Inmigración irlandesa

Inmigración irlandesa

A principios del siglo XIX, la industria dominante de Irlanda era la agricultura. Grandes áreas de esta tierra estaban bajo el control de terratenientes que vivían en Inglaterra. Gran parte de esta tierra se alquiló a pequeños agricultores que, debido a la falta de capital, cultivaron con implementos anticuados y utilizaron métodos atrasados.

El salario medio de los trabajadores agrícolas en Irlanda era de ocho peniques al día. Esto fue solo una quinta parte de lo que se podía obtener en los Estados Unidos y los que no tenían tierra comenzaron a considerar seriamente la posibilidad de emigrar al Nuevo Mundo.

En 1816, alrededor de 6.000 irlandeses navegaron hacia América. En dos años, esta cifra se había duplicado. Se reclutó a los que llegaron temprano para construir canales. En 1818, más de 3.000 trabajadores irlandeses se emplearon en el canal de Erie. En 1826, alrededor de 5.000 estaban trabajando en cuatro proyectos de canales separados. Un periodista comentó: "Hay varios tipos de energía trabajando en la estructura de la república: la energía hidráulica, la energía a vapor y la energía irlandesa. La última es la que trabaja más duro".

En octubre de 1845 comenzó una grave plaga entre las patatas irlandesas, que arruinó aproximadamente las tres cuartas partes de la cosecha del país. Esto fue un desastre ya que más de cuatro millones de personas en Irlanda dependían de la papa como su principal alimento. La plaga regresó en 1846 y durante el año siguiente se estima que 350.000 personas murieron de hambre y un brote de tifus que devastó a una población debilitada. A pesar de las buenas cosechas de papa durante los siguientes cuatro años, la gente siguió muriendo y en 1851 los Comisionados del Censo estimaron que casi un millón de personas habían muerto durante la hambruna irlandesa. El pueblo irlandés culpó a la administración británica y a los terratenientes ausentes de esta catástrofe.

La hambruna irlandesa estimuló el deseo de emigrar. Las cifras para este período muestran un aumento dramático de irlandeses que llegan a los Estados Unidos: 92.484 en 1846, 196.224 en 1847, 173.744 en 1848, 204.771 en 1849 y 206.041 en 1850. A fines de 1854, casi dos millones de personas, aproximadamente una cuarta parte de la población - había emigrado a los Estados Unidos en diez años.

Un censo realizado en 1850 reveló que había 961.719 personas en los Estados Unidos que habían nacido en Irlanda. En este momento vivían principalmente en Nueva York, Pensilvania, Massachusetts, Illinois, Ohio y Nueva Jersey. La Irish Emigrant Society trató de persuadir a los inmigrantes para que se mudaran al interior, pero la gran mayoría estaban sumidos en la pobreza y no tenían dinero para el transporte ni para comprar tierras. Por lo tanto, tendieron a instalarse cerca del puerto donde desembarcaban.

Miles de trabajadores irlandeses trabajaron en la construcción de ferrocarriles en Estados Unidos. Algunos pudieron ahorrar suficiente dinero para comprar tierras y establecerse como agricultores a lo largo de las rutas que habían ayudado a desarrollar. Esto fue especialmente cierto en Illinois y en 1860 había 87.000 irlandeses viviendo en este estado.

Otros inmigrantes irlandeses se convirtieron en mineros de carbón en Pensilvania. Las condiciones de trabajo en las minas eran espantosas, sin requisitos de seguridad, sin inspecciones oficiales y sin ventilación adecuada. Cuando los trabajadores fueron víctimas de la actividad sindical, formaron una sociedad secreta llamada Molly Maguires. Nombrado en honor a una organización anti-terratenientes en Irlanda, el grupo intentó intimidar a los propietarios de minas y sus partidarios. El grupo no se disolvió hasta 1875 cuando James McParland, un detective de Pinkerton e inmigrante irlandés, se infiltró en la organización y su evidencia resultó en la ejecución de veinte de sus miembros.

Los irlandeses tendían a apoyar al Partido Demócrata en lugar del Partido Republicano. Tenían poca simpatía por los esclavos, ya que temían que si se les daba la libertad se mudarían al norte y amenazarían los trabajos que realizaban los inmigrantes irlandeses. Un destacado político irlandés-estadounidense, John Mitchel, escribió en su periódico: El ciudadano en 1856: "Sería un mal irlandés que votara por los principios que ponían en peligro la libertad actual de una nación de hombres blancos, por la vaga y desesperada esperanza de elevar a los negros a un nivel para el que es al menos problemático si Dios y la naturaleza alguna vez se propusieron ellos."

Sin embargo, al estallar la Guerra Civil, se estima que unos 170.000 hombres nacidos en Irlanda se unieron al Ejército de la Unión, mientras que solo 40.000 estaban en el Ejército Confederado. Un inmigrante irlandés, Thomas Meagher, se convirtió en un general de gran éxito en la guerra.

Después de la Guerra Civil, algunas ciudades de Estados Unidos como Nueva York, Chicago y Boston, más de una cuarta parte de la población había nacido en Irlanda. Ahora era posible que los votantes irlandeses pudieran hacer que sus candidatos fueran elegidos para el poder. Los alcaldes irlandeses como Richard Croker de Nueva York y James Curley en Boston fueron acusados ​​de corrupción por periodistas de investigación como Ray Stannard Baker y Lincoln Steffens.

Sin embargo, como ha señalado el historiador Carl Wittke: "Los reformadores a menudo han pasado por alto el hecho de que el mismo jefe político que compró votos, llenó las urnas y perpetuó descaradamente los fraudes de naturalización también fue el líder afectuoso que consiguió al inmigrante su licencia de carretilla de mano". arregló "arrestos por infracciones menores a la ley con la policía y el juez, y envió a los pobres sus pavos navideños y carbón en invierno, pagó el alquiler cuando el propietario amenazó con el desalojo y envió flores a sus funerales".

Varios colonos irlandeses se convirtieron en empresarios de éxito. Michael Cudahy inició un negocio de envasado de carne altamente rentable en Milwaukee, John Downey hizo una fortuna en bienes raíces además de ser gobernador de California (1861-62) y William Grace dirigió una empresa de barcos de vapor antes de convertirse en alcalde de la ciudad de Nueva York (1880- 88). Los empresarios de segunda generación incluyeron a James Phelan (banca) y alcalde de San Francisco (1896-1902), Thomas Ryan (financiero), Franklin Gowen (ferrocarriles y minas de carbón), John Francis Fitzgerald (banquero de inversiones) y alcalde de Boston (1906-08). , 1910-14) y Patrick Joseph Kennedy (importador de vinos y licores).

En 1890 había un gran número de inmigrantes nacidos en Irlanda en los estados de Nueva York (483.000), Massachusetts (260.000), Illinois (124.000) y Minnesota (28.000). También había comunidades importantes en la ciudad de Nueva York (190.000), Chicago (70.000), Baltimore (13.000) y la ciudad textil de Lawrence (8.000).

Durante el período 1820 y 1920, más de 4.400.000 personas emigraron de Irlanda a Estados Unidos. Solo Alemania (5.500.000) e Italia (4.190.000) se acercaron a estas cifras. En 1840 Irlanda era el país más densamente poblado de Europa. En el siglo XX, esta situación se había revertido por completo.

Una investigación realizada en 1978 reveló que desde 1820 más de 4.723.000 personas emigraron a Estados Unidos desde Irlanda. Esto representó el 9,7 por ciento de la inmigración extranjera total durante este período.

En el Ulster podía ir a una feria, a un velorio o a un baile, o podía pasar las noches de invierno en la casa de un vecino contando chistes junto al fuego del césped. Si tuviera allí un dolor de cabeza, tendría un vecino a cada cien metros de mí que correría a verme. Pero aquí todo el mundo puede conseguir tanta tierra, y generalmente tiene tanta, que los llaman vecinos que viven a dos o tres millas de distancia. Me sentaba y lloraba y lo maldecía que me hacía irme de casa.

