Dr Lindsey Earner-Byrne (University College Dublin)
‘Dear Father my health is broken down’: Writing health in Irish charity letters, 1922-1940
UCD Centre for the History of Medicine in Ireland Seminar Series, 18 September 2014
This paper focuses on the perspective of those who experienced poverty, rather than those who decided policy, in the first decades of the newly-independent Irish state. It forms part of a wider project examining the issue of poverty in Ireland in the 1920s.
The principal archival source from which this talk was drawn is a collection of letters held at the Dublin Diocesan Archives. These letters, written by ordinary people, were addressed to the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Archbishop Byrne, between 1920 and 1940. The topic of this paper emerged due to the ubiquity of questions of health as an overwhelming theme in these sources.
The title of the paper, ‘Dear Father my health is broken down’, is taken from one source letter – but it is phrase that was used in many such letters and constituted a common idiom to express general ill-health in the 1920s and 1930s.
Dr Lindsey Earner-Byrne is a lecturer in the School of History, University College Dublin and an Associate Staff Member of the UCD Centre for the History of Medicine in Ireland. She is an expert on poverty, gender, sexuality, the history of medicine and the development of welfare services in modern Ireland. In addition to her numerous scholarly publications, she is the author of a major monograph on the development of Irish maternal and child welfare services, Mother and Child: Maternity and Child Welfare in Ireland, 1920s-1960s (Manchester University Press, 2012) and a further monograph, The Letters of the Catholic Poor: Poverty in Independent Ireland, 1920-1940 (Cambridge) is forthcoming. This latter publication has emerged out of the research project, of which she was the director, ‘Evolution of the Irish States Project, 2008-2011: Poverty and the Poor in Modern Ireland‘.
Lindsey has featured extensively on radio and television programmes as an authority on the social history of Ireland. You can listen to Lindsey discussing the importance of the of the Mother and Child Scheme Controversy via a HistoryHub podcast.