One of the objects of writing the story of the Irish Housewives Association is to make people aware of the link with the feminist movement of the past. So many people believe that the women's movement was born on some mystical date in 1970, like Aphrodite rising from the waves. It has been a long continuous battle in which many women have struggled to gain equality, each generation adding something to the achievements of the past.
... The whole structure of society, and with it the structure of women's organisations, has changed in the life span of the IHA. There is practically no domestic help, neither can the housewife rely on help from the extended family; the grannies and aunties are working outside the home now. Young women are either fully occupied with domestic duties or coping with the dual role of bread-winner and housewife. There is neither time nor money to spend on voluntary work.
This is not just an Irish problem. Women at international level are discussing ways and means of attracting young women into their organisations. Women's organisations have also changed. New groups are set up to deal with specific issues such as rape, single parenting, battered wives. Perhaps they are all the more effective for that reason; they can put all their energies into one cause. At the time the IHA was founded there was no other organisation dealing with consumerism and the status of women in the way we did. The Irish Countrywomen's Association ... came nearest ... and have been able to make an enormous contribution to improving the lives of Irish women in town and country.
... For some years the IHA has failed to attract sufficient new young members to carry on. We have become an ageing group and have lost many of our active members who carried out research. With our loss of membership comes loss of revenue making it impossible to continue the Association in its present form. Rather than fade away into oblivion the Association has decided to dissolve itself and make the occasion of our Golden Jubilee a celebration of our achievements over the last fifty years. We hand over our work with confidence to the Council for the Status of Women and the Consumers Association of Ireland, both of which came into being as a result of the initiative of the IHA.
The IHA is proud to trace its connection with the Irish Women Citizens Association, and through them to the Irish Women's Suffrage Society and the Women's League for Suffrage and Local Government and to be the link between them and the Council for the Status of Women and the present women's movement. In this way we have played our part.
We hope that we have fulfilled our original aim, at least to some extent: 'To unite housewives, so that they may realise, and gain recognition for, their right to play an active part in all spheres of planning for the Community.' The IHA has certainly been active over fifty years. Women are now much more aware of their own potential, and recognition of this is increasing. Progress has been made. Our laws have been changed to promote equality, but attitudes to, and the implementation of, these reforms still need attention. Who would have thought in 1942 that women could move from the kitchen to Áras an Uachtaráin?
It is interesting to note that many of the problems affecting women today were first identified by women so long ago. Very little has been achieved overnight. It has been a long hard haul, each generation building on the work of those who have gone before. The Irish Housewives Association is proud and happy to have been a link in that chain.