La edad media de la vida de los irlandeses en Boston no supera los catorce años. En Broad Street y todo el vecindario circundante, incluido Fort Hill y las calles adyacentes, la situación de los irlandeses es particularmente miserable. Durante sus visitas el verano pasado, su comité fue testigo de escenas demasiado dolorosas para olvidarlas y, sin embargo, demasiado repugnantes para relatarlas aquí. Baste decir que todo el distrito es un perfecto hervidero de seres humanos, sin comodidades y en su mayoría sin necesidades comunes; en muchos casos, apiñados como brutos, sin importar el sexo, la edad o el sentido de la decencia: hombres y mujeres adultos durmiendo juntos en el mismo apartamento y, a veces, esposa y esposo, hermanos y hermanas, todos en la misma cama.

Estoy muy contento de haber venido a esta tierra de abundancia. Al llegar compré 120 acres de tierra a $ 5 el acre. Debe tener en cuenta que he comprado la tierra, y es para mí y para mí una "propiedad para siempre", sin un propietario, un agente o un recaudador de impuestos que me moleste. Aconsejaría a todos mis amigos que se fueran de Irlanda, el país más querido para mí; mientras permanezcan en él, estarán en esclavitud y miseria.

Lo que trabajas se endulza con alegría y felicidad; no hay ningún fracaso en la cosecha de papa, y puedes cultivar todas las cosechas que desees, sin abonar la tierra durante la vida. No es necesario que le importe alimentar a los cerdos, pero déjelos entrar en el bosque y se alimentarán solos, hasta que desee hacer tocino con ellos.

Me estremezco cuando pienso que el hambre prevalece hasta tal punto en la pobre Irlanda. Después de abastecer a toda la población de América, todavía quedaría tanto maíz y las provisiones que nos quedaran abastecerían al mundo, porque no hay límite para el cultivo ni fin para la tierra. Aquí, el trabajador más humilde come ternera y cordero, con pan, tocino, té, café, azúcar e incluso pasteles, todo el año; todos los días aquí es tan bueno como el día de Navidad en Irlanda.

A menudo habíamos encontrado avisos clavados en algún árbol cerca de la vía pública anunciando tales reuniones, y habíamos recibido invitaciones privadas para asistir a ellas, especialmente de entusiastas partidarios del Partido Demócrata aparentemente ansiosos por convertirnos a su fe política. A pesar de estas solicitudes, aún no habíamos solicitado la ciudadanía estadounidense. Sin embargo, esto no nos habría impedido participar en diversos asuntos comunales y votar en las elecciones locales. Pero no nos consideramos lo suficientemente informados en estos asuntos como para estar dispuestos a participar activamente en ellos. No nos preocupaba mucho quiénes iban a ser jueces de paz, inspectores de carreteras, agentes de policía, recaudadores de impuestos, etc. Estábamos protegidos en cuanto a personas y propiedades y nos sentíamos plenamente satisfechos con nuestro gobierno, o mejor dicho, apenas nos dimos cuenta de que lo teníamos.

Por lo general, los extranjeros tienden a involucrarse en disputas políticas mucho antes de saber de qué se trata todo, y la temeridad con la que hacen uso de una ciudadanía que han obtenido demasiado pronto es sin duda perjudicial para el país.

Sin duda, la república estadounidense tarde o temprano encontrará la necesidad de cambiar sus leyes de naturalización. Los alemanes, y especialmente los irlandeses, apenas han tenido tiempo de tener un techo sobre sus cabezas antes de comenzar a ocuparse de asuntos políticos de todo tipo, convertirse en partidarios entusiastas, meterse en todo y causar un sinfín de problemas y desórdenes, todo de lo cual podría evitarse si se dejara a los estadounidenses gobernar el país solos.

Acostumbrados quizás a ser de poca o ninguna importancia antes, en un orden social más liberal se sienten de suma importancia, y el espíritu de oposición que los llevó al radicalismo político en casa ahora los induce a oponerse a casi todo lo propuesto por los estadounidenses cuerdos y sabios para el bien del país. Muchas veces he escuchado a alemanes que apenas entendían las oraciones más simples en inglés decir: "No vamos a dejar que los estadounidenses nos gobiernen". Su falsa concepción de la libertad y la ciudadanía y la de los irlandeses me produjo un absoluto disgusto por toda la política, y ni entonces ni más tarde me entrometí en ella excepto en cuestiones en las que mi deber me obligaba a comparecer tranquila y tranquilamente en las urnas.

Amo el orden social democrático donde la majestad del pueblo es realmente una majestad ante la cual un hombre puede estar con la misma veneración, sí, incluso con más, que ante un trono real; y creo que el pueblo estadounidense, abandonado a sí mismo, algún día revelará esa majestad al mundo.

Otro acontecimiento que está grabado en mi memoria se refiere a una joven irlandesa de dieciséis años, amable y tímida, con la buena educación natural que se encuentra a menudo entre los irlandeses más pobres y que hace creer que tienen razón al decir que la suya era una vieja civilización. cuando los anglosajones aún éramos salvajes. Celia era mesera en un restaurante abierto toda la noche, porque en ese momento una chica podía trabajar doce horas por noche siete noches a la semana en Illinois. para su protección la hice unirse al sindicato de camareras, y cuando su lugar se declaró en huelga, tomó su turno para hacer piquetes. La policía de Chicago nunca sintió que fuera parte de su deber respetar la ley con respecto a los huelguistas; la violencia, a menudo innecesaria y no provocada, había sido la regla. Me sentí personalmente responsable de Celia y me abrí paso entre la multitud afuera del restaurante justo a tiempo para verla arrastrada, sin resistirse, por un enorme policía y empujada con palabras abusivas a una camioneta de la policía.

Se dice que un barrio de la ciudad de Chicago tiene cuarenta idiomas diferentes representados en él. Es un hecho bien conocido que algunas de las ciudades irlandesas, alemanas y bohemias más grandes del mundo están ubicadas en Estados Unidos, no en sus propios países. El poder de las escuelas públicas para asimilar diferentes razas a nuestras propias instituciones, a través de la educación impartida a la generación más joven, es sin duda una de las muestras de vitalidad más notables que el mundo haya visto jamás.

Pero, después de todo, deja intacta a la generación anterior; y la asimilación de los más jóvenes difícilmente puede ser completa o segura mientras los hogares de los padres permanezcan relativamente inalterados. De hecho, observadores sabios tanto de Nueva York como de Chicago han dado recientemente una nota de alarma. Han llamado la atención sobre el hecho de que, en algunos aspectos, los niños son demasiado rápidamente, no diré americanizados, sino demasiado rápidamente desnacionalizados. Pierden el valor positivo y conservador de sus propias tradiciones nativas, su propia música, arte y literatura nativos. No obtienen una iniciación completa en las costumbres de su nuevo país, por lo que con frecuencia quedan flotando e inestables entre los dos. Incluso aprenden a despreciar la vestimenta, el porte, los hábitos, el lenguaje y las creencias de sus padres, muchos de los cuales tienen más sustancia y valor que la apariencia superficial de los hábitos recién adoptados.

Uno de los motivos principales en el desarrollo del nuevo museo del trabajo en Hull House ha sido mostrar a la generación más joven algo de la habilidad, el arte y el significado histórico de los hábitos industriales de las generaciones anteriores: modos de hilar, tejer, trabajar el metal, etc., descartados en este país porque no había lugar para ellos en nuestro sistema industrial. Más de un niño ha despertado a la apreciación de cualidades admirables hasta ahora desconocidas en su padre o madre por quienes había comenzado a sentir desprecio. Se ha despertado muchas asociaciones de historia local y gloria nacional pasada para acelerar y enriquecer la vida de la familia.

Lo que queremos es ver a la escuela, a todas las escuelas públicas, haciendo algo similar al tipo de trabajo que ahora hace Hull House Settlement. Es un lugar donde se pueden intercambiar ideas y creencias, no solo en la arena de la discusión formal, ya que la discusión por sí sola genera malentendidos y corrige los prejuicios, sino en formas en las que las ideas se encarnan en forma humana y se visten con la gracia ganadora de la vida personal. Las clases de estudio pueden ser numerosas, pero todas se consideran modos de reunir a las personas, de eliminar las barreras de casta, clase, raza o tipo de experiencia que impiden a las personas tener una verdadera comunión entre sí.

