ‘a survey undertaken by Mass Observation… found sexual ignorance, including ignorance of reproduction, to have been common.’ Hera Cook, The long sexual revolution: English women, sex and contraception, 1800–1975 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 168.Google Scholar
  30. 71.
    Internal evidence suggests that this expert was Mary Hayden, first Professor of Modern Irish History at University College Dublin and active rescue worker. See Diarmaid Ferriter, ‘Hayden, Mary Teresa’, in James McGuire and James Quinn (eds), Dictionary of Irish biography (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009) (accessed online 7 June 2011).Google Scholar
  31. 73.
    See, for example, Mary E. Odem, Delinquent daughters: Protecting and policing adolescent female sexuality in the United States, 1885–1920 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1995)Google Scholar
  32. Elizabeth Lunbeck, ‘“A new generation of women”: Progressive psychiatrists and the hypersexual female’, Feminist Studies 13: 3 (1987), 513–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Susannah Riordan 2015

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  • Susannah Riordan

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