You are here: Home > Events & Courses > Events > Critical Domesticities Symposium: Retro & Hetero with the Housewife of the Year (1968-1995)
Critical Domesticities Symposium: Retro & Hetero with the Housewife of the Year (1968-1995)
Interdisciplinary Studies of Ageing; Gender; Older Women; creative ageing
Event Type:
26 May 2023 - 27 May 2023
ARK Ageing programme, Queen's University Belfast, Northern Ireland
Abstract Deadline:
16 April 2023
Gemma Carney (Email Contact)
Contact Phone:
This symposium uses the Housewife of the Year to take a critical look at the evolving role of women in the domestic sphere on the island of Ireland.

The Housewife of the Year was an Irish beauty pageant (of sorts) that ran from 1968 through to the mid-1990s. Sponsored by the Calor Gas company from 1978 and televised from 1982. The competition celebrated what Walsh has called the ‘homely-sexuality of the Irish female’. Its failure to bridge to the twenty-first century despite some spin-off attempts (Centra Homemaker of the Year for instance, or RTÉ’S more recent Home of the Year) was, for Walsh, a ‘measure of the degree to which it idealised Irish womanhood’ (2009, 201). That idealisation was clearly out of step with the realities of Irish women’s lives in the late twentieth-century and quite possibly much earlier, and it has been parodied brilliantly for television in the ‘Lovely Girls’ competition on an episode of Father Ted (1996), as well as in the acerbic comedy Bridget and Eamon (2016).

We welcome proposals for papers, therefore, that might explore the following aspects of the Housewife of the Year competition (the list is not intended to be exhaustive): - Participants’ attitudes to the pageant then and now and how oral histories approaches might deepen our understanding of the event and its wider contexts, - The changing public reception of the event from 1968 to 1995, - The traces of alternative female communities and feminist organisations that it made visible, - Women’s labour and labour inequalities that are in evidence in the pageant, - The performance of normative values in the context of women’s changing status in Ireland, - The performance of femininity and the versions of sexuality that the competition demanded, - The absence of a similar competition in Northern Ireland, - The tensions and contradictions that the event presented in a changing Ireland.

To participate in the event, please submit an abstract (250 words) with a short biography (200 words) to Trish McTighe,, by Friday 16th April.

The symposium is the second in a series of Critical Domesticities events led by Shonagh Hill and Trish McTighe at QUB School of Arts, English and Languages QUB. This year they are joined by gerontologist Gemma Carney (Ark Ageing Programme, QUB School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work).

Join BSG
Discover the benefits of membership
Ageing & Society
The Journal