Immigrant Women in the Making of Irish America

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Southern New Hampshire University
As a result of the Great Hunger, nearly 1.8 people emigrated from Ireland, and the resultant diaspora changed the face of the great cities where they arrived. The Irish were the first large immigrant group to emigrate to New York, and their arrival challenged the infrastructure and permanently changed the demography of the city. As such, the Irish are integral to immigration studies and New York City history, for they set the stage for the many ethnicities that followed in their footsteps. An important element in immigration studies is the process of assimilation that groups undergo as they transition from the old land to the new. This walking history tour introduces students to the idea of acculturation through the immigrant experience of the Irish Catholic women who emigrated in the middle of the nineteenth century. Through the use of illustrated newspapers, personal correspondence, city directories and bank records students learn of the nativist hostility that the Irish faced, and the strategies that they used to survive in their hostile new world. The tour ultimately exposes that while religious animosity threatened the Irish in America, it was this commitment to religion and to each other that enabled them to not only assimilate, but to thrive in New York.