Glucksman Ireland House, NYU

The Fifth Province: County Societies in Irish America

The Ladies

Link to the full photograph: Mayo Ladies Installation, ca. 1950s. AIA NYU/Brian Fitzpatrick.

Mayo Ladies Installation, ca. 1950s. AIA NYU/Brian Fitzpatrick.

Link to the full photograph: Longford Ladies Trustee ribbon, 1948. AIA NYU/Rose Cosgrove.

Longford Ladies Trustee ribbon, 1948. AIA NYU/Rose Cosgrove.

Slow to shirk from celebrating county pride, Irish women have a long history of organization and participation. Although county societies were initially segregated by gender but it wasn’t long before the Men’s groups had auxiliary associations for the Ladies. Garbed in colorful uniforms or beautiful ball gowns, they made a striking impression at county events as well as marching in formation in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade or at the Feis.

The Ladies clearly added more than just aesthetics to these gatherings. They supported the initiatives of their male counterparts but they also ran their own successful fundraising and social events. Irish women voiced, sometimes quite forcefully, their political opinions when they deemed it necessary.

Daughters were initiated into county rituals from an early age, beginning as flower girls at the annual balls, especially that of the United Irish Counties Association, then coming of age as leaders of the Ladies’ Auxiliaries. In time, most of the men’s groups extended membership to women. The smaller Irish counties often pioneered the combination of their Men’s and Ladies organizations. Then, under newly made banners which privileged county affiliation over gender, women quickly stepped into the roles of county officer and President.

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