Pints and Protests: Women’s History Month

So.  I had this grand plan of writing about a woman, or group of women, a day for Women’s History Month. But then it decided to snow. And I got stuck in Heathrow…. For five days. Without any of my notes. Or resources. Or computer.

That’ll teach me to leave my work at home.

So instead, I’m starting from today: one month, one post a day, about a woman, or group of women (real or mythological) who contributed in some way, however small, to beer history. As I am doing a post a day, these won’t be as long, or detailed, as my previous work. Instead, expect these to range between 200-500 words.

The thought process behind this particular series is to demonstrate the multitude and diversity of women’s contributions to the story of beer for Women’s History Month. You can follow all the posts with #31BeerHerstories

If this is an entirely new post, and not something I have previously examined in some way, I will certainly revisit these with more in depth, context, and close analysis later. If you have posts you would like me to return to first, let me know!


Happy International Women’s Day! A shout out to all the amazing women currently crushing it in the beer industry! And massive thank you to all those out there fighting to make the beer world a more diverse and inclusive place.

But also a call to remember all those phenomenal women that enabled us to be in the position we are today. While the beer world still certainly has quite a ways to go in terms of inclusivity (for gender, race, class, to name a few), we would not have made it to where we are without the sacrifices and activism of women in the past. And so, in that vein, I want to highlight the story of a group of protestors who paved the way for women to be able to *gasp* drink pints in pubs in Ireland.

To set the stage a bit.

Prior to quite recently, Irish pubs, as Kevin Kearns argued, were male dominated arenas; spaces where many women would dare not enter for fear of being ostracized, or also because they were *literally barred* from coming into the ‘male only’ public house.[1] There were a few exceptions, but generally women did not enter this space. Instead, women went to Spirit Grocers, open from 1791-1910. And even after their closure, women’s entry into the pub was still viewed with disdain, or even forbidden entirely.

While after World War II change began, and women continued to demand entry, it was still a widespread issue. And it was especially considered taboo for a woman to consume a pint of beer in these pubs. In fact, many refused to serve them to women. Particularly those without a male chaperone. Legally.

I just… Rage.


Enter Nell McCafferty.

A founding member of the Irish Women’s Liberation Movement, in the early years of the 1970’s McCafferty led a group of women to a Dublin pub. Here, they ordered the socially acceptable drink of brandy, and after it was served, proceeded to order a pint of Guinness.

Which they were flatly refused.  Refused on the account of them being women, and most especially because it was a pint. They drank their brandy, refused to pay and walked out.

It was acts like this that drew attention to this horrendous practice and helped pave the way for women to happily consume their pints in pubs across the nation. However, it wasn’t until 2000 (!!!) that the Equal Status Act barred this sort of sexist discrimination.

Though it is clear that some remnants of the disgust of the female pint drinker remain, (as I, unfortunately, can personally attest to) pubs across Dublin, and especially craft beer ones, are generally places where people of all genders are welcome. To drink pints.

So, as I am off to Alltech Craft Brews and Food Fair tonight, I will be thinking of all the women who have protested, fought and struggled for equality, and continue to do so. Not just in the beer industry, but in all aspects, and I will be raising a *pint* in their honour.


[1] Kevin Kearns, Dublin Pub Life and Lore: An Oral History (Dublin, 2004), p.17.

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