Literature Research Guide:  Women Writers

This guide highlights resources available from McClelland Library to anyone researching Irish women writers. The McClelland Library owns many titles about and by women writers of Irish literature. Our holdings can be found by searching our catalog. This current list does not include all of our holdings related to women writers.

dublin in 1916


Ireland’s Women: Writings Past and Present by Kate Donovan, et. al.

Call Number: 820.8092 Ir28r 1995 Publication Date: 1995

This is the first volume of its kind to present a collection of writings by and about Ireland’s women who are both well-known and unknown, real and fictional. 

The Long Gaze Back: An Anthology of Irish Women Writers edited by Gleeson, Sinéad

Call Number: 823.01089 L851 Publication Date: 2016

Spanning four centuries, this features 8 rare stories from deceased writers and 22 new stories by some of the most talented Irish women writers today. The stories range from heartbreaking to humorous, but each leaves a lasting impression. Authors include Maeve Brennan, Lucy Caldwell, Anne Enright, Mary Lavin, Lisa McInerney, Nuala Ní Chonchúir, Kate O’Brien, Somerville & Ross, and many more.

Motherland: Writings by Irish American Women About Mothers and Daughters edited by Caledonia Kearns
Call Number: 810.80352 M856 Publication Date: 1999

This collection of Irish American women’s writings about the mother-daughter bond in all its variety: sometimes a source of strength and solace, sometimes of sorrow and resentment, but always and everywhere central to the author’s identity. 

Territories of the Voice: Contemporary Stories by Irish Women Writers edited by Louise DeSalvo, Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy, and Katherine Hogan

Call Number: 823.01089 T278 Publication Date: 1989

Twenty-seven contemporary stories are compiled in this book from well-known writers to new voices with content of various subject matters. 

Too Smart to be Sentimental: Contemporary Irish American Women Writers edited by Sally Barr Ebest and Kathleen McInerney

Call Number: REF 810.99287 T617 Publication Date: 2008

This series of essays offers a feminist literary history of twentieth-century Irish America. Too Smart to be Sentimental is the first critical study of contemporary Irish American women writers and is an invaluable resource to those studying Irish literature.

Wee Girls: Women Writing from an Irish Perspective edited by Lizz Murphy

Call Number: 820.0928 W416 Publication Date: 1996

This is a selection of writings by women who are top-selling and award-winning writers from Ireland, Australia, England, Canada (and other countries).

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Authors to Consider


The Long Gaze Back

From the Dublin City Libraries & Archives

The Monthly interviews writer and poet Lizz Murphy


The Gathering by Anne Enright

Call Number: FIC Enright, A Publication Date: 2007

The nine surviving children of the Hegarty family gather for their brother’s wake, who drowned in the sea. One sister collects the body and guards the secret, something happened in 1968, she shares with him and no one else. This is a novel of love and disappointment, and about how memories warp and secrets fester.

The Irish R.M. by E. Somerville

Call Number: FIC Somerville, E Publication Date: 1984

These stories are recognized as classics of Anglo-Irish literature with some of the funniest prose in the English language. This collection has 34 stories and is the inspiration behind the successful television series. 

The Last September by Elizabeth Bowen

Call Number: FIC Bowen, E Publication Date: 1952

The Last September depicts the tensions between love and the longing for freedom, between tradition and the terrifying prospect of independence. It is a story of a young woman’s coming of age in the 1920s in County Cork.

The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue

Call Number: Donoghue, E Publication Date: 2020

In Dublin in 1918, during war and disease, readers peer into the lives of three women who change each other’s lives in unexpected ways, and find the light in the darkness. 

The Rose Garden: Short Stories by Maeve Brennan

Call Number: Brennan, M Publication Date: 2000

A series of linked stories that has the power of a novel is the make-up of The Rose Garden. It’s a study of life in Herbert’s Retreat, north of Manhattan, of privileged rich social-climbers and their envy of what each other has. 

Without my Cloak by Kate O’Brien

Call Number: FIC O’Brien, K Publication Date: 2001

A family’s legacy in Mellick town is in jeopardy when Denis falls in love with a peasant girl.

ICLF Annual Women's Conference

Join us for our annual Women’s Conference every St. Brigid Day!

