The Irish Immigration to America is one of the notable migratory undertakings in the 18th century. Driven away from Ireland by a great famine that struck the country in the 1840s, the Irish people fled their country to the port cities of America. Most of the new inhabitants filled up the cities of Boston, Philadelphia and the Southern ports of New Orleans. Boston city had the highest number of Irish immigrants, the Irish population in Boston rose from 30,000 to 100,000 in just a few months. The people of Boston, mostly the urban folks, moved their residences to the Northern side infamously known as Beacon Hill. The move was motivated by the ill nature of the Irish immigrants; they were considered to be illiterate and dirty. The Irish people at the time did not have much to offer other than servitude; this is because many of them were unskilled and the best they did was to cook and clean after their masters (McKeown, 2014). The Irish people were mistreated and had bigotry and other negative stereotypical connotations coming their way.
Settlement of Scotch-Irish Immigrants in 1700’s
The current American population of 33.3 million people traced their origins to Ireland; this clearly indicated the extent of their migration all across America, and they account for about 1.5% of the total population. It is recorded that over 250,000 Irish immigrants settled in the South within the 17th and 19th century. The Irish immigration was deeply motivated by the mistreatments they received under the hands of the British; they were called the white negroes. The potato famine that caused a wide starvation across Britain is said to be an orchestration of the British farmers. This act, which was far much less a natural disaster but more of manmade disaster led to the death of millions of Irish people. The survivors saw it wise to escape hunger by moving to newer lands, as a result of oppression. America was their land of hope, but to their surprise, the situation did not change much. Thinking of this situation, one can say that the Irish people had a hard, tough life in their Canaan, the land of milk and honey. The Irish people were stigmatized much the same way as African and African Americans; the stereotypes were that the Irish people were lazy, always drunk and had the gift of music as the only positive thing about them. The Irish women were called Biddy and the Irish men were referred to as Paddy, it was taken that all Irish women were called Bridget. The Irish people were disliked by many of the locals in the port cities of the south; they were regarded as a servant race sent to help out the rich American of Boston (Gilmartin, 2013).
The American folk that interacted with the Irish people considered them as highly volatile when drunk. Don't Get your Irish up stemmed from these stereotypical ideologies, debauchery was common in many Irish saloons that were fully filled every day. The Irish people were considered to be drunkards who bred like rabbits; these connotations indicate the level of mockery the Irish people underwent. The images of Irish men drunk and messy were printed in the local news like the Boston Daily, this kind of discrimination went on for decades with little intervention from the authorities. Only a few outliers like Joseph P. Kennedy decided to break out of this norm and went ahead to get an education and enlighten the Irish people.
Irish Immigrants in the Civil War
At the beginning of the American Civil War, many Irish men volunteered to fight side by side with their current oppressors. They were enlisted in the Union Army and other union regiments across America; they accounted for over 144, 221 Irish-born soldiers. Despite fighting for the American side, the discrimination they faced never changed, they were still the low-class citizens. It is imperative to acknowledge that the Irish people sacrificed their lives in order to bolster Americans towards freedom, they were never paid for the good they did.
Irish Immigrants: Women
There are different reasons for immigration of Irish women to america. Irish women moved to America with many of their male counterparts, the best they could do was work in people's homes and factories doing sloppy work. They earned very low wages for their hard labor with long working hours in deplorable factory conditions. The women went through many forms of discrimination that included battering and sexual violence from their managers at work. Due to the hard life at the factories, many of the Irish women resorted to prostitution in the densely populated areas of Boston city. Other women went ahead to take jobs in peoples homes as cooks, nannies, and cleaners, their wages were better considering that many of them got jobs in the homes of the affluent homes of Boston. Despite the better wage rate, their freedom was shorthanded; these women were forced to reside in the homes of their employers where they worked round the clock. Irish women made up 40% of all service workers in peoples homes; some were treated well while others were forcefully raped by their masters making life difficult (Davis & O'Leary, 2000). This situation led to a high number of Irish women checking in to mental hospitals due to the high level of stress they went through. A normal Irish woman had to take care of the kids, do house chores in their homes, work in the masters homes, endure sexual violence and battering, such situations drove many of them crazy.
