‘With heart and voice ever devoted to the cause’ : women in the Gaelic Movement, 1886–1914
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The Gaelic movement was the general term used in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to refer to a range of diverse but interconnected activity in support of the Gaelic language and culture in Scotland, embracing educational, literary, musical and scholarly aspects. Accounts of the Gaelic cultural landscape at this time tend to focus on the leading male figures; the presence and participation of women has been largely overlooked and a number of women who were prominent and significant participants in the Gaelic movement have slipped into the shadows or disappeared completely. This study aims to reconfigure this view to foreground the contribution of women and to understand the complex dynamics of the Gaelic movement from the perspectives of the women involved. While the study importantly highlights certain individual women, the biographical focus is used as a means to uncover lesser-known women and the female friendships and networks in which they moved, as well as to explore their relationship and interaction with prominent male figures and other interconnected social groupings within the Gaelic movement and wider Pan-Celtic and Celtic Revival circles. The study examines and discusses the participation, contribution and influence of a number of women across a spectrum of Gaelic cultural activities, taking into account socio-historical, literary and cultural aspects and using gender as an analytical lens through which to examine the different challenges and tensions that individual women negotiated in a period of social and cultural change. The study shows that a number of women were actively involved with the Gaelic movement in the period between the passing of The Crofting Act and the start of the Great War; that they were innovative, ambitious and wide-ranging in their participation; and that they saw the accessibility of the Gaelic cultural sphere as an opportunity to progress both their individual aspirations as women as well as their support for the Gaelic language and culture.