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'BAD BRIDGET’ PODCAST REVEALS STORIES OF CRIMINAL AND DEVIANT IRISH WOMEN IN NORTH AMERICADr Leanne McCormick (left) and Dr Elaine Farrell (right) seated in front of grand fireplace in the Great Hall at Queen's

10 December 2020

A new five-episode podcast series exploring the history and stories of criminal and deviant Irish women in North America from 1838 – 1918 has been launched by Queen's University Belfast and Ulster University.

Featuring Siobhán McSweeney, who plays Sister Michael in Derry Girls, the podcast episodes look at different aspects of life for Irish women who emigrated to North America in the 1800s and through to the early twentieth century, including alcohol, poverty, and sex work.

The final episode features those few Irish women who were convicted of murder, one of whom, Lizzie Halliday from County Antrim, who was dubbed 'the worst woman on earth' for her crimes. 

The full podcast series includes:

  • INTRO EPISODE
  • EPISODE 1: POVERTY
  • EPISODE 2: THE SEX WORKERS
  • EPISODE 3: THE UNMARRIED MOTHERS
  • EPISODE 4: THE DEMON DRINK!

The ‘Bad Bridget' podcast is based on the Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project of the same name, led by Dr Leanne McCormick from Ulster University and Dr Elaine Farrell from Queen’s, which focuses on the sexually deviant woman, the bad mother and the criminal Irish woman in Boston, New York and Toronto.  

The research, compiled over five years, shows that while Irish women have been largely written out of the history of Irish-America, they were often sent across the Atlantic alone – sometimes as young as the age of 11 – and the money they sent back was a key resource for Irish families. 

Talking about the podcast series Dr Farrell said:

"We hope that bringing to light untold stories of Bad Bridget's shows the diverse experiences Irish girls and women had in North America."

Dr McCormick, who is Senior Lecturer in Modern Irish Social History at UU added:

"The podcast highlights that experiences of Irish women in New York, Boston and Toronto included criminality and deviance, and it explores how gender, age, ethnicity and prejudice played a role."

The research revealed that Irish-born migrants feature frequently in (US) registers relating to prisons, houses of correction and houses of industry. It also considered if Irish women deviated from societal norms to a greater extent than other ethnic groups and if the reactions of the authorities were guided by ethnic prejudices.

The series also includes lots of Bad Bridget stories along the way! The fascinating individual cases reveal the lived realities and experiences for Irish girls and women who left Ireland for the ‘new world’.

The ‘Bad Bridget’ podcast is now available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify here: https://www.qub.ac.uk/Research/podcasts/bad-bridget/

Media enquiries and interview requests to Zara McBrearty at the Communications Office at Queen’s University Belfast and to Lee Campbell at Ulster University.

Photo/image credit (headline): New York Public Library

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