Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I think of the Ladies on St. Patrick's day --

Ss I research Anne, I am smiling a lot. Remember, Anne's story has been passed down - mother to daughter. The story is female -- as was much of my understanding of my Irish roots Most of the stories I heard from that side of the family are 'lady-focused'. "Lady-focused' is not a term or something I can document or quantify for you - but I think any of us that are part of this story understand what I mean.

I am learning that Irish women were and I suppose, are, a unique breed. Polite, respectful of male roles, but dominant. Lady like, but powerful and in charge.
Confusing description?.... not if you know us.

Margaret Lynch Brennan repeats the comments of a French tourist visiting Ireland, Anne Marie De Bovet who notes "In the lower Irish classes the mother is looked upon as the most useful member of the family. She works harder than the man, earns more, and drinks less"

Lynch-Brennan goes on to explain that Irish women handled the money and controlled the children. They were seen as assertive. We know from our own family story that while Anne Hoey Nolan could not read or write, she could figure her taxes and owned a home in Port Chester free and clear.

Irish women in Ireland agitated and fought for the rebellion; they dragged their men out of pubs and yelled at them in public streets. When the Irish began sending their children to America, they often sent their daughters because they were seen as more sensible and more likely to send money home.

For many Irish immigrant women, marriage held little appeal. Any sense of romance was excluded from the Irish understanding of marriage- this tendency came over from the old country and seemingly prevailed in America. Irish girls resisted marriage; those that could write explained in letters to each other that they were avoided motherhood and an unhappy marriage by remaining single.

Further, remember, that unlike any other immigrant group, Irish women came to America alone. They enjoyed their independence and because of it were able to take jobs - live in jobs for instance - that married women and mothers could not. The result was that many Irish women married later in life, if at all.

In Erin's Daughters in America,we learn that Irish ladies ruled without letting others (especially the husbands) know they were being ruled. While men seemingly ruled in an Irish household- the wives managed the finances, coordinated and disciplined children, and functioned in many ways completely separate from their husbands.

Irish girls and women, were, good girls. Few out of wedlock babies are recorded - the rates are much higher for other immigrant groups - and as we've seen - they made a great deal of money. They lived a long time - they were healthy and enjoyed old age.

Was Anne like her country-mates? Did she resist marriage? Did she like her independence and making her own money? While we know she arrived in New York in 1847 -- she does not have her first child, Maurice, until 1858 -- 11 years later, at the approximate age of 24. What did she do for those 11 years? It is possible she worked, saved money, attended mass, socialized with young people in New York, and lived a very full and exciting life. Clearly, at some point, she met John. Did she rule him? Here she is - with her daughter, grand daughter, and great grand daughter (Anne Hughes)? You tell me....

Who is in charge ?

ps: photos thruout of some of my favorite Irish lasses -- 

The Irish Bridget: Irish Immigrant Women in Domestic Service in America, 1840-1930

Erin's Daugthers in America: Irish Immigrant Women in the Nineteenth Century


  1. Nice post, Amy. “Irish girls resisted marriage…The result was that many Irish women married later in life, if at all." Excellent. My Irishness explains my marital state. So, instead if Kiss Me, I'm Irish, I should be going around today saying Marry Me, I'm Irish! Wait, on second thought... :)

  2. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8571318.stm

    Even monkey's learn more from females