Maria Edgeworth and the Great Famine

Maria Edgeworth trying to help

a letter written by a servant to Maria Edgeworth about the Great Famine
An account written by a former servant to Maria, “Biddy” Macken, Pound Street Edgeworthstown

“Her heart went out to the poor and afflicted…” said “Biddy” from Edgeworthstown about Maria Edgeworth and the Great Famine.

Toward the end of her life the Great Famine ravaged the land of Ireland and Maria Edgeworth. Like other women during those times she did all she could to try and alleviate the suffering of the tenants on her estate. 

The Great Famine

In the 1840s a lot of people depended on the potato as their main sustenance. The potato blight reached Ireland in 1845 and destroyed hundreds of harvests. Consequently million of people died of starvation and more emigrated. A horrific time for the rural parts of the country that were characterized by agriculture. Help was needed from elsewhere. Soup kitchens, workhouses, Famine relief schemes. But another kind of help and support is often overlooked: the untiring work of the women.

Hidden Heros like Maria Edgeworth and the Great Famine

The article linked below tells the story of Hidden heroes: Women and the Great Famine – They were victims of the famine – but also care-givers, aid workers and observers. Christine Kinealy tells their story. 

Also a poem written during the Great Famine by Eliza Pope of Waterford, entitled ‘A Ladies’ Committee in Ireland, 1849′, provides a rare contemporary insight into the role of women’s relief committees.

Discover invisible women becoming the hidden heroes of the Famine. 

Read Christine’s article on RTE History here

starving family during the Great Famine
By Illustrated London News, December 22, 1849 – Image, Caption, Public Domain,