Mi familia vino de Irlanda y nací en los suburbios de Jersey. Fui a la escuela hasta cuarto grado. Cuando estaba haciendo mi comunión, las monjas le enviaron una carta a mi madre: "Este niño no lo va a hacer a menos que tenga un par de zapatos y un pequeño traje de ropa". Mi madre dijo: "Si quieres que él use zapatos". y un pequeño traje, cómprelo para él. No tenemos suficiente comida para alimentarlo, y mucho menos zapatos. Él va a hacer su comunión si tengo que llevarlo desnudo al altar. El Buen Dios corrió con un saco de patatas envuelto alrededor de su trasero, y si es lo suficientemente bueno para él, es lo suficientemente bueno para cualquier otra persona ". Dos días antes de la comunión, compraron los zapatos y el traje.

Pasé días y días comiendo pan con sal o manteca de cerdo. Lo mejor que recuerdo sobre el invierno es que extendías la mano por la escalera de incendios y sacabas un poco de nieve, le echabas leche condensada y comías un helado fantástico. Cuando vienes de ese tipo de configuración, comienzas a cuestionar cada maldita cosa.


La nueva serie contará la historia de los inmigrantes irlandeses que construyeron el Empire State Building.

Courtney A. Smith, una escritora establecida que trabajó en las producciones de Disney, Fox y AppleTV +, espera darle vida a la historia del inmigrante irlandés en la Nueva York de los años 20 con "Higher", una posible serie de tres temporadas que cuenta lo fascinante cuento del rascacielos más famoso de Nueva York.

"Es una gran historia", dijo Smith a IrishCentral. "Creo que algunas personas conocen los hechos, pero una cantidad impactante de personas no saben nada sobre el Empire State Building. Este es un drama histórico que nos lleva a la vida de las personas que lucharon por levantar las vigas.

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"Esta es una historia de irlandeses-estadounidenses de primera generación en la parte superior de este edificio, de bandas remachadoras y armadores de acero que eran en su mayoría irlandeses, alemanes, terranova y nativos americanos".

Smith se ha asociado con August Point Productions, una compañía de producción independiente con sede en Los Ángeles fundada por Kelly McKendry el año pasado, y ahora están buscando actores y financieros que se unan para que puedan vender la serie a un servicio de transmisión.

La historia comenzará un mes y dos días antes del colapso de Wall Street de 1929, en un momento en que la bulliciosa Nueva York era la encarnación del Sueño Americano.

La ciudad estaba construyendo casi 1,000 edificios al año antes de que la economía se detuviera en octubre de 1929 y la historia de Smith se centrará en las familias inmigrantes de clase trabajadora en las viviendas de Nueva York que fueron las más afectadas por el accidente. Smith está ansioso por mirar más allá de los números y las estadísticas de la construcción del Empire State Building y profundizar en las vidas de los hombres que lo construyeron.

La historia también seguirá al cuatro veces gobernador irlandés-estadounidense de Nueva York, Al Smith, y a su socio comercial John J. Raskob, mientras supervisan la finalización del emblemático edificio en un récord de 13 meses entre marzo de 1930 y mayo de 1931.

Courtney Smith, quien ha pasado más de siete años investigando la construcción del Empire State Building, dijo que era una hazaña que simplemente no se podía lograr hoy.

"Deberían haber desconectado esto. Esto no debería haber avanzado. Nueva York debería existir sin un Empire State Building".

Dijo que es casi seguro que el proyecto hubiera sido abandonado si no fuera por la determinación de los trabajadores que trabajaron incansablemente durante el período de 13 meses.

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"Esto se convirtió en una especie de motivo de orgullo y determinación de que no se rendirían. Lucharían para mantenerlo en marcha.

"Será más largo contar la historia que construir el edificio", dijo Smith, refiriéndose al proyecto propuesto de tres temporadas.

El episodio piloto de Smith para "Higher" la vio ganar la Beca Alfred P. Sloan de 2020, un premio otorgado a escritores que crean contenido preciso y realista en ciencia, tecnología, arquitectura, ingeniería y otras áreas académicas.

En un giro del destino, el Alfred P. Sloan de la vida real, quien se desempeñó como CEO de General Motors, fue central en la historia de la construcción del Empire State Building.

Smith dijo que la decisión de Sloan de despedir a John J. Raskob obligó a Raskob y Al Smith a construir el icónico rascacielos y dijo que Sloan aparecerá en la serie.

Por lo tanto, fue apropiado que fuera la receptora de la Beca Alfred P. Sloan, que le permite contratar un asesor creativo y un asesor técnico para la serie.

Smith ha estado trabajando con August Point Productions desde que el asistente de desarrollo creativo de la compañía, Baylor Redwine, descubrió el guión del episodio piloto de "Higher".

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Kelly McKendry, una productora independiente que ha trabajado con Disney y ESPN, tiene un profundo interés en proyectos basados ​​en personajes y se enamoró de los conceptos de la historia personal de Smith del Empire State Building.

"Es históricamente precisa e increíblemente bien investigada. Courtney es una historiadora de corazón. Me encanta su pasión por la historia", dijo McKendry a IrishCentral.

McKendry, quien tiene sus raíces en el condado de Roscommon, dijo que la serie alentará a los espectadores a profundizar en su propia historia familiar.

"Te da una pausa para examinar tu propia ascendencia y cómo llegamos aquí. Es un programa que te hará reflexionar sobre tu propia historia familiar".

Smith, por su parte, cree que la serie será una celebración de la inmigración en Estados Unidos.

“La estatua de la libertad encendió la antorcha de la bienvenida, pero el Empire State Building es el máximo ejemplo de lo que podemos lograr en los Estados Unidos cuando adoptamos la inmigración.

"Está construido por irlandeses, terranovales, italianos, canteros. Fue un crisol en sí mismo. Se destaca porque se unieron.

"Es un recordatorio amable de que todos somos inmigrantes. Todos venimos de otro lugar".

Baylor Redwine dijo que la serie es una "oportunidad de co-visualización" que es igualmente atractiva para los adultos que para los niños.

Ella le dijo a IrishCentral que los espectadores podrán relacionarse con los personajes de la clase trabajadora en el corazón del programa.

"No nos identificamos con un Al Smith tanto como nos identificamos con un hombre que está tratando de mantener a su familia", dijo.

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Courtney Smith, que cuenta con raíces irlandesas y ha pasado varios veranos en Irlanda, quiere que el programa explore las vidas de los inmigrantes irlandeses de Nueva York antes y después de cruzar el Atlántico. Ella espera que una parte de la serie se filme en Irlanda y que haya una fuerte representación irlandesa en el elenco de la serie.

"En el fondo de mi corazón, definitivamente es una coproducción irlandesa-estadounidense. Hay mucho trabajo en marcha allí ahora y me encantaría ver piezas y partes rodadas en Irlanda".

Smith también espera que la serie inspire a los espectadores a explorar sus raíces familiares.

"Si puedo desempeñar un papel pequeño en alentar a las personas a profundizar y encontrar el hogar familiar en Roscommon, eso es emocionante para mí".

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Preguntas Esenciales

  • Poder explicar la importancia histórica de la inmigración irlandesa a Pensilvania en el siglo XIX.
  • Utilice el pensamiento crítico para analizar las fuentes primarias de inmigrantes irlandeses.
  • Comprenda los factores que llevaron a una alta inmigración irlandesa durante el siglo XIX.
  • Utilice el pensamiento crítico para analizar los patrones de inmigración irlandesa durante el siglo XIX.
  • Utilice habilidades de pensamiento crítico para analizar las diferencias entre la vida en Irlanda y Pensilvania para los inmigrantes irlandeses durante el siglo XIX.

Una breve historia de los inmigrantes irlandeses en los EE. UU.