Rachel and Simon speak with the author Anne Enright. Anne has written two collections of stories, one book of non-fiction and six novels. “The Gathering”, which was published in 2007, won the Booker Prize; Anne has also received the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction and the Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award.

1918 Flu Inspired Donoghue's 'Pull Of The Stars'


Edna O’Brien

The Country Girls

Call Number: 822.914 Ob63c Publication Date: 2011

Edna O’Brien’s adaptation of her novel “The Country Girls,” the play is a highly theatrical and free-flowing telling of this classic coming of age story.

Lady Gregory

Select Writings

Call Number: 822.912 G8621s Publication Date: 1995

This collection contains selections of Lady Gregory’s writings on autobiography, Irish folklore and translations, Irish saga and romance, Irish culture, and her own plays, poems and journals. Plays include: Kathleen ni Houlihan; Spreading the News; Hyacinth Halvey; The Gaol Gate; The Rising of the Moon; The Workhouse Ward; and Grania. 

Maeve Binchy

Deeply Regretted By…

Call Number: 822.914 B51d Publication Date: 2005

A woman in London discovers that her marriage has been a lie after her husband dies. The play reflects the sociopolitical realities of Irish men marrying and starting families both at home and abroad, principally after they were forced to emigrate for work. 

Marina Carr

Call Number: 822.914 C2306a Publication Date: 2002

Fermoy Fitzgerald attends events surrounding his daughter’s sixteenth birthday and dissects the soul of a man in thrall to powerful forces. By scratching the scars of a family’s ancient skirmishes she unfolds the story of Cuura Lake. While the play embraces age-old themes, power and its price, fate, the importance of remembering and of forgetting it is also the author’s most contemporary work.

By the Bog of Cats

Call Number: REF 822.914 C2306b Publication Date: 1998

By the Bog of Cats is a haunting and lyrical retelling of the classical Medea myth. A woman connected to the bog and the ominous superstitions that surround it, Hester seizes her own fate, violently claiming the land and family she believes belong to her. Full of both classical myth and Irish lore, By the Bog of Cats weaves the complex characters into a fateful march towards irrefutable destiny.”

On Raftery’s Hill

Call Number: REF 822.914 C2306o Publication Date: 2000

In this latest installment of the monstrous hatreds of people who had no summer in their lives , people cursed in a world of distrust and lies, Marina Carr’s unique gift betrays the weaknesses of their needs and aspirations in the face of fate. Though she punctuates the play with moments of hilarious invention, the tragedy of this tale is classical in scale. As another generation struggles to escape the cycle of depravity visited on one family and the rancid atmosphere of Raftery’s Hill, Marina Carr’s unflinching vision unmasks a world so horrible it has to be true .

Portia Coughlan

Call Number: REF 822.914 C2306p 1998 Publication Date: 1998

This modern Irish classic is about destructive families and obsession. Portia wreaks havoc on everyone close to her as a desperate way to save herself from the torment of her dead twin, Gabriel. 

All This Mine Alone: Lady Gregory and the Irish Literary Revival

From New York Public Library

Booktopia presents: A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy

How Ireland's women writers found their long-overdue spotlight


Eavan Boland


Call Number: REF 821.914 B6375c Publication Date: 2001

Eavan Boland explores the historical, the domestic, cultural and female identity as well as the concepts of women and language and the creative syntax used within an artistic poetry and scientific code.

The Lost Land

Call Number: REF 821.914 B6375L Publication Date: 1998

Eavan Boland’s new book, her first since the Collected Poems, is in two parts. The opening sequence entitled ‘Colony’ explores the theme of Irish language and culture. This is followed by a collection of individual poems which open out from autobiography into a sense of larger belonging. 

New Collected Poems 

Call Number: 821.914 B6375n Publication Date: 2008

This collection of poems features nine volumes published between 1967 and 2001, including two poems from the 1962 chapbook “23 Poems,” and a section from unpublished verse play. 

Mary O’Malley

Asylum Road

Call Number: 821.914 Om14a Publication Date: 2001

The focal point in this collection is the Irish identity and explores responses to recent immigration in the light of Ireland’s history. 

