Eire-Ireland:Journal of Irish Studies

Journal of Irish Studies: Young Irish workers: class implications of men’s and women’s experiences in gilded age Chicago

Young Irish workers: class implications of men’s and women’s experiences in gilded age Chicago – Statistical Data Included

Patricia Kelleher

DISCUSSION of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Irish Americans’ “class”–their status as well as their behaviors and attitudes concerning class mobility and working-class solidarity–has been vexed and contentious. The topic’s inherent complexity, in combination with the variety of perspectives brought to its analysis, has produced a welter of claims and arguments. Some historians assume a norm of upward mobility and view the Irish as laggards. In contrast, other scholars tell a success story in which Irish immigrants, and especially their descendants, struggled and eventually achieved their goals of respectability and upward mobility. Another contingent has discerned the emergence of an Irish-American radical working-class consciousness that broadened Irish workers’ perspectives and encouraged solidarity with members of other groups who challenged the inequities of industrial capitalism. Still others report that a co-opted Irish working class had fallen in line behind the dictates of a hegemonic Catholic middle class by the early twentieth century. (1)

Despite these differences, most scholars’ attempts to explain the Irish encounter with class in America have focused on men’s experiences and perspectives. This article contributes to the discussion by clarifying Irish Americans’ class standing and by demonstrating that both an appreciation of the complexity of the Irish-American population and attention to specific historical circumstances must inform any analysis of Irish responses to America’s class system. I will illustrate the importance of age, generation, and gender, as well as specific context, by focusing on the experiences of young immigrant workers in Chicago in 1880–during the pivotal period known as the Gilded Age.


This exploration must begin by assessing the class “position” of the American Irish. That task alone is a challenge, for the Irish in America were not a monolithic group, and class-based attributes that were common during the famine era were less common by the 1910s. In an effort to provide a basis from which to proceed, I will begin with some general information about both Irish emigration to North America and quantitative measures of Irish immigrants’ occupational status in American society. (2)

About one million Irish crossed the Atlantic during the prefamine era (1815-45). Protestants from Ulster dominated at first; but Catholics swelled the emigrant stream by the 1830s. While moderately “better-off” people continued to seek their fortunes in America, less prosperous Catholics eventually dominated the outflow. There was some variety in class background among the prefamine Catholic Irish who established beachheads in the US. Furthermore, even those with few resources usually came from areas of Ireland that had undergone Anglicization and commercialization. They were at least familiar with, if not reconciled to, dominant cultural norms within the US. Despite these relative advantages, turbulence among Irish laborers on public-works projects and in cities broadcast high levels of poverty and dissatisfaction among North America’s Catholic Irish well before the Great Famine. (3)

Famine-era migrants flattened the existing class segmentation among the Catholic Irish in North America. Repeated failures of Ireland’s potato crops set off a flood of 1.8 million people into North American ports in the decade after 1845. While the most destitute could not reach America and a fair number of “better-class” Catholics abandoned famine-ridden Ireland, the migrants who reached North America during the mid- to late 1840s and early 1850s helped to create a distinctively “Irish” American lower class. Famine immigrants were, on average, even poorer and less prepared than their predecessors in terms of language, culture, and work skills to accommodate easily to American conditions. Many of them were customary rather than devotional Catholics, and between one-fourth and one-third still spoke Irish. In addition, an unusually large proportion of famine-era immigrants arrived in families with young and elderly dependents. The adjustment process was painful. Immigrant mortality was high and, decades later, survivors still bore the trauma and bitterness of their experiences. (4)

Irish emigration continued on a massive scale after the famine, ebbing and flowing in response to socio-economic stresses in Ireland and opportunities in the US. About 3.5 million Irish arrived in North America between 1851 and 1921. Few of the middling orders emigrated, but members of the poorer farming classes poured out. The proportions of people who traveled in family groups declined while those of working-age adolescents and adults increased. Males dominated as migrants among other nationalities, but the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Irish emigrant stream was distinctive in that the sexes reached near parity in numbers. By the turn of the twentieth century Irish immigrants were likely to be young (age fifteen to twenty-four), unmarried, technically unskilled, Catholic, and from the poverty-mired west of Ireland. (5)

