Electric Irish Homes: Rural Electrification, Domestic Products and Irish Women in the 1950s and 1960s is a research project looking at the effects of rural electrification on rural Irish housewives and homes during the 1950s and 1960s, focusing on the importation, promotion, cultural context and significance of domestic electrical products and their meaning to a generation of rural housewives. It was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council from 2016 to 2019, and includes the Kitchen Power exhibition in the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life and a forthcoming monograph.
Although electric products for cooking or cleaning were seen as modernising and liberating technologies in other countries, this project will use archival research, object analysis and oral history to consider to what extent these meanings held for Irish women, particularly against the background of Irish establishment attitudes to the role of married women as domestic housewives. As the rural electrification project of the Electricity Supply Board (ESB) was rolled out across the State, the majority of domestic electrical products such as irons, fridges or vacuum cleaners were largely imported from Britain, Europe and the United States, and the project will look at the specifics of product ranges available in Ireland, and consider the implications of ‘modern’ influences from outside the state, particularly before the Scandinavian Report on Irish Design (1962) kickstarted the native design industry in the late 1960s and 1970s. Outputs include a monograph, journal articles, and an exhibition in the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life, accompanied by a community textile art project. The project has also been supported by a Design History Society Research Travel Grant, 2015 and the Fundació Història del Disseny 2nd Alfaro Hofmann Collection Research Grant for the Study of Domestic Appliances: The Vacuum Cleaner, 2015.
The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: ancient history, modern dance, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, English literature, design, the creative and performing arts, and much more. This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98m to fund research and postgraduate training in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK. For further information on the AHRC, please go to: www.ahrc.ac.uk