De todos los grupos de inmigrantes que buscaron oportunidades en los Estados Unidos, uno de los grupos demográficos más grandes, los inmigrantes irlandeses, vio una afluencia estimada de casi 4,5 millones & # 8211 incluidos mis antepasados ​​& # 8211 entre 1820 y 1930. Su migración fue impulsada por la hambruna de la papa que devastó la isla a mediados del siglo XIX, así como el sistema socioeconómico desigual fomentado por los ricos gobernantes británicos.

De hecho, el funcionario encargado de encabezar los esfuerzos de socorro por la hambruna de la papa dijo: “El juicio de Dios envió la calamidad para enseñar a los irlandeses una lección, que la calamidad no debe mitigarse demasiado”. ¿Para qué exactamente estaban enseñando una lección a los irlandeses? Sobre todo por practicar el catolicismo, además de querer hablar su propio idioma y ser dueño de su propia propiedad. Como resultado, muchos tomaron barcos sobrecargados con la esperanza de llegar a los Estados Unidos. Desafortunadamente, la mitad de los que zarparon no tocaron tierra y, en cambio, sus cuerpos fueron arrojados por la borda y el hambre y las enfermedades desenfrenadas, exacerbadas por los espacios escandalosamente abarrotados, dificultaron la supervivencia durante el viaje.

Los inmigrantes irlandeses desembarcan en Nueva York 1855

El sesgo contra los inmigrantes irlandeses ya existía mucho antes del éxodo masivo, otro resultado más de las tensiones católicas y protestantes alimentadas por generaciones de inmigrantes protestantes anglosajones que vivían en los Estados Unidos. Los irlandeses aceptaron trabajos de trabajo intensivo y de baja remuneración, como cavar trincheras, tender ferrocarriles, herrería y limpieza de casas. Algunos incluso se pusieron del lado de México durante la guerra entre México y Estados Unidos como resultado del maltrato de los estadounidenses. Estos inmigrantes irlandeses fueron considerados traidores por el gobierno de Estados Unidos y posteriormente fueron ejecutados. Además, la población irlandesa católica romana fue considerada un chivo expiatorio y falsamente acusada de forzar los servicios sociales, lo que provocó que los políticos perdieran elecciones (como la derrota de Fillmore en 1844) y otras ofensas contra los Estados Unidos. En las circunstancias más atroces, sus iglesias fueron quemadas, los de ascendencia irlandesa fueron asesinados en las calles, así como se les prohibió votar y fueron blanco de varios grupos nacionalistas. Un artículo de 2016 de The Boston Globe describe cómo los irlandeses estaban representados en los medios populares en ese momento:

“En la prensa popular, se describía a los irlandeses como infrahumanos. Eran portadores de enfermedades. Fueron dibujados como perezosos, peleones de clan, inmundos y borrachos que se revolcaban en el crimen y se criaban como ratas. Lo más inquietante es que los irlandeses eran católicos romanos que llegaban a una nación predominantemente protestante y su devoción al Papa hizo que su lealtad a los Estados Unidos fuera sospechosa ”.

Entonces, ¿cómo es que los irlandeses lograron ascender desde el peldaño más bajo de la sociedad? Distribuyendo la misma retórica racista y nativista que había mantenido a la generación anterior reprimida y marginada. Los irlandeses, una vez considerados como el grupo más bajo en la escala social estadounidense, utilizaron la influencia racista contra otras nacionalidades para separarse y elevar su estatus social. Su vitriolo se dirigió hacia aquellos que ocupaban los peldaños más bajos en la escala social: los afroamericanos y los esclavos, los inmigrantes chinos y de Europa del Este.

Dibujos animados anti inmigrantes irlandeses

Existe un mito histórico popular que implica que los irlandeses también fueron traídos a los Estados Unidos como esclavos y tratados de manera similar como esclavos africanos. Este argumento se utiliza en gran medida para desacreditar los efectos negativos de la esclavitud y eliminar la responsabilidad de los protestantes anglosajones blancos como los que hicieron que ocurrieran estas atrocidades. Este es un argumento completamente falso. Si bien cantidades minúsculas de individuos irlandeses fueron sometidos a trabajos forzados, sus experiencias palidecen en comparación con las horribles atrocidades experimentadas por los esclavos africanos mucho antes y durante ese mismo período de tiempo. Este mito, que se ha convertido en un argumento popular contra la esclavitud, proviene de una desinformación desenfrenada. Los hechos históricos originales se han desproporcionado y ahora se utilizan para desafiar uno de los períodos más oscuros de la historia estadounidense. Los irlandeses fueron claramente blanco de prejuicios, pero como parte de la narrativa más amplia de prejuicios y alteridad en la historia de Estados Unidos, no sufrieron los efectos sociales a largo plazo que sufren los de otras poblaciones. Es por eso que los inmigrantes irlandeses y sus descendientes se han asimilado a la sociedad estadounidense, de la que sin duda Estados Unidos se ha beneficiado.

Mi propia historia ancestral personal involucra al primer pariente materno mío que emigró a los Estados Unidos. Su nombre era James y, a diferencia de la mayoría de los inmigrantes irlandeses que llegaron a Estados Unidos huyendo de la hambruna, emigró para escapar del Ejército Republicano Irlandés (IRA). James estaba en una lista de blancos de IRA y huyó de Irlanda a Canadá para evadir su muerte inminente. Más tarde entró ilegalmente a través de la porosa frontera canadiense en Montana, donde trabajó en las minas de cobre hasta que pudo permitirse mudarse a Detroit.

Una vez que James se estableció en los Estados Unidos, comenzaron a llegar otros familiares. Mis bisabuelos eran inmigrantes irlandeses cuyos nombres se pueden encontrar en Ellis Island. Mi bisabuelo emigró de Irlanda en 1915 a bordo del St. Louis y mi bisabuela emigró en 1930 a bordo del Mauretainia. Se conocieron aquí en los Estados Unidos y después de luchar por los Aliados en la Primera Guerra Mundial, mi bisabuelo tomó un trabajo en la construcción en Detroit.


Migración de escoceses-irlandeses del Ulster al oeste de Carolina del Norte

La migración ha sido una característica importante de la historia de la humanidad, comenzando con los primeros cazadores-recolectores que se extendían ampliamente en busca de alimentos. Otros motivos de la migración han incluido la guerra, las dificultades económicas, las luchas religiosas y la promesa de una vida mejor. La historia migratoria de los británicos conocidos como escoceses-irlandeses (a veces denominados escoceses-irlandeses o escoceses del Ulster) ilumina muchos de esos problemas.

El movimiento a través del mar de Irlanda entre Escocia e Irlanda se había producido durante milenios, pero la histórica migración escocés-irlandesa se desarrolló a principios del siglo XVII cuando el rey de Gran Bretaña, James I, animó a sus súbditos escoceses a emigrar a través del mar de Irlanda a su dominio irlandés. Las fuerzas que motivaron esta migración fueron mixtas: el deseo optimista del presbiteriano James de convertir y controlar a sus súbditos católicos irlandeses sembrando protestantes leales en los tiempos económicos difíciles de Escocia, la promesa de una vida mejor en Irlanda. A lo largo del siglo XVII, los escoceses de las tierras bajas junto con un número menor de ingleses de la región de las fronteras se establecieron en la región noreste (Ulster) de Irlanda, donde se les conoció como escoceses del Ulster.

Una consecuencia de este movimiento de personas fue el conflicto. Los irlandeses que fueron desposeídos de sus tierras resistieron violentamente a los recién llegados. Finalmente, este conflicto regional fue arrastrado a la Guerra Civil de mediados de siglo que afectó a toda la gente de las Islas Británicas a fines del siglo XVII y se convirtió en un escenario de conflicto en una guerra global. Además de la destrucción física infligida por la guerra, los escoceses del Ulster sufrieron persecución religiosa y dificultades económicas. A fines del siglo XVII, muchos de ellos estaban lo suficientemente desesperados como para buscar la salvación en la emigración una vez más.

