Saturday, February 20, 2010

What was Anne's work day like?

We read in Anne's story that she owned a home "free and clear" later in life. I plan to do some research on where that home was -- but I have spent some time reading up on what working and money meant to Irish immigrant women like Anne.

Scholarship on Irish immigrant women in America suggests that for these women, working was valued and earning and saving money was of paramount importance. Irish women saved impressive amounts of money; from 1850 up until 1870, domestic workers in New York City (nearly 50% of which were Irish born women) made between $50.00 to $70.00 a month. These women sent money back to Ireland; in 1870 33% of the money in Ireland was from women Irish domestics. Irish women were significant depositors with the Emigrant Savings Bank in New York City. (these bank records list 8 Ann Hoey's and 19 Ann Nolan's as depositors between 1850-1883.)

Domestic work seemingly gave Irish women great freedom; they switched jobs and employers often - they could do so because these types of jobs were abundant. Some scholars suggest that the dynamic of having a young girl, living and working in the home, along side the family, gave the employee some power over her mistress.

The work was hard. I found a summary of what her morning may have been like in an 1857 publication by Mrs. Elizabeth Elllet "The Practical Housekeeper"

  • wake at 5:30 AM (I am already out)
  • get coal
  • polish stove, light fire
  • dust, sweep, clean street door
  • prepare breakfast
  • open bedrooms, clean out slops, bring up fresh water
  • make beds
  • eat breakfast
I am not certain, yet, where Anne worked -- we have verbal history of her working at Ophir Farm-- but her time in New York City thus far is unclear. But, in any event, until I get more information, think about that list.

Wake at 5:30 AM -- how? Get coal - outside I assume? Had she lite a fire, prepared breakfast, etc the years after her mom died and before her father remarried? Probably -however, likely in a more rural setting. Where the urban kitchen or kitchens in which Anne worked something she could quickly adapt to? If the adapting took time, who taught her?

Ideas in this post inspired by Erin's Daughters in America, by Hasia Diner

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