The departure of Irish to the United States
Potato famine initiated the departure of Irish to the United States. The problem was that the potato constituted the dietary for Irish and when the blight struck diverse epidemics accompanied the famine and a lot of Irish died. The survivors emigrated to the United States.
The majority of Irish immigrants inhabited urban centers such as New Orleans, Chicago and San Francisco; a minority went to a field. Most Irish immigrants were peasants, but they had not the money to purchase land.
"The first time I saw the Statue of Liberty all the people were rushing to the side of the boat.' Look at her, look at her' and all kinds of tongues. 'There she is, there she is', like it was somebody who was greeting them". Elizabeth Phillips in 1920, citied in Ellis Island: An Illustrated History of the Immigrant Experience, edited by Ivan Chermayeff et al. (New York: Macmillan 1991).
The Irish have been present in the United States and, have had more opportunity than other ethnic groups. In the eighteenth century the Protestant Irish became acculturated and socially accepted. It was more difficult for Catholic Irish. They suffered negatives stereotypes imported from England, they were considered as pugnacious, drunken, semi savages, etc. Multitudes of cartoons depicting the Irish; and such terms as "paddy-wagon", "shenanigans", and "shanty Irish" gained popularity. Despite of these offensive images the Irish Catholics immigrants possessed advantages. They arrived in great numbers, most of them could speak English, and their culture was similar to American culture. Even the Catholicism came to be accepted in time. To American culture, Catholicism is an important part now.
Now it is no easy define what is meant an Irish American ethnic identity. The process has been facilitated by the great migration during decades. Greater participation in the multicultural public school; another major factor has been that Today, with 38,760,000 Americans claiming Irish ancestry. Among these immigrants and their ancestors, there is still great pride and prestige in being Irish.
Still, in some circles Irish are considered less acculturated, less advanced intellectually, and more politically reactionary than some other ethnic groups. Catholic Irish Americans are the best educated and liberal in the United States. They are well represented in fields like law, academia, medicine and other professions. Traditionally they have been prominent in the Democratic ranks of politics. The progress made by the Republic of Ireland during the twentieth century has led to the acceptance by Americans.
Religion: American Catholicism has possessed an Irish character. We can found a lot of number of Irish names among past and present Catholic clergy. The Irish have been particularly supporters of their church and have established great numbers of Catholic churches, cathedrals, convents and seminaries, schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, community centers, orphanages. The life of catholic Irish Americans resolved around their parish, until the mid-twentieth century. The parish priest was usually the dominant community leader. Now a day, the parish is less closed to the falling off in religious practice. Although, they still remains their catholic parish.
The American Catholic Church has supported changes with the innovations imposed by the Second Vatican Council. Most Irish Americans have embraced the development. Many Irish Catholics are wondering about teachings on such subjects as divorce, abortion, contraception, priestly celibacy, and female priest. The clergy is discontent and this has supposed a decline vocation to the religious life for the Irish. Most Irish American Catholics are faithful, and they continue to identify as Catholics despite of some disagreements with Vatican teachings.
Politics and Government: Irish Catholics immigrants to the United States arrived as Democrats, a political stance involved due to years at the hands of the British. Irish Catholic entered the United States with political experience gained though mass agitation movements at home. After the Civil War, the Irish métier for political activity became increasingly evident. Irish control of New York's Tammany Hall, the center of the city's Democratic Party, is a symbol of their powerful and dubious involvement in American urban politics. Irish politicians were more successful than their Anglo-Protestant counterparts. The Irish political "machine" had a strong democratic and reformist agenda, frequently extended to Jews, Italians, Germans, Poles, etc.
Irish domination of the political life continued. Two figures were James Michael Curley, major of Boston; and Richard J Daley, major of Chicago. An Irish Catholic, the Democrat John Fitzgerald Kennedy , reached the White House in 1960. "I am not the Catholic candidate for president", he declared during the campaign. "I am the Democratic Party's candidate for President, who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters, and the Church does not speak for me". 1960
Two other Presidents were Richard M. Nixon and Ronald Reagan; they were of Irish Protestants background.
Irish Americans have been and still are the most supporters of the Democratic Party.
Labor Movement: the Irish have contributed to the later movement in America. American capitalist injustice was not too different by English landlords at home. The Irish were active in worker's organization. Their involvement in labor activities becomes prominent. We can highlight the activities of the Molly Maguire anthracite coal miners of Pennsylvania, they resisted the English, Scottish and Welsh mine bosses.
Terrance V Powderly, the son of an Irish immigrant, became commissioner general of immigration. Peter James McGuire was another leader who founded the American Federation of Labor. He is known as the "Father of Labor Day". Irish women have also been prominent in American's Labor movement. The Cork-born Mary Harris (Mother Jones), who organizing workers in labor unions to improve worker's conditions. Today, a nationally magazine devoted to liberal bears her name. Another famous Irish female was Elizabeth Gurley Flynn who co-founded the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).
- Art: Numerous Irish Americans have achieved prominence in the arts. We can mention Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849),was one of the greatest figures in Literature; Eugene O'Neill (1888-1953), one of the best eminent playwrights, and F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940), was a popular novelist and story writer.
- Business and Finance: William Russell (1812-1872), was the founder of the Pony Express; Anthony Nicholas Brady (1843-1913), his interests extended from railroads to electric companies; Andrew Mellon (1855-1937), he was interesting in art collector, but he was a banker, and philanthropist; and Howard Hughes (1905-1976), wealthy, industrialist and aerospace manufacturer.
- Entertainment: they have attained distinction in the entertainment industry: John Ford (1895-1973), film director; Bing Crosby (1901-1977), singer and actor; Grace Kelly (1929-1982); actress and Princess of Monaco; and Jack Nicholson (1937- ), actor.
- Military: we should mention: Lydia Barrington Darragh (1729-1789), who born in Dublin, she was an heroine of the Revolutionary War and she was a spy for George Washington; John Barry (1745-1803), he was born in Wexford and he was the "Father of the American Navy"; and Audie Murphy (1921-1971), he was the most decorated soldier of the World War II in the United States.
- Sports: eminent in sports as well: John L. Sullivan (1858-1918), Jack Dempsey (1895-1983), both heavyweight boxing champions; Babe Ruth (1895-1948), was a baseball player; Maureen Connolly "Little Mo" (1934-1969), tennis player, she won the United States women's singles championship three times.
Among the early immigrants to the United States, the Irish are now assimilated in all aspects of this nation, but they still retain pride and identify in their Irish heritage.