Irish Immigrants Religion
The Irish people were highly religious and the problem was in what religion were most Irish immigrants. They are staunch Catholics, and Catholicism was not well received in America. The main issue at hand was the loyalty of the Irish people, was their allegiance to the United States or the Catholic Church? Questions arose on how people who were led by a Pope, Archbishops and Bishops be loyal in a democratic action as America. The other aspect to this matter was Irish families sent their children to the parochial education centers as opposed to the free public education systems. The main fight was between the high population of Protestants over the smaller population of Catholics. Inherently Protestants were Catholics before, these two religious groups were like oil and water, highly unpalatable.
Natives of Massachusetts were highly enraged by the growth of Catholicism in their land; this religious strife led to the burning of Ursuline convent, a worshiping center for the Irish. In regards to this religious warfare, the locals launched demonstrations and burned two Catholic churches in Philadelphia over a matter of which bible should be used to teach children in the public school system.
Irish Immigrants Life in America: Irish Freedom and Identity
The fight towards gaining identity and respect from the local folk was hard for the Irish immigrants in America. Through a reputation of divided loyalty, most of the Irish promised to be good Americans if at all they would be accepted as citizens. The development of the Irish identity was highly attributed to Catholicism; another fact is that they spoke coherent English made it easier for them to learn the arts. The Irish people took control of the American Catholic Church, the established convents, and churches whenever they could. This resonates well with the Catholic say of One, Holly, Catholic and Apostolicand Irish church. In the development of identity, Catholicism defined the Irish people ("Historical sociology in the field: teaching Irish identity through field experience", 2015).
On the election of John F. Kennedy as the president of the United States of America, the end of Anti-Catholicism and racial segregation of the Irish people came to be. The Irish people started those who were successful, delved into business and politics. The people joined in the political parties of the local communities they were in to become wards of the electoral locations. This group of people mediated over Irish matters to politicians who promised to make the life of the Irish people much more tolerable. Despite their trials in the hands of politics, individuals like P J. Kennedy son of Joseph P. Kennedy were insulted in the local dailies without any regards to their position. In other cases, the Boston Brahmin, the elites of Beacon Hill saw to it that these individuals amounted to any political figures. The bluebloods were the term coined for the Boston elites who had bragging rights over everyone, just to mention a few, the Quincys, the Shattucks, the Holmes and the Adams were the ruling class of Boston.
Since the Irish people had well dominated the politics of their lands through control of the Democratic Party, their representatives like Al Smith became the first Catholic to contest in the presidential election. The Irish people were accepted as Americans, and they became good Americans, without losing their principles and religious alliances. They demonstrated assimilation into the American way of life which was highly Anglo-protestant. By retaining their Catholicism, the Irish were able to carve an identity for themselves, this group of people helped in forging the multiplicity of religions in America ("Historical sociology in the field: teaching Irish identity through field experience", 2015).
In today's world, the Irish are one of the most highly respected and adored groups in the United States of America. Their livelihoods are above average; they have great occupational status and great homeownership. This is evidence of their continued rise in the social mobility charts despite the tough and intolerable conditions of their journey. The Irish people moved across American cities taking up jobs and building settlements all across North and Midwest America. The Irish people went ahead to marry outside their ethnic boundaries; they married other Catholics and as the years went by they married other Americans indiscriminately. Such interactions indicate the improvements in the cohesive nature of relationships between other Americans and Irish Americans. The Irish people still celebrate their heritage, ethnic pride in cultural celebrations with their Irish Whisky and garments like the green T-shirts. The malleability of whiteness is witnessed in the success stories of Irish Americans to this day.
Davis, G. & O'Leary, P. (2000). Immigration and Integration: The Irish in Wales, 1798-1922. The Canadian Journal Of Irish Studies, 26(1), 136. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/25515317
Gilmartin, M. (2013). Changing Ireland, 20002012: immigration, emigration and inequality. Irish Geography, 46(1-2), 91-111. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00750778.2013.794323
Historical sociology in the field: teaching Irish identity through field experience. (2015). Irish Journal Of Sociology. http://dx.doi.org/10.7227/ijs.0005
McKeown, A. (2014). Race and immigration in New Ireland. Irish Studies Review, 22(3), 400-402. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09670882.2014.938925
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