London: Tea-drinking poor women were dubbed as irresponsible in early 19th century Ireland, suggests a new finding by Durham University.
Critics at the time declared that the practice of tea drinking — viewed as a harmless pastime in most past and present societies — was contributing to the stifling of Ireland’s economic growth, and was clearly presented as reckless and uncontrollable.
Women who drank tea wasted their time and money, it was said, drawing them away from their duty to care for their husbands and home.
It was felt this traditionally female responsibility was vital to the progress of the national economy, the academic journal Literature and History reports.
According to a Durham University paper, reformers singled out tea drinking amongst peasant women as a practice which needed to be stamped out to improve the Irish economy and society, according to a Durham statement.
Author Helen O’Connell, lecturer in English studies at Durham, who analysed pamphlets and literature from that time, said: “Peasant women were condemned for putting their feet up with a cup of tea when they should be getting a hearty evening meal ready for their hard-working husbands.
“The reformers, who were middle to upper-class, were trying to get the peasant women to change their ways, albeit in a somewhat patronising way, for the greater good of the country. The reformers made it clear they saw tea drinking as reckless and uncontrollable.”
Pamphlets the reformers distributed to peasant households lambasted tea drinking as a luxury poor women could not afford and which could even cause addiction, illicit longing and revolutionary sympathies.