Ireland’s Poor at the End of the Long Eighteenth Century
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This chapter underscores the differences and the similarities between the women who were at each end of Ireland’s social scale, the women who were the initiators and recipients of charitable endeavour. Though eighteenth-century Ireland witnessed much wealth, building and improvement, the majority of the country’s population lived in penury. This chapter describes Ireland’s poor. It focusses particularly on the lives and conditions of impoverished women. Poor Irish women suffered the social, legal and financial injustices endured by all females at the time. In their case, however, the inequalities were exacerbated by poverty and the inequity and loss of agency that engenders. Ireland’s largely invisible middle-class failed to bridge the intolerant gulf between the very rich and the very poor.