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Allegations of drunkenness against soldiers’ wives denied
The spectre of 'Drunkenness' hanging over a city. Since the outbreak of the war, the issue of alcohol and its affect of the war effort has been a matter of much public debate Photo: Punch, 15 April 1915.

Allegations of drunkenness against soldiers’ wives denied

Dublin, 29 August 1915 - Claims that the wives of soldiers and sailors serving in the war are repeatedly drunk have been vigorously contested in Dublin.

Since the beginning of the war it has become commonplace to assert that female dependents have used the separation allowance they are being paid to indulge their desire for drink. It is regularly assumed - usually without inquiry - that every woman seen drunk on the streets or leaving a public house is the wife of a soldier or a sailor.

There are almost 50,000 women in Dublin in receipt of separation allowances and the number of such women who are charged with drunkenness does not exceed a half-dozen per week.

Left: a letter from the Chief Secretary's office to Anna Haslam, founder of the Dublin Women's Suffrage Association, offering support to the setting up of Women Patrols to prevent harm coming to young women in areas where soldiers were stationed in Dublin.  Right: a pamphlet attempting to recruit women to join these patrols. Click for full documents. (Images: National Archives of Ireland, CSO/RP 1915, 2654)

It is certainly the case that there are many drunken women in Dublin, but an investigation has revealed that there has been little increase in this tendency since the beginning of the war. It is conceded, however, that the women who drank freely before the war are now indulging more heavily than ever.

Similarly, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children has reported no increase in the number of women reported for neglect of their children.

[Editor's note: This is an article from Century Ireland, a fortnightly online newspaper, written from the perspective of a journalist 100 years ago, based on news reports of the time.]


Century Ireland

The Century Ireland project is an online historical newspaper that tells the story of the events of Irish life a century ago.