Portraits: Women of Cork and the U.S. Navy 1917 – 1919
Organised by Damian Shiels
In 1917 thousands of American naval servicemen came to Ireland to participate in the First World War. Their interactions with local women, particularly in Cork where they were based, became a major social issue. Many Irish women ultimately married these American sailors, with Queenstown / Cobh in particular seeing a large number of weddings. Who were these women and what were their stories? New research by Damian Shiels to identify them using U.S. passport applications has revealed something of the past – and the portraits of many. The exhibition at Sirius Arts Centre will consider a number of these images, and the stories of those young women depicted.
Sirius Arts Centre is housed in the former Royal Cork Yacht Club building – a beautiful Italiante building that was designed by Anthony Salvin and built by James Smith Barry of Fota in 1854.
The RCYC operated from here for over a century. During the first World War the building was used to host many of these American and British naval servicemen as a place to relax and socialize. Women were not permitted to socialize there nor could they become members of the yacht club until much later.
Damian Shiels is an archaeologist and historian with Rubicon Heritage Services Ltd. Formerly a curator in the National Museum of Ireland, he is a specialist on Irish military archaeology and history, on which he has published and lectured widely both nationally and internationally. His latest book “The Forgotten Irish: Irish Emigrant Experiences in America” was published by The History Press in 2016.
This exhibition is kindly supported by the Port of Cork