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Daughters of Ireland – A Quest for Freedom and Independence

Daughters of Ireland – A Quest for Freedom and Independence

The second largest heritage claimed by Americans is Irish, with millions immigrating to the U.S. during the 19th and 20th centuries.  During the 1840s, the Irish made up nearly 50 percent of all immigrants.  In 1890, the U.S. census reported that 260,000 Irish immigrants had settled in Boston and 27,488 in Essex County.

Upon Ellis Island’s opening in 1892, the first immigrant processed was a 15-year-old Irish girl named Annie Moore. During the 1890s, young single women made up 53 percent of Irish immigrants, making it the only immigrant group where men were outnumbered by women.

Young and unmarried Irish immigrants formed strong supportive networks; with new found economic freedom and a degree of independence, they helped other Irish women migrate.  While the majority were employed in servitude roles, education facilitated the entrance of second-generation Irish women into the workforce. Many women became teachers, nurses, journalists, and social workers.  By 1910, Irish-American women made up the majority of teachers in Boston’s public schools.

Despite being confronted with discrimination and prejudice, Irish women, often characterized by the mythical banshee (heroic Individual; war goddess), demanded justice and equality.  Settlement Houses played a key role in providing access to opportunities for independence and self-sufficiency that allowed Irish women to establish themselves as a force to be recognized.

Reference: Raising a Glass to Irish American Women, Elizabeth L. Maurer, March 14, 2017

Date: February 28, 2019

Author: Sarah Garriepy

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