The Boning Hall: New and Selected Poems

Call Number: REF 821.914 Om14b Publication Date: 2002

From the child colonized, to the adult journey, from Ireland to America to Southern Europe, this is a poetic exploration of love and place and the poet’s only true home – the language in which he or she writes.

A Perfect V

Call Number: REF 821.914 Om14p Publication Date: 2006

In this collection Mary O’Malley explores the boundaries and conflicts that divide humanity, from the legal separation of Northern and Southern Ireland to the heartbreaking detachment of husband and wife. 

Playing the Octopus

Call Number: REF 821.914 Om14pL Publication Date: 2016

In her 8th poetry collection, Mary O’Malley twins the Irish west coast with the American east coast, Inis Mór with Coney Island, the parish with the metropolis, the pipes with the ax. It is a body of writing buoyed by the redemptive power and sustaining joy of music. 

Eavan Boland

Poetry Foundation

Edna O’Brien: Irish Writers in America 

Normal Women: Contemporary Irish Women Writers

From Page to Screen

Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy

Call Number: FIC Binchy, M Publication Date: 1991

Movie Stars: Minnie Driver, Colin Firth, & Chris O’Donnell Released Date: 1995

Available on: Youtube (free)

The story of Benny and Eve growing up together in the village of Knockglen, then transitioning into the adult world at university in Dublin heartbreak and betrayal test the meaning of love and strength among their circle of friends. 

Dublin Murder Squad novels: In the Woods & The Likeness by Tana French

(TV Series: Dublin Murders)

Call Number: FIC French, T Publication Date: 2007 &  2008

Series Stars: Killian Scott and Sarah Greene Released Date: 2019

Available on: STARZ (with subscription)

Combining two of crime writer Tana French’s popular Dublin Murder Squad novels, (In the Woods and The Likeness) Dublin Murders is a thrilling detective series. 

In the Woods: Detectives Ryan and Maddox investigate the murder of a 12-year-old girl near Dublin. The case is similar to a murder committed twenty years earlier involving two children and young Ryan. 

The Likeness: Detective Cassie Maddox is trying to recover after the events from In the Woods by transferring out of the murder squad. But when she’s called to a crime scene and reads the dead girl’s ID, she recognizes the name–that’s the identity she used previously as an undercover detective–and she looks exactly like Maddox

Foster by Claire Keegan (Movie Titled: A Quiet Girl)

Call Number: FIC Keegan, C Publication Date: 2010

Movie Stars: Catherine Clinch, Carrie Crowley Released Date: 2022

Available on: Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV (with subscription)

A small girl is sent to live with foster parents on a farm in rural Ireland, without knowing when she will return home. In the strangers’ house she finds affection she has not known before, and slowly she begins to blossom in their care. But when a secret is suddenly revealed, she realizes how fragile her idyll is.

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Call Number: FIC Rooney, S Publication Date: 2018

Series Stars: Paul Mescal & Daisy Edgar-Jones Released Date: 2020

Available on: Hulu (with subscription)

This is an exquisite love story about how a person can change another person’s life – a simple yet profound realization that unfolds beautifully over the course of the novel. It tells us how difficult it is to talk about how we feel and it tells us – blazingly – about cycles of domination, legitimacy and privilege.

Room by Emma Donoghue

Call Number: FIC Donoghue, E Publication Date: 2010

Movie Stars: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, & Sean Bridgers Released Date: 2016 Available on: Max (HBO), Hulu, Amazon Prime Video (with subscription)

Narrator Jack and his mother, who was kidnapped seven years earlier when she was a 19-year-old college student, celebrate his fifth birthday. They live in a tiny, 11-foot-square soundproofed cell in a converted shed in the kidnapper’s yard. The sociopath, whom Jack has dubbed Old Nick, visits at night, grudgingly doling out food and supplies. But Ma, as Jack calls her, proves to be resilient and resourceful–and attempts a nail-biting escape.

We were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates

Call Number: FIC Oates, J Publication Date: 1996

Movie Stars: Beau Bridges & Blythe Danner Released Date: 2002

Oates writes a story about a family struggling to make terms with their fall from grace and their ability to persevere through their suffering with hope and love.

Dublin Murders

Normal People; A review

From the New York Times on We were the Mulvaneys

Irish Women are Reinventing the Thriller