Given these migration patterns, Irish-born US residents in 1880 would have included a considerable proportion of famine survivors. Large numbers of Irish arrived in the US from the 1850s to the early 1870s, but immigration dropped off sharply in response to the severe depression of 1873-78. As a result, Irish-born fifteen- to twenty-four-year-olds would have included a portion that had immigrated years earlier as children in family groups as well as very recent arrivals. Overall, the Irish-born population of the US in 1880 constituted an established group. The massive influx of Irish people into the US had begun decades earlier. Immigrants had had time to settle in, and owing to the depression of the 1870s, the proportion of “greenhorns” in the population was unusually low. (6) Establishment, however, does not imply prosperity, and “upward mobility” is an unacceptably narrow gauge for the measurement of a people’s success.

Scholarly attempts to describe Irish America’s socio-economic status in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries have provoked much controversy. Implicit, and sometimes explicit, disparagement crept into some scholars’ depictions of the prevalence of social problems and low-status employment among the Irish. (7) In response, other scholars, who were often Irish American or Irish, produced studies that forced revisions of the established interpretation but did not debunk it. For example, Lawrence McCaffrey’s work demonstrates that a few case studies cannot convey the complexity of an ethnic group’s roles in American history. But David N. Doyle overstates the case when he claims that “Irish America in 1900 … had attained relative occupational parity with native white America …; the same proportion of its male workforce was engaged in middle-class, lower middle-class and unskilled laboring occupations as … native-born whites of native parentage.” (8)

The large-scale arrival of poorer Catholics who took up hard and dangerous laboring work well before the famine is now well recognized. Similarly, it is indisputable that a massive influx of famine immigrants crowded into low-status manual work. The extent to which opportunities for the Irish varied by region and the amount of upward mobility that had occurred between the 1850s and the 1910s remain debatable. Thorny methodological issues concerning occupational-classification categories complicate the discussion. Nevertheless, it is clear that immigrant males remained very heavily concentrated in low-status work. As late as 1910, about one-fifth of employed immigrant Irishmen held positions that could be classified as “nonmanual,” but nearly 60 percent clustered in “unskilled” and “semiskilled” occupations. On the other hand, the maturing second generation had established a higher occupational profile as early as 1900. By then, American-born young women avoided domestic service, and their male peers were likelier to hold lower-status white-collar or skilled positions than were immigrant men. (9) Nevertheless, even the second generation had not reached occupational parity with native-stock whites at the turn of the century.

In short, the Catholic Irish in the early twentieth century were predominantly working-class and had not gained entree into the American elite. (10) On average, first- and second-generation Irish enjoyed a better standard of living than their famine-era predecessors–but that is a low baseline for comparison. In 1880, when the US was pulling out of a fierce depression, Irish America’s class situation was closer to the characteristics of the 1850s than to those of the 1910s. When confronting America’s class-based power relations during the 1870-90 era, immigrants could not have assumed that either improvement in their living conditions or increased social respect was inevitable.


In 1880, when the U.S. conducted the tenth census, the country had already entered the “Gilded Age,” an era marked by raw class struggles. A number of studies have used the census-takers’ door-to-door answer sheets to create detailed descriptions of Irish immigrants’ living conditions during that pivotal period. Stephan Thernstrom’s work on New England localities helped to set this investigatory process in motion. Thernstrom found exceedingly modest levels of upward mobility. While New England was atypical in this respect, enthusiastic descriptions of Irish “success” in the West have been overdrawn, as a review of the evidence will indicate. (11) The following tables employ status labels adopted by Thernstrom, even though the term “low manual,” which includes “unskilled” and “semi-skilled” occupations, is certainly infelicitous.

