This year to mark International Women’s day, OPW-Kilkenny Castle is delighted to host a free talk by Dr Naomi McAreavey on the “Women in the Letters of the First Duchess of Ormonde”
The first duke and duchess of Ormonde were the ultimate power couple of seventeenth-century Ireland. But while James Butler (1610–88) is well known to Irish history, his wife Elizabeth Butler, née Preston (1615–84) is not. Yet Elizabeth’s 300-odd surviving letters – the subject of a forthcoming exhibition in Kilkenny Castle – reveal her importance in the social, cultural, and political life of seventeenth-century Ireland. In this talk, Dr Naomi McAreavey will demonstrate the importance of the duchess’s female friendships and alliances to her activities, arguing that the mobilization of her female network helped optimise her family’s political position and ensure their adaptability and survival during periods of crisis. The talk will show that female alliances were key to the political agency of women like the duchess, and that our understanding of seventeenth-century Irish history must take into account the activities of women.
Dr Naomi McAreavey is a lecturer of Renaissance literature at University College Dublin. She is the editor of Elizabeth Butler, the letters of the first Duchess of Ormonde. This volume is the first to bring together the entire extant correspondence of one of the most significant women in early modern Ireland.