Entre la década de 1680 y 1815, al menos 100.000 escoceses del Ulster se embarcaron en una nueva migración, esta vez a través del Atlántico hacia América del Norte. Fueron expulsados ​​del Ulster por la discriminación de la Iglesia Anglicana de Irlanda en contra de su religión presbiteriana, por una depresión en el comercio del lino que proporcionó ingresos a muchos de ellos, y por un fuerte aumento en las rentas de la tierra (rackrenting) impulsado por una explosión. de la población. El Ulster, que había parecido un destino tan atractivo a principios del siglo XVII, ahora les parecía a más y más escoceses del Ulster un valle de lágrimas.

Casualmente, en este momento de creciente sufrimiento en el Ulster, una nueva tierra de oportunidades atraía a América del Norte. La exploración y el asentamiento de esa parte más nueva del Imperio Británico habían crecido rápidamente durante el siglo XVII. En la década de 1680, el comercio entre los puertos estadounidenses e irlandeses se había expandido, impulsado por la importación de linaza estadounidense, tan crucial para la industria del lino del Ulster. As more ships unloaded their cargoes in Ulster ports, their crews brought glowing reports of the wonders of America. Many of the Ulster Scots migrants, or their descendants, decided that migration could once again be their salvation.

Although Scotch-Irish immigrants arrived all along America’s Atlantic coast, the major flow of newcomers landed in Pennsylvania. That sea route was driven by the important trade that linked the port of Philadelphia with Ulster ports. After unloading their American cargoes in Ulster, ship captains filled their vessels with emigrants for the return trip. As more and more Ulster people traveled to America, encouraging tales of its widespread opportunities flowed back to Ulster. This migration grew steadily until the outbreak of the American Revolution after a decade of interruption by war, it picked up again at a slower pace until the 1820s.

Most Scotch-Irish emigrants to America traveled in family groups. Upon arrival in Philadelphia, some were forced to accept indentured servitude to pay off their travel costs. But once their indenture ended, typically after seven years, they were free to pursue their own fortunes. Land in America was abundant and cheap. For decades most immigrants could take up enough land to support a family through farming, often paying only minimal fees known as quitrents. The earliest arrivals filled the fertile soils of southeastern Pennsylvania. But as the flow continued, latecomers had to seek land claims further inland. The mountainous geography of Pennsylvania’s western interior, combined with its hostile Indian inhabitants, encouraged many of them to turn southwestward instead, into Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. That region of mild climate and fertile soils drew a steady influx of settlers from the 1720s on.

But eventually the backcountry of Pennsylvania and Virginia could not accommodate all of the immigrants who kept arriving. By the time of the Revolution, and in its immediate aftermath, the flow of settlers moved onward. By the 1780s it had pushed into the western Appalachian Mountain region of the Carolinas and Tennessee. These settlers found a less favorable farming environment than their predecessors who had obtained land in the Shenandoah Valley. The lands of western North Carolina were more mountainous and less easy to traverse. Nevertheless, by the outbreak of the Civil War, western North Carolina was well-settled. Some veterans of the American Revolution were given land there by the financially-strapped new federal government which could not afford to pay them in cash for their military service. Other immigrants bought extremely cheap land confiscated from the Cherokees through a series of one-sided treaties that culminated in the forced Removal of the Cherokees to Oklahoma in 1838-39.

By the Civil War, the migration of the Scotch-Irish to western North Carolina was basically completed. Tens of thousands of them had arrived, in a complex multi-generational movement of settlement and re-settlement. They brought with them their religion, folk traditions, and cultural traits which contributed to the distinctive cultural mix that developed in Southern Appalachia out of the mingling of three very different ethnic groups—native American, African, and European—in the region. The Scotch-Irish influence still continues to impact the people of western North Carolina.


The Second Wave

Later in the 19th century came the second wave of Irish immigrants to America. This mass immigration was due to numerous reasons, one being the horrific potato famine that swept across the country of Ireland. The English introduced the potato to Ireland in the 16th century in one variety. This particular type of potato proved to be susceptible to fungus, because later in 1845 an unknown fungus struck the Irish fields and killed the crops. During the time of the famine, 3 million people in Ireland depended on the potatoes for their daily existence, and every meal consisted of potatoes. There were numerous amounts of deaths, but there is no clear record of the exact number of deaths from the Potato Famine since members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) destroyed most church records in 1922. The estimates range from 500,000 to 1.5 million deaths due to starvation. Between 1845 and 1860 nearly 2 million people boarded vessels that took them to the American shores. As America grew by the masses of immigrants flooding their ports, Ireland lost a communal culture, an ancient language (Gaelic) and its way of life altogether. Famine, death and immigration reduced Ireland’s population from 8.1 million in 1840 to 6.5 million ten years later in 1850. Aside from the death and devastation of the Great Famine which caused millions of Irish natives to depart from their homeland, there was another reason for the mass immigration assisted emigration from landowners.

Where They Moved

The first wave of Irish immigrants (those who arrived between the years of colonization up until the 1840s) settled mainly in Maryland (a Catholic colony), East New Jersey, and South Carolina. Irish immigrants in the 1840s and 1850s settled mainly in coastal states such as New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, but also in western states such as Illinois and Ohio. In New York City, the Irish population was concentrated mostly in Lower Manhattan, in neighborhoods such as Greenwich Village, Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, and most prominently the multiethnic Lower East Side, specifically in the “Little Ireland” part. In the late 19th century, this neighborhood boasted more Irish residents than Dublin. The infamous Five Points neighborhood of the Lower East Side, named for the five-pointed intersection of Anthony, Orange, and Cross Streets, was known for its rampant crime and fierce battles between nativist and Irish gangs, as immortalized in the book The Gangs of New York by Herbert Asbury and the Martin Scorsese film that the book inspired. Most of these neighborhoods consisted of tenement houses – crowded living quarters built with the intention of housing as many immigrants as possible. The unbearable living conditions that the Irish immigrants endured in these tenements include poor ventilation and lighting, filthy shared outhouses (later bathrooms) for which there were long waits, basements filled with stagnant water or trash or both, not to mention the small rooms in which large families were packed. In these tenement houses disease spread like wildfire. As the Irish population achieved upward social mobility, they began to move into other parts of the city. They moved into northern neighborhoods of Manhattan, like Yorkville, Washington Heights, and Inwood, as well as new districts in the Bronx like Mott Haven, Fordham, and Morrisania, and Brooklyn neighborhoods of Prospect Park, Marine Park, and Gerritsen Beach.