New England seems to have provided a narrow occupational niche for Irishmen. Brian Mitchell found that 63.7 percent of Irish male household heads living in Lowell’s “Paddy Camps” at the height of the famine era in 1850 had been classified as “laborers” in the census. (12) Three decades later, Irishmen’s options in New England were still highly constricted (Table 1). JoEllen Vinyard’s 1976 study of the Irish in Detroit demonstrates that conditions in New England did not represent those of the nation. However, the argument that “move west” was the best advice for ambitious Irish immigrants is not so well supported. Table 2 presents information culled from selected studies that employ differing research designs. Detroit, a fairly small city with a small Irish population, did offer more options to Irishmen than did Boston. However, Philadelphia seems to have provided as much or more scope for Irishmen’s endeavors as Chicago and San Francisco. (13)

The scholarship on Irish immigrants’ class standing has focused on men. However, while women constituted only 12.9 percent of all foreign-born workers, fully 20.7 percent of the 1880 Irish labor force was female. (14) The fact that women were such an important component of the Irish labor force suggests that their efforts might have enhanced the group’s overall occupational standing. Yet that was not the case at all. Few scholars offer information on the full range of occupations held by Irish women in specific locales. Table 3 displays the information that is available about women workers in three cities.

Timothy Meagher reports a dismal situation in Worcester. In 1880 only 1.7 percent of unmarried first-generation women workers held white-collar positions. (15) Even though domestic service was Irish women’s quintessential occupation, they took other available work, especially in mills and the garment trades. Irish women’s wages were a crucial component of ethnic survival strategies. While second-generation girls found a somewhat broader range of occupations as early as 1880, immigrant women made their contribution by toiling in low-status, arduous work. (16) To an even greater degree than their male peers, Irish immigrant women were locked into a cramped occupational niche.

What can be made of this barrage of details? First, variation by locale was real. For example, Vinyard organized published census information on male and female immigrants’ occupations and then ranked the Irish experience in eighteen cities in 1880. She categorized cities by “eastern” or “western” location and found some variation between those categories. However, the same information could be used to make arguments about the significance of a city’s size, economic base, and ethnic composition. Vinyard’s analysis produced very similar results for New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago. Nevertheless, the basic point that conditions did vary from place to place has now been well established by numerous studies. (17) Second, nineteenth-century Irish America did develop a degree of internal differentiation by class. If “white-collar” (nonmanual) occupations are an acceptable proxy for “middle class,” then about one-fifth of Irish immigrant men in cities outside New England had achieved middle-class status by 1880. On the other hand, every community showed a vast predominance of manual workers within the combined male and female Irish immigrant labor force, with “low-manual” work inevitably swamping “skilled” occupations. While conditions did vary to a degree, there was no Irish heaven in the US. Even much-praised San Francisco gave rise to Denis Kearney’s viciously anti-Chinese Workingman’s Party. (18)

This overview of Irish immigrants’ occupational status in 1880s America provides a context for appreciating young workers’ experiences and options in Chicago and offers a vantage-point on their class standing. It is important, however, to maintain a critical perspective on occupational classifications and social-mobility analyses. Occupations are at best a mediocre proxy for “class.” Furthermore, the standard categorization of occupations is derived from “mobility studies” that use a group’s occupational distribution as a measure of its “success” or “failure.” Such studies assume that people were motivated almost exclusively by an individualistic desire for upward mobility, and that the socio-economic system operated in a generally meritocratic manner. Neither assumption seems plausible when applied to the motives and experiences of the Irish immigrant masses in Gilded Age America. (19) Another potential limitation lies in the classification of specific occupations, and people, in the three status locations of “white-collar” (nonmanual), “skilled,” and “low-manual.” A saloonkeeper, categorized as a white-collar proprietor, might have been a shrewd entrepreneur or a man whose friends bought drinks from him because he was too old to work or had been blacklisted for union activism. (20) Clearly, the use of this occupational-status schema to delineate any group’s class standing is problematic.

