Bad Bridget Podcast
The new podcast from Queen's University Belfast & University of Ulster telling the untold stories of generations of Irish women who saw their American Dream become a nightmare.
Released December 2020.
In this promotional episode, Dr Elaine Farrell and Dr Leanne McCormick are joined by Derry Girls’ actress, Siobhán McSweeney, to guide you through the laughs, the tears, the prison sentences and the resourcefulness of Irish women in the US over the next five episodes of this new podcast.
Episode 1: Poverty
Hear how many young Irish girls and women, some as young as 11 or 12, travelled alone to America to escape poverty at home and to earn money for their families.
Listen to how the discrimination and prejudice experienced by the Irish over 150 years ago has similar echoes in today’s society.
Episode 2: The Sex Workers
Many Irish women travelled to North America, got jobs and sent money home. But perhaps their families did not know where that money came from.
Hear about the Irish women who became sex workers, about wrongful convictions and how much family reputation really mattered to some.
Episode 3: The Unmarried Mothers
Listen to the stories of girls and women who left Ireland pregnant or became pregnant in North America outside marriage.
Some who migrated from Ireland believed their partners would follow them, only to find themselves alone and thousands of miles from home. Hear how for some women having a baby out of wedlock had tragic consequences.
Episode 4: The Demon Drink!
The Irish have a long association with alcohol and in this podcast we look at what happened to those Irish women who got into trouble with alcohol abroad.
Those who drank to drown their sorrows, the mothers who neglected their children, and groups of women whose drinking on the streets brought them to court.
Episode 5: The Murderers
We’ve saved our most sensational cases to the end!
Hear about the woman who murdered her neighbour and put her in a trunk to steal her house, the wife who suspected her husband of having an affair, and the Irish serial killer who was the first women in America to be sentenced to death by the electric chair.
Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, this project led by Leanne McCormick (Ulster University) and Elaine Farrell (Queen’s University Belfast) focuses on the sexually deviant woman, the bad mother and the criminal Irish woman in Boston, New York and Toronto.
The project seeks to explore how and in what ways Irish women were sexually deviant. We consider women’s roles in the sale of sex, including as sex workers and brothel-keepers. We question to what extent and in what ways immigrants failed to live up to the image of the good Irish mother.
Were Irish women migrants involved in illegal practices of abortion and infanticide to the same extent as their counterparts in Ireland? How did a perceived lack of familial support networks impact Irish women’s actions? What determined a ‘bad’ mother?
Photo/Image Credit: New York Public Library
Original Music for the podcast was composed, performed and produced by Dr Franziska Schroeder and Music MA student Ms Catriona Gribben.
Dr Schroeder is a Reader in Music at the School of Arts English and Languages where she teaches music performance and music improvisation.
Catriona is an Irish Trad musician, composer and improviser.
Musical collaboration during lockdown
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the two musicians completely changed their approach to producing the music.
Whereas they would have usually sat together in one space, improvising, discussing and composing the music in a face to face fashion, the restrictions and lockdowns meant that this working process had to be altered.
The music was made in what the two women refer to as a "distributed, layered composing process”:
Catriona would record a musical idea/motif on her guitar or accordion at home, and then email/Dropbox it to Franziska who would listen to the track, and record over it with her saxophone, recording Catriona’s original track plus her improvised saxophones lines.
Franziska would then send this newly layered sound track (with two musical lines now) back to Catriona who would, again, either layer something on top or continue a different musical idea.
This 'back and forth' composing became a lot of fun, where the two women were eagerly waiting for each other’s musical ideas to which they could then respond in their own time and in their own homes (Franziska indeed recorded in her small but nicely resonant bathroom in Belfast!).
Please note that a lot of music was produced in that way, inspired by the stories of the Bad Bridget, but evidently not everything could go into the final podcast.
The two women intend to re-visit all the musical materials produced (some going back to September 2020),and there may be an entirely stand-alone “Bad Bridget Music” album emerging from the inspiration provided by the incredible stories narrated by Dr Elaine Farrell and Dr Leanne McCormick!
Watch this space!