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  • Writer's pictureBridget Walsh

"Speranza" (Lady Jane Wilde), and my Irish historical novels

Updated: Jun 6, 2023

Speranza is the pen name for Jane Elgee, later Lady Jane Wilde (27 December 1821 – 3 February 1896). She was a Wexford woman, poet, Young Irelander and later, the mother of Oscar Wilde.

The Great Hunger

Speranza wrote poems and articles for The Nation, a nationalist newspaper published in Dublin at the time of the Great Famine and drew attention to the starving women and children of Ireland. She was the perfect historical figure for my protagonists to meet up with between 1846- 1848.

In 'Daughters of the Famine Road', one of my protagonists, Annie Power, was also a poet. Speranza mentored Annie and published some of her poems in The Nation newspaper.

Annie's friend, Jane Keating, was an orphan of the Famine and, through Annie's connections, Speranza helped Jane get a job as a trainee typsetter at The Nation.

In the second novel, 'Daughters in Exile' Annie stays in touch with the Dublin newspaper when she is in New York as an immigrant with her siblings. Some of her poems and articles about emigration are published.

In the third novel, to be published soon, 'Daughter of Éireann' Jane Keating gets back to Ireland and rekindles her friendship with Speranza.

Speranza as a female hero

Speranza was in a different position to my main characters. As a young, middle-class woman, she had connections and lived a comfortable life in Dublin. She married, William Wilde, and eventually became Lady Jane Wilde and had two sons. On the death of the husband she joined her sons, William and Oscar, to live in London. Wkipedia has an interesting page about her life from there.

As inspiration for my writing.
My characters in this trilogy are invented, but I always wanted to write about females from their own point of view. I also wanted to create females with agency, who, even when terribly affected by the Irish Famine, still did not see themselves as victims. I believe this is true of many Irish girls and women of that time. Thousands of them left Ireland and travelled alone to the United States to make a life for themselves, and they didn't forget to send money back to their families.

My novels pay tribute to those girls and women.

Extract from 'Raising a Glass to Irish-American Women. Published 14/3/2017.

Accessed 6/6/2023

"Women helped women"

"Strong female networks sustained the immigration flow of Irish women, even during times of economic depression. Women sent money back home to support families but they also paid the passage for their female relatives. Irish women were the only immigrant group to establish immigration chains. They brought over nieces, sisters, cousins, and friends. They were young, under age 24, and unmarried. These women had the freedom to migrate and the desire for independence. Whereas other ethnic groups sent their sons to America, Ireland sent its daughters." @womenshistory


Many thanks for reading this.

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