Despite these limitations, the standard occupational categories are far from being simply arbitrary or ahistorical when applied to US society during the specific era from the 1830s to the 1930s. On average, people who held white-collar positions were accorded more social respect, enjoyed better living conditions, controlled more resources, and had more life options than did people who survived by manual wage work. The distinction between skilled and other manual workers could blur in practice, but, generally, skilled workers were better off in terms of social regard, living conditions, and autonomy. (21) Thus the standard schema of status categories can be used to map the general class standing of a group without either ascribing or denying aspirations for “upward” social mobility to specific individuals, let alone making judgments of “character.” While most Irish immigrants surely did want access to resources that could sustain health and material comfort, these goals could be achieved by winning better conditions within the working class. Put another way, we cannot assume that working-class Irish Americans spent their time wishing that they were middle class. They had a vibrant culture of their own. (22)


If young Irish immigrants typically found more opportunities in the US than in Ireland, they were also subjected to more physically hazardous and exhausting work than was the norm at home. As Kerby Miller notes, immigrants’ letters were replete with warnings about the toll that labor took on bodies in America. Furthermore, while wage rates were higher than in Ireland, so were prices, and employment was often scarce. (23) Young men were particularly likely to relocate in search of work. (24) As a result, the June 1880 census registered a strikingly unbalanced gender ratio among Chicago’s young adult (aged fifteen to twenty-four) Irish immigrants, with only sixty-eight men for every one hundred women. (25) The second generation had a more balanced gender ratio, as well as a more comfortable occupational profile; but young immigrant men scrambled for jobs. By June many would already have taken up offers such as one employment agency’s promise of “free fare” and work for one thousand railroad laborers in Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Illinois for $1.35 to $1.50 a day, or another’s promise of $1.75 a day for “tie choppers.” (26) A glance at the occupational profile of Irish young men who were counted by census-takers in Chicago, in comparison with the group as a whole, helps to explain why so many youths were likely to be on the move (Table 4). While one-fifth of young immigrant men already held skilled positions, and some more would surely move into small proprietorships and other white-collar niches, most were concentrated in jobs that demanded hard physical labor.

What were the general life-circumstances of the young men who were at work in Chicago in June 1880, and how might they have understood themselves and their prospects? Virtually all (96 percent) were unmarried. (27) Roughly one-third lived as sons in families; the fact that another 12 percent were brothers or brothers-in-law of family heads probably reflects the process of chain migration. Altogether, 55 percent lived as relatives within families. The vast majority of the remainder were “non-kin” boarders who lived in family households or boarding houses. Nearly one-fourth of the total lived in the heavily Irish and working-class Fifth Ward (the Bridgeport area). Of those who lived in households, as family members or as boarders, 91 percent lived with a first- or second-generation Irish head of household. As wage earners, 16 percent contributed to households that were headed by nonemployed women. Among those who co-resided with an employed household head, 50 percent lived with an unskilled head of household, over two-thirds with “low-manual” heads, and 16 percent with skilled workers. In other words, the young immigrant workers who lived in households co-resided with heads whose occupational profile was somewhat lower than the norm. It is unlikely that such residential patterns generated much entree into middle-class circles.

Some class differentiation existed, even within this group. Edward Cudahy, a member of the family that became prominent in meatpacking, was a twenty-one-year-old clerk who lived in his brother Michael’s family. Michael had gained notoriety six months before the census date, when charges surfaced that he had bribed a priest, Father Joseph M. Cartan of Nativity parish, to undermine a militant butchers’ strike. George Collins, a sailor, was also a twenty-one-year-old immigrant. Only three Irish served on his vessel, as did three African-American men. By the nature of his work, Collins was a traveling man. The same supplementary census count of the lakefront that enumerated Collins also counted prostitutes. George Collins could not have been unfamiliar with the rougher side of life or diverse peoples. He might also have belonged to Richard Powers’ seamen’s union. Powers was a militant workers’ advocate and an ardent Irish nationalist. (28) These two twenty-one-year-old Irish immigrant men illustrate the range of experience in their cohort, but most of the group gravitated toward Collins’ pole.