What Jobs They Had

The Irish arrived in America during a time of industrialization and change. The jobs that they took often took advantage of that fact. Because many of these newly arrived immigrants were uneducated, they sought unskilled work. Many Irish found work upstate New York working on the Erie Canal and other canal projects in the area. By 1818 there were 3,000 Irish immigrants working on the Erie Canal, with a total of 5,000 Irish immigrants working on four separate canal projects in 1826. The labor that Irish men were practically forced into, by either desperate situations or deceitful recruiters, was often both exhausting and dangerous. This was certainly the case in the aforementioned example of canal work, but also in building railroads and coalmining. A common saying regarding the work on the railroads was that there was an “Irishman buried under every tie.” And the coalmines, located largely in Pennsylvania, were without proper safety regulations or even suitable ventilation. All this is on top of the fact that these jobs paid very little to begin with. The average wage for unskilled jobs during the 1840s was 75 cents a day, with most laborers working each day for ten or twelve hours. But most Irish men found jobs close to the port where they landed, like New York City. These immigrants took unskilled jobs such as cleaning yards and stables, pushing carts, unloading ships and other dockhand jobs, or working as carpenter’s assistants, or boat-builders. They also worked in and ran factories, with dangerous conditions no better than those working in railroads or coalmines. Along with railroads and canals, Irish immigrants in New York City built streets, houses, and sewer systems. They also found work in the service industry as bartenders and waiters. But it must not be forgotten that for Irish immigrants these jobs were not easy to come by. The Irish were the victims of intense and open discrimination, being blamed for economic troubles and the depression of wages. As a result, Irishmen faced commonplace job discrimination, with many job posters and newspaper classifieds ending with the phrase, “No Irish Need Apply.” Where the Irish immigrants found work ultimately determined where they would live. Most of the Irish settled close to the coast, so that they could be within walking distance of their jobs on the docks. Factory workers naturally settled close to the factories. Those working on canals and railroads often saved their money in order to buy land next to the route on which they worked. This was especially the case in upstate New York and Illinois, and would explain the heavy concentration of Irish people living in those regions today. Men were not the only Irish immigrants that worked – women also needed to find jobs because of the low wages and dire economic circumstances that Irish immigrants faced. They too worked in factories, particularly in the garment industry. These factories, like the ones that the men worked in, were often cramped, dirty, and dangerous. These jobs, which consisted mainly of making cotton shirts, were also low paying. Mid-nineteenth century women might get paid 6 to 10 cents per shirt, working for thirteen or fourteen hours each day. Generally this was enough time to make only nine shirts a week, which resulted in a maximum payment of 90 cents a week. But most nineteenth century Irish women in New York City found jobs in the service industry, becoming chamber maids, cooks, and caretakers for wealthy families on Madison Avenue and Fifth Avenue. The one benefit from these jobs was that they allowed immigrant women, to some extent, to enjoy higher standards of living than they could hope to obtain. But these service jobs were largely avoided by native-born New Yorkers. They were seen by Americans as degrading, the general sentiment being expressed in the common statement: “Let Negroes be servants, and if not Negroes, let Irishmen fill their place.” This saying not only illustrates the view of native-born Americans on service jobs, but also the poor relations between African Americans and the Irish. Irish immigrants had to compete mainly with newly freed slaves and other African Americans for the low-end, unskilled labor jobs that other Americans did not want. The tension between these two ethnic groups in New York City surfaced during the New York Draft Riots of 1863. Although this insurrection (which mostly involved Irish immigrants) was in response to the Civil War drafts, it was also used as an excuse to lash out against New York’s black population. It ended with at least eighteen African Americans murdered, countless more injured, and $5,000,000 in property destroyed - including a black orphanage. Although New York’s Irish population showed extreme aversion to the war during the New York Draft Riots, a great amount of Irish found employment as Union soldiers during the Civil War, with many of them being conscripted into service right after coming off the boat. The all-Irish 69th New York Regiment, also known as the “Fighting Irish” fought in historic battles such as those at Bull Run, Antietam, and Gettysburg. They are notable for having more combat dead than any other Union army infantry regiment, as well as having over a hundred Medals of Honor. They were highly regarded for their bravery and dependability.


The History of Early Irish Immigrants in Denver

Join Curatorial Services and Collections Access staff at History Colorado Center as we host Dr. James Walsh, an Associate Clinical Professor in the Dept. of Political Science at the University of Colorado Denver. via ZOOM as he discusses the story of Irish immigrants in early Colorado, focusing closely on Irish labor activism, Irish churches, Irish immigrant networks to Denver. Walsh will be joined by UCD student Kira Boatright who has done important groundbreaking research using census data to map Irish concentrations in early Denver and other parts of the state.

The Irish story in early Colorado is largely untold. Colorado’s early labor movement was driven by Irish immigrants, who pushed for an eight-hour workday, safer working conditions, and the right to organize a union. They brought traditions of agrarian resistance and retributive justice with them to the U.S. Many of the Irish who fled the Pennsylvania Anthracite region in the wake of the hanging of twenty alleged Molly Maguires made their way to Leadville and other parts of Colorado during the 1880s. Colorado’s early Catholic infrastructure and leadership was heavily Irish and many of the early orphanages and hospitals in the state were run by Irish nuns. This presentation will paint Colorado history green.

About the Presenters

Dr. James Walsh is a Clinical Associate Professor in the Political Science Dept. at the University of Colorado Denver, where he has taught for the past 23 years, specializing in Labor, Immigration, and the Irish Diaspora in the American West. Walsh is author of Michael Mooney and the Leadville Irish, co-author of Irish Denver, and is also the founder and Director of the Romero Theater Troupe, a social justice community theater that uses the stage to highlight the history of working class struggle and activism.

Kira Boatright is an undergraduate History student at the University of Colorado Denver. Her areas of interest include Irish studies, labor history, and immigration history. Under the mentorship of Dr. James Walsh, she has researched and compiled data on the Irish of early Colorado, particularly in Denver and Leadville, to gain a better understanding of who the Colorado Irish were, what they did, and where they lived. Her research and work have included the creation of databases of historical records on the Colorado Irish such as census data, parish records, and cemetery records. With the use of census data, she has created maps to visually represent where the Irish lived both statewide and in the city of Denver in 1880. She hopes to continue this research in the future and further uncover the details of the lives of Colorado’s historical Irish population.


Irish Immigration - History




Michael F. Funchion
Historical Research and Narrative

A lthough marked by its own nuances, the history of the Irish in Chicago follows a pattern similar to that of the Irish in most other large American cities where they settled in substantial numbers. Early immigrants formed a visible Irish community. Sustained by certain key institutions, this community remained relatively cohesive into the early-twentieth century. After that, many of the descendants of Irish immigrants gradually began to meld into a more general Catholic American subgroup, although a smaller core of highly ethnic Irish remains to this day.



The early Irish immigrants in Chicago left a homeland teeming with a myriad political, social, and economic problems. Controlled by England in one fashion or another since the twelfth century Ireland became intricately tied to its more powerful neighbor with the creation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in 1801. Although that union worked out to the satisfaction of most Irish Protestants, most Irish Catholics, who made up over three-quarters of the population, detested it. Not only did the political system deny Irish Catholics the chance to control their own affairs, but for some time it also actively discriminated against their religion.

Worse than the political structure was the land system, in which most of the landlords were Anglo-Irish Protestants or Englishmen, while most of the peasants were Catholics. Peasants often had to pay burdensome rents and live in squalid conditions. By the 1830s conditions had worsened as tremendous population growth in previous decades had forced many to eke out a living on minuscule plots of land. This population pressure also triggered a significant rise in immigration to America in the 1830s. Immigrant numbers grew in the early 1840s, but the floodgates opened with the Great Famine (1845-1849). As a result of this catastrophe, which involved successive and widespread failures of the potato crop on which most peasants depended for their food, one million people died and another million emigrated. The Famine greatly increased Irish bitterness toward England, since the Irish believed that the British government could have done far more than it did to save the starving masses. After the Famine years, economic conditions in Ireland improved, and although substantial numbers of Irish left Ireland for America during the latter nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, relatively few showed signs of real destitution.

The early years of Chicago coincided with the significant rise in Irish immigration in the 1830s. Some Irish already lived in Chicago when it was incorporated as a city in 1837. In the next few years Irish numbers grew rapidly particularly after the arrival of refugees from the Great Famine. By 1850 Irish immigrants accounted for about one-fifth of the city's population. Although the number of Irish immigrants in Chicago continued to increase until the end of the century, their percentage of the city's population was never again as high as it was in 1850, after which an extraordinary large number of Germans and later other immigrant groups settled in the city making it one of the most multi-ethnic urban areas in the United States.

Like those in other parts of the United States, the vast majority of the early Irish immigrants in Chicago came to America in impoverished circumstances. Taking low-skilled and poorly paying jobs in brickyards, meatpacking plants, and the like, they settled in poor neighborhoods, like Bridgeporton the South Side or Kilglubbin on the North. It was in one such depressed neighborhood on the South Side that the Great Chicago Fire (1871) started in the barn of Irish immigrants Patrick and Catherine O'Leary.

In time, the economic status of the Irish improved. The children of the early immigrants appear to have been better off than

their parents, while the new immigrants arriving after the Great Famine were more prosperous and better educated than those who had come before. Yet, at the end of the century, Irish Chicagoans were still overwhelmingly working class, and some lived in considerable poverty. Fascinating insights into the lives of these people are offered in Finley Peter Dunne's fictional accounts of the Irish in Bridgeport, which appeared in his "Mr. Dooley" newspaper columns in the1890s.

