I Speak My Own Piece: Autobiography of "The Rebel Girl" by Elizabeth Gurley Flynn - Critical Essay

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  4
Wordcount:  905 Words
Date:  2022-06-23


In her book titled I Speak My Own Piece: Autobiography of "The Rebel Girl," Elizabeth Gurley Flynn discusses the phrase 'No Irish Need Apply.' Flynn was born to poverty-stricken Irish immigrants in New Hampshire in the late nineteenth century. She was one of the pillars of American radicalism and dedicated her life to fighting for the rights of the working class (Flynn, 113). This essay looks at why people used the phrase. It will also examine what 'No Irish Need Apply' suggests about the living and working conditions of Irish immigrants in the United States during the mid-1850s.

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The phrase 'No Irish Need Apply' first appeared in a classified advertisement for jobs in The Times newspaper on 10th November 1854. According to Rico & Mano (206), it was a succinct depiction of the job discrimination that Irish immigrants in the United States were subjected to in the mid-nineteenth century. Many other classified ads would later specify that anyone applying for a job should either be an American or Protestant, effectively locking away Irish-Catholic immigrants. There are historians who argue that postings containing the phrase were quite widespread at the time. Others claim that it was relatively unlikely for an Irish immigrant to come across a 'No Irish Need Apply' sign anywhere.

Even today, there is still debate on whether the symbolic phrase 'No Irish Need Apply' was exaggerated together with the notion of anti-Irish discrimination in the course of the earliest big wave of Irish-Catholic immigration to America. An explanation for this could be the symbolism behind the phrase. Each new immigrant group in the history of the United States faced a form of discrimination from natives. However, as time went by, the group successfully fought off the discrimination and was assimilated into the larger American society. The assimilation was seamless to the extent that it is difficult to imagine that the group would ever have been discriminated against in the first place. Several groups have been subject to discrimination, including Irish, Asian and Hispanic immigrants (Rico & Mano, 208).

Discussion about the 'No Irish Need Apply' phrases raises the same questions asked for each group of immigrants since that time. Scholars wonder whether the Irish were actually discriminated against regarding housing and work, or they were merely victims of prejudiced attitudes. All in all, what is clear is that Irish Americans opted to identify themselves with the narrative depicted by the phrase. Such a situation has made many immigrants-whether Irish or otherwise- form links with them even in the twenty-first century.

Discrimination against people from Ireland was quite rampant in Great Britain. In the 1850s, a song titled No Irish Need Apply emerged that soon became relatively popular. Several versions of the song made its way into the United States. In one version that was published in Philadelphia, the speaker narrates how she was subjected to discrimination in London but hopes that she will receive better treatment in America. Some historians believe that it is the song that popularized the phrase and made it so widespread (Sequeira, Nunn & Qian, 76).

There is a lot of proof that Native Americans perceived Irish Catholics as somehow inferior. On the other hand, this was not the case for Irish Protestants. It was evident that they enlisted membership of the nativist Know-Nothing Party in large numbers back in the 1830s as a protest against their Catholic counterparts. All in all, the immigrants were poverty-stricken and disease-ridden. They posed a threat to the American workforce and were likely to put a strain on welfare budgets. To make matters worse, they swore allegiance to a foreign ruler and practiced an unknown religion. Also, they were likely to adopt criminal activities they practiced in their motherland.

Some historians think that the prejudice turned into blatant discrimination targeting Irish immigrants. According to them, it was somehow similar to America in the twenty-first century whereby systematic racism is present and is having material effects on the lives of minorities. Others are of the opinion that Irish Americans tend to subscribe to the so-called 'myth of victimization.' They think that America during the mid-1850s is somewhat similar to what it is today. While some citizens say some unpleasant things about ethnic minorities, but not much oppression actually takes place.

When Irish Protestants denied subscribing to the 'No Irish Need Apply' phrase, they were probably just reinforcing the sense of conspiracy they perceived was directed at them. Even nowadays, there is suspicion of prejudice on the part of people who deny slogan. The phrase served both to highlight their poverty woes and pinpoint the villain to be harassed on sight. The myth somehow justified discrimination towards immigrants and contributed to the sour relations between Native Americans and the Irish. The sense of dislike and victimization blinded some Irishmen to the discrimination experienced by other immigrant groups. All in all, Irish immigrants were perceived as 'not white' when they arrived in America. What happened is that they were assimilated to whites via the oppression of African Americans.

Works Cited

Flynn, Elizabeth Gurley. I Speak My Own Piece: Autobiography of" The Rebel Girl". Masses & Mainstream, 1955. Print.

Rico, Barbara Roche, and Sandra Mano. American mosaic: Multicultural readings in context. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1995. Print.

Sequeira, Sandra, Nathan Nunn, and Nancy Qian. Migrants and the Making of America: The Short-and Long-Run Effects of Immigration during the Age of Mass Migration. No. w23289. National Bureau of Economic Research, 2017. Print.

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I Speak My Own Piece: Autobiography of "The Rebel Girl" by Elizabeth Gurley Flynn - Critical Essay. (2022, Jun 23). Retrieved from https://proessays.net/essays/i-speak-my-own-piece-autobiography-of-the-rebel-girl-by-elizabeth-gurley-flynn-critical-essay

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