Fading into Invisibility: Women and Ageing in Teresa Deevy’s Wife to James Whelan

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


“Too old I am – older than I should be by right” says Kate in Teresa Deevy’s Wife to James Whelan, a play concerned with the lack of opportunities available to Irish women in the 1930s. Written in 1936, when the Irish Constitution was rewritten and women’s place in society was increasingly prescribed as confined to the home, Wife to James Whelan depicts the struggle of three young women to manage their respective futures within a society that reduces older women to passive and powerless figures or as Lynne Segal describes them “increasingly invisible” women (2013, loc. 147).

Caoilfhionn Ní Bheacháin describes Deevy’s female characters as “mutinous heroines” (2012, p. 81) who potently physicalize a distinctively female vitality and dynamism in comparison to their male counterparts. This paper suggested that these mutinous heroines’ motivations are driven by a fear of ageing and examines Deevy’s creation of complex female characters in a world where women’s futures are determined in their early 20s. Additionally, the paper proposed that Deevy exposes the concept of ‘happily ever after’ as hollow and unreal. While a resurgence of interest in Deevy’s dramatic work has occurred much of this interest considers the representation of young women with little consideration of the concept of women and ageing: this paper addresses this opportunity for research. The paper contributed to research into female representation and female ageing in theatre and has relevance to scholars of Irish theatre, women’s studies, and feminism, gender and ageing in performance.
Original languageEnglish (Ireland)
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015
EventWomen & Ageing Conference: New Culture & Critical Perspectives - University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland
Duration: 20 May 201522 May 2015


ConferenceWomen & Ageing Conference


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