After the turn of the century, the Irish continued to gradually climb the economic ladder. Like the Irish portrayed in James T. Farrell's classic Studs Lonigan trilogy, more and more Irish left their old neighborhoods in the central parts of the city and moved to better ones in outlying areas. The Depression, of course, hurt the Irish as it did others, but did not permanently prevent their upward move, which received significant help after World War II with the Gl Bill of Rights. The increased prosperity of the Irish was evident in the steady stream who left the city for the suburbs in the half century after the war.

Although the Irish seem more widely dispersed today than they were a century ago, most of the Irish in Chicago's history have never lived in real ethnic ghettoes. In fact, they have been one of the least clustered ethnic groups in the city. Yet despite the absence of geographic separation, the Irish, at least into the twentieth century, remained a relatively cohesive ethnic group linked together by their Catholicism, devotion to Ireland (particularly their support for Irish nationalism), and by a high level of involvement in the local political system.

The overwhelming majority of Irish in Chicago were Catholics. For Irish Catholics, religious and ethnic identities were entwined, as religious persecution at the hands of Protestant England and the Protestant Anglo-Irish establishment had tended to fuse together their Irish and Catholic identities. In Chicago, it was the Irish along with German Catholics and a handful of French-speaking residents who, in the 1830s and 1840s, laid the foundations of the Catholic Church in the city. With a tremendous increase in the number of Irish and German Catholic newcomers in the following few decades, the Catholic Church grew by leaps and bounds. Then in the last decades of the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, the Catholic population not Holy Family Church, Chicago only continued to grow tremendously, but it also became far more diverse with the arrival of thousands of the Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Croats, and Italians from southern and eastern Europe.

Because of their numbers, early arrival, and ability to speak English, the Irish held the dominant role in the Catholic Church in Chicago for decades. Until 1916 all the Catholic bishops in Chicago, except one who served for five years, were of Irish birth or parentage. Although ethnic tensions existed in the church, with few exceptions the Catholics in Chicago remained united. One of the factors that helped to promote this relatively peaceful coexistence of diverse ethnic groups in the same church was that the various Irish bishops supported the practice of establishing separate (termed "national") parishes for the various non-English speaking ethnic groups.

As English-speakers, the Irish did not have national parishes created for them, but instead attended regular (termed "territorial") parishes. The system, however, had a significant effect on them. Because they were virtually the only English-speaking Catholic immigrants, the territorial parishes became in effect Irish parishes, so that for a long time the institutional religious structure not only separated Irish Catholics from American Protestants, but also socially from their fellow Catholics. This system began to change slowly toward the end of the nineteenth century. By 1900 there were large numbers of American-born German Catholics who used English as their first language. As a result, existing German national parishes gradually became English-speaking ones, and hardly any new German national parishes were created. When established, new territorial parishes were intended for Germans as well as for the Irish, although because of settlement patterns, many of these eventually became predominantly Irish or German. The newer Catholic immigrant groups followed the same pattern as the Germans.


Old St. Patrick's Church, Chicago
Courtesy: The New World

Old St. Patrick's Church, Chicago, in the 1870s
Courtesy: The New World

The local parish was very important in the lives of Irish Chicagoans. It met their spiritual needs, of course, but it also served other significant functions. The parochial school attached to most parishes provided not only instruction in the Catholic faith but also a solid education in secular subjects. Priests, besides providing spiritual guidance, often acted as surrogate social workers and counsellors, helping their parishioners with a host of everyday concerns. Parish events and meetings, which gave parishioners the opportunity to mix with one another, helped to meet an important social need. Most of these parishes had a vibrant sense of community and the intimacy of small towns.

While being nurtured by parish life, Irish Catholic identity also received reinforcement from anti-Irish and anti-Catholic prejudice. This prejudice was quite intense in the decades before the Civil War. los Chicago Tribune on several occasions, for example, lashed out at Irish Catholics for their political power and religion, and in 1855 Chicagoan selected an anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant Know-Nothing mayor and Know-Nothing-controlled city council. Some decades later in the latter 1880s and early 1890s, another wave of anti-Catholicism hit the city, with a number of Protestant Chicagoans lending their support to groups such as the American Protective Association, whose members swore never to vote for or employ a Catholic. Anti-Catholic prejudice had diminished considerably by the start of the new century but was sometimes quite noticeable. As late as the 1920s, Catholics along with Jews and African-Americans bore the brunt of attacks from the Ku Klux Klan. Most Protestant Chicagoans, of course, were not bigots, and many had quiet, friendly relations with Irish Catholics. Nonetheless, anti-Catholicism on various occasions reared its ugly head and made Irish Catholics more conscious of their own identity.

Besides Catholicism, devotion to Ireland held Irish Chicagoans together. The most visible evidence of this was the support they furnished for both peaceful and revolutionary Irish nationalist movements. In the1860s, for example, Irish Chicagoans provided money and men to the Fenians, a revolutionary organization that sought to win the complete independence of Ireland. After internal divisions led to the collapse of the Fenians in the late 1860s, revolutionary-minded Irish Chicagoans turned to the Clan na Gael, which for many years supported the revolutionary cause in Ireland.

The Chicago Irish also backed non-violent Irish nationalist campaigns. During the 1880s they threw their support behind the Irish Home Rule movement led by Charles Stewart Parnell, the head of the Irish Parliamentary Party. Though it still would have left Ireland in the United Kingdom, Home Rule would have given Ireland a separate parliament for Irish matters, and thus many Irish Chicagoans, including members of the Clan, supported it as a step in the right direction. Parnell's campaign for Home Rule failed, however, as did subsequent attempts in the 1890s and on the eve of World War I.

As a result of events in Ireland, the interest of the Chicago Irish in revolutionary Irish nationalism increased substantially in the period during and immediately following World War I. A daring but unsuccessful republican uprising in Dublin in 1916 combined with certain ill-advised British policies regarding Ireland ignited the embers of revolutionary nationalism among many Irish people, and in the British general election of 1918, the radical Sinn Fein party obliterated the moderate Irish Parliamentary Party. In 1919 Sinn Fein declared Ireland independent, and war broke out between its military wing the IRA and the British. The war ended in 1921, and a compromise settlement gave virtual independence to most of the island in the form of the Irish Free State but left two-thirds of Ulster in the United Kingdom as Northern Ireland. During the struggle for Irish independence, the Chicago Irish aided the Irish cause by joining support groups, holding rallies, and contributing money. With the creation of the Irish Free State, which later evolved into the Republic of Ireland, interest in the Irish nationalist struggle waned but revived somewhat again when trouble broke out in Northern Ireland in the late 1960s.

Besides support for Irish nationalism, Irish Chicagoans showed their interest in their Irish heritage in other ways. Some belonged to organizations such as the Ancient Order of Hibernians, which fostered

nationalism but had a broader cultural agenda. Some attended or participated in musical and dance events or in Gaelic football and hurling matches.

Besides Catholicism and a devotion to Ireland, another factor that served to unite many Chicago Irish was their high level of involvement in local politics. From the early days of Chicago the Irish were active in politics. The vast majority voted Democratic, as the Democrats had the reputation of being friendly to the Irish. A knowledge of the English language as well as a familiarity with electioneering in Ireland gave them an advantage over continental immigrants.

In the decades after the Great Chicago Fire, as the first American-reared generation reached adulthood, the Irish dominated the Democratic party and emerged as the single most important ethnic group in the city's politics. The Irish liked the local political system which, like that in many American cities of the time, was based not on ideology but on patronage and other economic incentives. The Irish used the system to get patronage jobs such as those on the police force and thus move up the economic ladder. Good government reformers of the period criticized "boodle" politics as corrupt. There was indeed a good deal of corruption (bribes, vote stealing, etc.), but the system also did much good, providing assistance to the poor and jobs to working class people.


