The women who had been straining every nerve: Gender-specific medical management of trauma in the Irish Revolution (1916-1923)
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Aiken, Síobhra. (2019). The women who had been straining every nerve: Gender-specific medical management of trauma in the Irish Revolution (1916-1923). In Melania Terrazas Gallego (Ed.), Trauma and Identity in Contemporary Irish Culture (pp. 133-158). Bern: Peter Lang.
Female revolutionaries suffered various traumas – including sexual trauma – during Ireland’s revolutionary period (1916–1923). This chapter draws on files from the Military Service Pensions Collection, personal accounts and literary narratives in order to consider the various medical treatments prescribed to women for “exhausted nerves” in the early decades of the Irish Free State. Contemporary understandings of what is now recognized as PTSD were strongly informed by gender ideologies, and women’s mental welfare was routinely connected to the female reproductive system. In contrast to men’s treatment, which aimed to swiftly return the patient to the warzone or workforce, traumatized female revolutionaries were frequently recommended prolonged “rest” treatments which emphasized domestication and re-feminization. These costly therapies reflect the social privilege of many female republicans. Women lacking such familial or financial supports, however, could find themselves committed to the country’s overcrowded mental institutions, while a significant number of female revolutionaries emigrated for medical reasons.