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Life, love and loss on the road to partition

Protestant men's role in the creation of Northern Ireland is well known, but what part did Protestant women play? Belfast writer Claire Mitchell turned to her own family history to find out

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Cissie McBride, 1921

Cissie McBride, 1921

Family links: Writer Claire Mitchell

Family links: Writer Claire Mitchell

Different time: Bella Byars

Different time: Bella Byars

Andy McCandless and Dora Gibbney

Andy McCandless and Dora Gibbney

William McBride’s Ulster Covenant and Cissie’s Irish dancing book

William McBride’s Ulster Covenant and Cissie’s Irish dancing book

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Cissie McBride, 1921

Where were my women on May 3, 1921? Did they dance on the streets and wave flags when Northern Ireland was born? Were their struggles any different when they woke up the next day?

The women in my family were ordinary Protestants from Belfast and Newry. Their stories have not been overly preserved. I have suitcases of clippings on war heroes and handed-down tales of notable men. But I have fewer tools to discern how my women experienced their lives 100 years ago. I've used official records, newspaper archives and fragments of family memories to piece together their lives.

I wanted to see what could be learned by excavating the truly ordinary. None of my women did anything famous, or infamous. But they glued their own worlds together. And sometimes they fell apart. Imagining their lives during partition is my small tribute to them. As well as an exploration of Protestant women's lives at this time.


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