Name: Jen Donohue, '09
Major: International Studies, History
Minor: Latin American & Iberian Studies


Helen G. Stafford Scholarship
Harry M. Ward Scholarship

Activities: University Debate Team
Alpha Chi Omega Sorority

Jen Donohue is spending the summer in Dublin, Ireland working on her research project, "Catholic Nationalism and the rise of Feminism in early twentieth century Ireland," funded by a School of Arts & Sciences Summer Research Fellowship. 

Describe your research project.

I’m researching how the Irish women’s suffrage movement was able to succeed amongst an increasingly religious, Catholic Ireland in the early 1900s. The landscape of Ireland during this time period was changed dramatically by the subversive popularity of the Irish political party, Sinn Fein, which campaigned for an Ireland free of the presence of the British crown. Much of the political rhetoric surrounding this campaign alludes to the fact that Ireland was not inherently “British” because it defined itself by two unique, un-British characteristics – the Gaelic language and the Catholic faith. 

As Sinn Fein’s hold on Ireland increased, the Catholic Church took advantage of this political climate and became an extraordinarily powerful force in the everyday lives of Irish people. The traditional mindset of the church discouraged the Irish women’s movement from making significant strides towards achieving the right to vote.

What questions do you hope your research answers?

There are several questions I would like to answer concerning feminism and nationalism. Was it possible for Catholic women in early twentieth century Ireland to remain true to their faith while also seeking the right to vote? How did feminists go about achieving this seemingly impossible task – by appealing to the rebellious Sinn Feiners or by pleading to the British crown? How did they resolve the “Catch-22” of being either a rebel or a traitor? How did the Irish populace react to militant feminism during a time of militant nationalism? My hypothesis is that the most “subversive” feminists who made the largest strides for women in Ireland also became the most rejected by society and by the church.

How are you able to conduct your research?

I’m currently in Dublin and I’ve been working on my project by using primary sources, including newspapers and manuscripts at the Irish National Library. I wouldn’t be in Dublin right now without the generous aid of my summer fellowship.

How did you get involved in the project?  What made you decide to pursue undergraduate research this summer? 

I got involved in this project through the University's honors history program. My research will be part of my senior thesis, which is going to end up being a two-year process that I began in my junior year. Dr. Gordon, professor of Irish and British history, inspired me to pursue my research dreams during his class on the History of Modern Ireland. 

What prepared you for this opportunity?  A prior research experience?  A particular class?  An eye-opening book?  An inspiring mentor?  Describe.

Two things prepared me – study abroad in Spain for a semester and a QUEST international research grant to Vienna, Austria during Spring of 2008. I studied nationalism in both Spain and Austria (which, again, wouldn’t have been possible without the help of the University) and I’ve discovered that I am passionate about this research area. I love learning about languages and cultures and determining how our global community functions as a cohesive whole.

How do you see this project contributing to your collegiate success during the rest of your time at Richmond?

It’s going to help me write a great thesis, hopefully. And when I'm finished this paper, it's something I’ll be proud of for the rest of my life.

You’ve got a crystal ball. What’s in store for you after graduation? 

I want to be a lawyer and study international law. My interests in international politics, nationalism and argumentation have made me realize that I would be happiest in a legal profession that has an international focus.

A full day of research lies ahead of you. What’s on your iPod?

Guster, Coldplay

What has a liberal arts education at the University of Richmond meant to you?

Everything – I’ve had every opportunity that I could have ever hoped for at Richmond.  I had a fantastic summer internship working for a legal group in D.C. with a Richmond law professor, have spent a semester living in Spain with a Spanish family, attended an opera at the Vienna State Opera House and done significant research projects in both Austria and Ireland, all on the University’s dollar. (Seriously, they paid for my housing in D.C. for a summer and my airfare to Europe all three times that I went).  Additionally, I’ve been able to volunteer for a shelter for victims of domestic violence through my sorority, and I’ve made amazing friends to top it all off.