The Irish were skilled politicians, using the contacts and connections they made in their parishes or through Irish organizations to enhance their political prospects. They also on the whole were adept at dealing with non-Irish groups and in building coalitions from various ethnic groups. Yet, despite their considerable political power in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, the Irish occupied the mayor's office for only a total of eight years during the period from 1871 to 1933. The Irish mayors, all Democrats, during this period were John Hopkins (1893-1895), Edward F. Dunne (1905-1907), and William E. Dever (1923-1927). One of the reasons for this rather spotty representation was that Irish politicians were never as interested in having one of their own in the mayor's office as in supporting winning candidates like the two Carter Harrisons and Anton Cermak. Ironically, during the thirty some years after Cermak's murder in 1933, when the Irish percentage of the city's population fell steadily, Chicago had a continuous string of Irish Democratic mayors: Edward J. Kelly (1933-1947), Martin J. Kennelly (1947-1955), and Richard J. Daley (1955-1976). Of these the most notable was Daley, who was able to keep a political machine with a patronage system running smoothly, even after those in other American cities had died. In the years since Daley's death in 1976, two Irish Chicagoans, Jane Byrne (1979-1983) and Richard M. Daley (1989-), have between them occupied the mayor's office for over half the time, despite the fact that persons of Irish background make up no more than six percent of the city's population.

Although an Irish Chicagoan holds the city's highest office as this century comes to a close, the Chicago Irish are not nearly as visible now as they were at the beginning of the century. In 1990, 660, 343 persons in Cook County (237, 133 in Chicago alone) claimed Irish ancestry, but many of these are probably not Irish in any significant way. Over the course of the century, a number of the descendants of Irish immigrants lost much of their sense of Irishness, either through the passage of time, intermarriage, or deliberate decision. Yet, a core of ethnic-conscious Irish remains in the city and its suburbs. Consisting of immigrants and their children as well as persons of more distant and/or mixed Irish ancestry, this core supports a viable set of organizations that sponsor a wide array of cultural, scholarly, social, athletic, and nationalist events. The vitality of Irish culture in Chicago perhaps has been best demonstrated lately by the artistic success of Michael Flatley, the Chicago-born and-reared traditional Irish dancer and choreographer, who has held the leading roles in the widely acclaimed Riverdance y Lord of the Dance.


Irish Immigration - History

hough life in Ireland was cruel, emigrating to America was not a joyful event. it was referred to as the American Wake for these people knew they would never see Ireland again. Those who pursued this path did so only because they new their future in Ireland would only be more poverty, disease, and English oppression. America became their dream. Early immigrant letters described it as a land of abundance and urged others to follow them through the "Golden Door." These letters were read at social events encouraging the young to join them in this wonderful new country. They left in droves on ships that were so crowded, with conditions so terrible, that they were referred to as Coffin Ships.

Even as the boat was docking, these immigrants to America learned that life in America was going to be a battle for survival. Hundreds of runners, usually large greedy men, swarmed aboard the ship grabbing immigrants and their bags trying to force them to their favorite tenement house and then exact an outrageous fee for their services. As the poor immigrant had no means of moving on, they settled in the port of arrival. Almshouses were filled with these Irish immigrants. They begged on every street. One honest immigrant wrote home at the height of the potato famine exodus, "My master is a great tyrant, he treats me as badly as if I was a common Irishman." The writer further added, "Our position in America is one of shame and poverty." No group was considered lower than an Irishman in America during the 1850s.

Free land did not lure them. They rejected the land for the land had rejected them yet even so they always spoke reverently of the old sod in Ireland. All major cities had their "Irish Town" or "Shanty Town" where the Irish clung together. Our immigrant ancestors were not wanted in America. Ads for employment often were followed by "NO IRISH NEED APPLY." They were forced to live in cellars and shanties, partly because of poverty but also because they were considered bad for the neighborhood. they were unfamiliar with plumbing and running water. These living conditions bred sickness and early death. It was estimated that 80% of all infants born to Irish immigrants in New York City died. Their brogue and dress provoked ridicule their poverty and illiteracy provoked scorn.

The Chicago Post wrote, "The Irish fill our prisons, our poor houses. Scratch a convict or a pauper, and the chances are that you tickle the skin of an Irish Catholic. Putting them on a boat and sending them home would end crime in this country."

Instead of apologizing for themselves they united and took offense. Insult or intimidation was often met with violence. Solidarity was their strength, they helped each other survive city life. They prayed and drank together. The men seemed to do more drinking than praying, yet it was their faith and dogged determination to become Americans that led one newspaper to say, "The Irish have become more Americanized than the Americans."

The Church played an integral part in their lives. It was a militant Church--a Church who fought not only for their souls but also for their human rights. After the religious riots in Philadelphia where many Catholic churches were burned, the mayor of New York asked Archbishop Hughes, "Do you fear that some of your churches will be burned."

"No sir, but I am afraid some of yours will be. We can protect our own."

Later, public officials asked the Archbishop to restrain New York's Irish. "I have not the power," he said. "You must take care that they are not provoked." No Catholic church burned in New York.

Actually the Irish arrived at a time of need for America. The country was growing and it needed men to do the heavy work of building bridges, canals, and railroads. It was hard, dangerous work, a common expression heard among the railroad workers was "an Irishman was buried under every tie." Desperation drove them to these jobs.

Not only the men worked, but the women too. They became chamber maids, cooks, and the caretakers of children. Early Americans disdained this type of work, fit only for servants, the common sentiment being, "Let Negroes be servants, and if not Negroes, let Irishmen fill their place. " The Blacks hated the Irish and it appeared to be a mutual feeling. They were the first to call the Irish "white nigger."

A prominent hotel keeper was asked why all the women servants in his hotel were Irish. He replied, "The thing is very simple: the Irish girls are industrious, willing, cheerful, and honest--they work hard, and they are very strictly moral. I should say that is quite reason enough."

The Irish were unique among immigrants. They fiercely loved America but never gave up their allegiance to Ireland. and they kept their hatred of the English. Twice they tried to invade Canada, believing that they could trade Canadian land for Ireland's freedom. In New York City, during the Civil War, they rioted against the draft lottery after the first drawing showed most of the names were Irish. For three days the city was terrorized by Irish mobs and only after an appeal for peace by Archbishop Hughes did it end. In Pennsylvania they formed a secret organization called the Molly Maguires to fight mine owners who brutalized the miners and their families. They ambushed mine bosses, beat, and even killed them in their homes. The Irish used brutal methods to fight brutal oppression. They loved America and gladly fought in her wars. During the Civil War they were fierce warriors, forming among other groups, the famous "Irish Brigade". A priest accompanied them and, before each battle, they would pray together before charging into the enemy--even against insurmountable odds. Their faith guided them. They felt the English might have a better life on earth, but they were going to have a better life after death.

The days of "No Irish Need Apply" passed. St.Patrick day paraded replaced violent confrontations. The Irish not only won acceptance for their day, but persuaded everyone else to become Irish at least for St.Patrick's Day. The Orangemen or New York City copied the St.Pat's Day parade in 1870 and, as they marched, played "Boyne Water", "Derry" and other songs derogatory towards the Catholics. Fights broke out and only the police (themselves mostly Irish) saved the Orangemen and women. The next year another Orange parade was scheduled. the police banned it.

The appearance of large numbers of Jews, Slavs, and Italian immigrants led many Americans to consider the Irish an asset their Americanization was now recognized. Hostility shifted from the Irish to the new nationalities. Through poverty and subhuman living conditions, the Irish tenaciously clung to each other. With their ingenuity for organization, they were able to gain power and acceptance.

In 1850 at the crest of the Potato Famine immigration, Orestes Brownson, a celebrated convert to Catholicism, stated: "Out of these narrow lanes, dirty streets, damp cellars, and suffocating garrets, will come forth some of the noblest sons of our country, whom she will delight to own and honor."

In little more than a century his prophecy rang true. Irish-Americans had moved from the position of the despised to the oval office.


Famous Chicago Irish

Several notable Irish have come out of Chicago, including celebrities like Bob Newhart, George Wendt and Jenny McCarthy. The entire political Daley family grew up on the South Side, as well as world-famous Irish dancer Michael Flatley. Today it’s home to the highest concentration of Chicago police officers, firefighters and union workers.

Chicago’s last surviving farm was in the South Side’s Mount Greenwood neighborhood, but was converted into the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences. The area is also well-known for its stretch of Western Avenue, full of popular Irish bars and pubs, such as McNally’s, Bourbon Street and Cork & Kerry.


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