Naming and shaming? Telling Bad Bridget stories

Leanne McCormick, Elaine Farrell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The Bad Bridget project centres on Irish-born female criminal suspects in North America from 1838 to 1918. Its title derives from the common occurrence of the forename Bridget in Ireland in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and its application as a collective name (along with the more derogatory variant ‘Biddy’) to Irish women in the US. The ‘Bad Bridget’ title seemed to adequately capture our focus on the individual, as well as the diverse experiences of the many Irish-born girls and women on whom the project is based. While we hesitated about using the title initially, lest ‘bad’ suggest a shaming of behaviour or the individuals themselves, or ‘Bridget’ a judgement on their Irish heritage, we decided that the benefits of the collective name outweighed potential drawbacks. This article expands on the idea that a name can imply shame. It focuses on our use of real forenames and surnames instead of pseudonyms (or other anonymisation alternatives) to identify individual girls and women in our project outputs to date. The article makes the case for the use of real names in this context, exploring in turn our roles and responsibilities as historians, archival and scholarly expectations, our responsibilities towards our subject matter, and our audiences (including the descendants of the Irish girls and women suspected of criminal behaviour).
Original languageEnglish
JournalTransactions of the Royal Historical Society
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 9 May 2024

Keywords

  • anonymisation
  • pseudonymisation
  • social history
  • family
  • genealogy
  • crime
  • women
  • emigration
  • diaspora

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