Nearly one-third (31.3 percent) of the men were listed as general laborers. John Cunningham was one. He was twenty-four years old and stayed in a downtown boarding house with seventy other residents. Only twelve, including the boarding-house keeper, Thomas Kearney, were first- or second-generation Irish. Kearney hosted an eclectic mix of men who represented a wide variety of nationalities and occupations. Cunningham was not isolated in an ethnic enclave. He had situated himself in the hurly-burly of American urban life. Even laborers like John Cantlon (aged twenty-four) and William Henley (aged twenty-two), who resided in the heart of the Fifth Ward at William Pigott’s boarding house at 3036 Archer Avenue, had not cut themselves off from cosmopolitan influences. Their co-residents were predominantly Irish, but native-stock whites, a second-generation Englishman, and a Swiss immigrant also lived there. If Cantlon and Henley wanted to converse with a wider range of people, they could easily drop into a saloon. At least three saloons operated on their block. (29)

The working men in another family, the O’Donnells, were not listed as laborers, but their circumstances were clearly difficult. They lived in the Fifth Ward at 2646 Hickory Street with their sister Mary Hussey and her thirty-year-old husband Patrick. All the adults in the household were immigrants. Patrick was illiterate and worked for an ice company. At age twenty-five, Mary already had a seven-year-old daughter and a three-year-old son, both American-born. Her brother, John O’Donnell, was twenty-two and also worked for an ice company, probably alongside Patrick. Young Thomas, aged nineteen, worked in a packinghouse. Thomas may have been a “greenhorn,” but he could not have worked in the meatpacking houses without learning about recent Irish-led strikes in the stockyards, and he may well have arrived in time to participate himself. Labor strife provided a quick orientation lesson for greenhorns. (30)

In summary, young immigrant men generally led hard lives and were not well positioned to move into the middle class even if that had been their aim. On the other hand, few would have been bewildered nails. Many had traveled extensively; even those who were rooted in Chicago had broad access to a range of points of view. Some may have preferred to isolate themselves from “outside” influences, but that was a choice, not a necessity. (31)


If young men struggled to secure a livelihood, so too did young women. It is fruitless to debate who suffered most, but the information in Table 5 might help to dispel the impression that women’s occupational berth was relatively more comfortable than men’s. (32) Young women were even slightly disadvantaged compared to all employed Irish immigrant women (aged fifteen and over). Over four-fifths of the young women were concentrated in “low-manual” work, compared with somewhat over two-thirds of employed young men. While youthful men found their way into more than fifty specific occupations in Chicago, employed young women were listed in only thirteen occupations.

Still, immigrant men and women had more in common (in terms of earning their own living and being relatively unencumbered with family-care responsibilities) during their youth than they would have as mature adults. Virtually identical proportions of the never-married young men and women who resided in Chicago were employed (89.8 percent and 85.5 percent, respectively). Indeed, a youthful immigrant worker in Chicago was as likely to be a woman as a man. Even though 77 percent of the overall Irish immigrant labor force in Chicago was male, slightly over half (53 percent) of Chicago’s fifteen- to twenty-four-year-old Irish workers were women. (33) Two reasons explain this pattern. First, men sought employment throughout their lives, but job-holding was normative only for youthful unmarried women. Second, work opportunities for women were concentrated in cities, so that more young Irish women than men resided in Chicago in 1880. A remarkably high percentage of Irish women toiled for pay at some point in their lives, sharing with Irish men a personal knowledge of wage-workers’ realities. (34)

Over 80 percent of young immigrant working women worked as “servants,” as “hotel help,” or in other comparable situations. Like their male counterparts, young immigrant women were not so well positioned in the labor force in the second generation. Unlike men, women could turn to marriage as an alternative to employment. While virtually all the young Irish men in Chicago had never married, almost 30 percent of twenty- to twenty-four-year-old women immigrants had already opted for marriage. The following discussion considers only those young immigrant women who held jobs in Chicago in 1880-99 percent of whom were single. (35) Young immigrant women had few prospects of commanding high wages or high status through their own employment. The circumstances of individuals’ lives suggest the range of experiences that influenced their sense of themselves and their goals.

In many respects, young working women’s lives differed enormously from young men’s. While 55 percent of the men lived as relatives within families, only 18 percent of the women did so. Four-fifths found accommodations by filling menial-status positions at their places of work. Slightly over half lived downtown or in the South Side wards that contained fashionable neighborhoods (wards 1 through 4) compared with only 16 percent of their male counterparts. Furthermore, while nearly one-fourth of the young men lived in the Fifth Ward that encompassed Bridgeport, only 7 percent of the young women did so. Paradoxically, young women’s low-status work as servants took them out of working-class residential areas.

