Journal Volume 3 2000

The Hodson/Adair Family of Hollybrook (continued/2)

Invisible Women

It takes considerable detective work to piece together the lives of ordinary people before the Victorian era, when census taking and newspapers flourished. Many estate records, Church of Ireland registers and wills perished in the Four Courts in 1922, providing another formidable obstacle for the historian. Information on the aristocracy and gentry is usually more readily available.

There is an exception, however: daughters, who were often treated as almost non-existent. To give an example: Charlotte Wright of Nottingham, a relative of the present Duchess of York, and wife of Col. John Edwards of Oldcourt (1751-1832), whose "prudence, courage and humanity" during the 1798 Rebellion was praised by nationalist historian Luke Cullen and who suffered much at the hands of Dublin Castle, is passed by in Burke's Landed Gentry in the phrase "with seven daughters".

Similarly, Hodson daughters of several generations are barely acknowledged. Daughters often had to make suitable marriages to become visible: the first Sir Robert Hodson had three sisters, but only Mary's name is known, as she married Garrett Neville of Marymount, Co. Kilkenny.

Marriage settlements, to provide for a lady in case of widowhood, were customary among the upper classes by the eighteenth century. Ladies feature in these documents hedged in by male relatives. Fathers and brothers invariably represent them, the settlement is protected by further prominent relatives acting as trustees. Any property brought into the marriage by her usually passed to her husband's control. The widow's income, which depended on what her relatives and in-laws had agreed to on her behalf, was charged on her husband's estate. It was not unknown among the Anglo-Irish to cut back on this maintenance during difficult times. Payments ceased with the widow's death. She had only personal property to bequeath and no need to make a will in her own right.


Back to list of contents   Back to previous page   Move to next page