The Irish Migration to AmericaETH/125June 18, 2010Jennifer MelvinThe Irish Migration As a young Irish female, after the great potato rot in 1840 we had no choice but to leave Ireland and migrate elsewhere to avoid starvation. Along with many of my countrymen, my family and I fled to the city of Boston in the United States (The Irish in America). Once arriving in the United States the majority of us remained in the port cities where we had landed. However, many of us were sick and weak from lack of food and the rigors of the journey. With very little money my family and I had no other option but to remain in the seaports. Although we were saved from the great famine of Ireland many of us washed up on the shores of Boston with few skills besides cooking, cleaning or just enough to work in factories (The Irish in America).
With so many newly arriving Irishmen there were limited job opportunities and terrible living conditions. Therefore, when looking for labor many of us resorted to servitude and eventually became viewed as a servant race to Bostonians, but my family and I remained hopeful. In addition to being treated as servants we had to face bigotry and stereotypes everyday as well.
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We were even ostracized for being Catholic. Many Protestants and “native” America was distrustful of a religion that was, as they viewed it, highly irregular with its beads, meditative prayers to Jesus mother, oils, saints and statues. We were also categorized as angry, alcoholic beings that drank all the time in saloons and had regular bar brawls and parties (Immigration and Discrimination).
The Bostonians and most of “native” America portrayed us as illiterate, greedy and nothing more than a stupid servant race. We were even ridiculed over the size of our families. For example, some would say that an Irish family looked more like a clan than a family and that we multiplied like rabbits (Immigration and Discrimination). To prevent from being ridiculed many of us kept to ourselves and thus were slow to assimilate. In return Americans were slow to accept the Irish as equals, preferring instead to judge them by the cartoon stereotypes of drunken, brawling Irishmen published in newspapers of the day. The established working class Americans resented Irish laborers because we would work for anything. Employers even started placing signs with NINA scrawled across the front. NINA spelled out is No Irish Need Apply.
Independent businesses owners even placed signs saying ???No Irish permitted in this establishment”, this would often be seen next to the No Dogs Allowed signs (Immigration and Discrimination). For many of us looking to escape these stereotypes and rise above to be part of American society had to work hard and take many knocks before any change was rendered.Moreover, the daily pressures of living in America at the bottom rung of society also brought out the worst in us. Back home, we were known for our honesty, law-abiding manners, and chastity.
In America, the so called elite society disintegrated and many of us, both men and women, behaved wildly. Even in other cities, such as the hopeless slums of New York, prostitution flourished and drunkenness occurred even among children (Irish Potato Famine, 2000).Furthermore, in 1851-1852, railroad contractors in New York advertised for workers and promised good pay. When mostly Irish applied including my brother and father, the pay was lowered to fifty-five cents a day.
When all the Irish workers protested, the militia was called in to force them to accept (Irish Potato Famine, 2000). Many of us reacted to the discrimination by deliberately getting rid of our accents, changing our names and even abandoning Catholicism. Regardless of all the changes we made, those that left to go work on the railroads, canals and in the mines where jobs were to be had were still discriminated against and forced to work for lower wages and in harsher conditions then other may never be accepted or achieve any form of equality.
Finally, after all the hardships we had endeared in Ireland and the constant racism here in America change did come, but with a cost. The turning point of our early years in the U.S.
was the start of the American Civil War. Over 140,000 of my countrymen enlisted in the Union army while others in the South enrolled in the Confederate ranks, with hopes of proving their loyalty to America (Irish Potato Famine, 2000). Our participation in the Civil War changed the way Americans saw us. They began to see us as brave and selfless individuals for helping to defend a society that had done nothing but ridicule us from our first days in America. As the first big group of poor refugees ever to come to the United States we felt the brunt of American resentment and prevailed (Immigration and Discrimination). The end of the Civil War provided light at the end of tunnel for my family and fellow countrymen.
We could now count on the fact that perhaps our grandchildren might be educated at Harvard University or perhaps rise to a top position in any corporation or business, based on their talent and ability.Reference Page:The Irish in America: 1840s-1930s, Retrieved from http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ug03/omara-alwala/irishkennedys.htmlImmigration and Discrimination, Retrieved from http://www.sunflower.com/~caitlin/Immigration.htmlIrish Potato Famine, The History Place, Copyright 2000, Retrieved from http://www.historyplace.com/worldhistory/famine/america.htm(Irish Potato Famine, 2000)