Throughout the 19th century, the Irish were leaving Ireland by the thousands in hope of a better life in America. During the famine the numbers intensified, bringing large amounts of poor and destitute families over to the growing American cities of New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Chicago. But in the years following the famine, a change in the demographic of Irish emigrants occurred: over the years female Irish emigrants began to outnumber male emigrants. Young women arrived on American shores looking for employment, the opportunities to start families and an overall better life for themselves. In this paper I address the questions of women's lives after emigration. Were women's lives generally improved after starting over in America, or were the challenges more numerous than the benefits and improvements?
[...] The article Scattered Debris of the Irish Nation: The Famine Irish and New York City, 1845-55,” by Edward O'Donnell, includes an excerpt from an advertisement to illustrate this point: WANTED- An English or American woman, that understands cooking, and to assist in the work generally if wished; also a girl to do chamber work. None need apply without a recommendation from their last place. IRISH PEOPLE need not apply, nor anyone who will not arise at 6 o'clock, as the work is light and the wages are sure. [...]
[...] p Ibid, p Diner, Hasia R. Erin's daughters in America: Irish Immigrant Women in the Nineteenth Century. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London: 1983. pp. 46-9. Miller, Kerby A. with David N. Doyle and Patricia Kelleher. love and liberty”: Irish women, migration and domesticity in Ireland and America, 1815-1920.” The Irish Worldwide Series V4: Irish Women & Irish Migration. Ed Patrick O'Sullivan. Leicester University Press. London and New York: 1995. p Ibid. p Akenson, Donald Harman. The Irish Diaspora: A Primer P.D. [...]
[...] She also argues that economic possibilities for Irish women after the famine were decreased, and women desired to be part of the “family economy” the way they had been before the famine. Here she refers to the money women made selling eggs, poultry and milk and well as spinning in the earlier part of the 19th century. In her book, Nolan looks extensively at the marriage patterns of Irish women before and after the famine, in Ireland and in America. [...]
[...] York City virtually created and then sold to the rest of America the image of the Irish as violent, criminal, drunken, venal papists.” If the Irish were greatly represented among the poor and the destitute, it was often because they were caught in a vicious cycle of urban stereotyping and the continual perpetuation of these stereotypes. It is hard to pin down exactly how many Irish women were “successful” in America and how many ended up poor and unable to take care of themselves, at the bottom of the ladder in urban America. [...]
[...] The social problems of Irish women in America were great for those who could not work, were deserted by their husbands, or were caught in a cycle of crime and poverty. However it is clear that the lives of Irish women in America improved over time as job opportunities grew as well as female independence. On the whole it seems that life for Irish women was improved by immigrating to America, but it was not without its cost. For every woman who found employment and had a successful family life, there was one who ended up at the bottom of the labor ladder or suffered as a result of a bad marriage. [...]
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