Nearly half (45.3 percent) of all employed young women worked as domestic servants and lived in households with their employers. Only 17.6 percent of Irish domestic servants worked in households headed by people of their own nationality. In contrast with young men’s living arrangements, over two-thirds of domestic servants took shelter under the roofs provided by “American” or first- or second-generation British household heads. In addition, almost all domestics who served gainfully employed household heads worked for people who operated in the white-collar world. In fact, over two-fifths worked for employers who held prestigious (“high” white-collar) positions. In short, Irish servant girls resided within a sharply different cultural and class milieu from that experienced by young men.

If a young Irishwoman sought employment by consulting newspaper advertisements, she would soon confront anti-Irish prejudice. “No Irish” occasionally appeared in “Help Wanted” listings, but the same point was usually made with preferences such as those for a “Neat American or German Girl,” or for a “Protestant,” or for a “Good, Reliable Colored Girl.” (36) While Hasia Diner provides a good description of Irish servants’ experiences, David Katzman’s Seven Days a Week still offers the best overview of the nature of the work itself–the long hours, the drudgery, and mistresses’ penchant for petty supervision of servants’ personal lives as well as tasks. Meeting high housekeeping standards during the Victorian era involved hard work. Despite the anti-Irish bigotry and condescension that permeated their outlook, the logic of supply and demand forced women of the “better” sort to bring Irish women into their homes to perform the most exhausting and unrewarding facets of housework. (37) Presumably, the position that exposed Irish women to the most demands and the most isolation was to be the sole “maid-of-all-work” in a household. About half (51.5 percent) of domestic servants filled that position. However, that means that nearly half the younger servants in Chicago’s households did not work alone. Maggie Cooney lived and worked at 1239 Michigan Avenue. Her prosperous “American” employer kept four servants (of Irish, German, and native-stock white descent). If Maggie tired of her fellow workers’ company, she could exchange confidences with Kate Grant and Mary Morgan who worked at 1241 Michigan Avenue, or with the three Irish servants who resided at 1245 Michigan. Bridget Donavin, aged twenty, may have been lonely and overworked as the sole servant at 3240 Indiana Avenue; but she was only a stone’s throw from nineteen-year-old Maggie Dooley and twenty-three-year-old Katie Ruane, who were servants at 3239 Indiana. (38)

Certainly, many Irish women were exploited as servants and some were isolated. But only 23.4 percent of the young Irish women who worked in Chicago were employed as the sole servant in a household–and many of them could find company nearby. (39) It is hard to imagine that impressionable girls were simply overawed by the higher status of their often “American” or British Protestant employers. Surely, domestic servants learned a great deal about material and cultural possibilities by living on intimate terms with such people. On the other hand, servants commonly dealt with arrogance and unreasonable demands from their social “betters.” The advertisements for non-Irish help suggest that Irish women were not considered tractable, let alone overawed. A contemporary’s assertion that any lady who challenged “the convenience of Bridget” risked having “the dogs of war … loosed upon her” nicely illustrates both the prejudice and the trepidation that many mistresses brought to their relationships with Irish servants. (40)

This study’s finding that so many Irish girls (45.3 percent) worked as domestic servants in a nineteenth-century American city is no revelation. What is striking is that an additional 35.2 percent were classified in the census with the “status” of servant or other menial employee, but were not “domestic” servants. That is, over one-third of the total served in non-household settings such as hotels and boarding houses. Indeed, one-fifth of all the young employed Irish immigrant women worked in hotels. Almost all were concentrated in downtown Chicago. Surrounded by hordes of young co-workers, hotel servants were at the center of the action in a vibrant city. (41)

The Commercial Hotel listed a large staff that was entirely white with the exception of one African-American man. Twenty-two first- and second-generation Irish worked there. Most of the Irish were young and single. At least three sets of probable sisters or cousins clustered together. The Irish were in the minority on the Commercial’s staff; most of the non-Irish staff members were native-stock white or of British or Canadian background. The palatial Grand Pacific employed over thirty African-American men, but they were outnumbered by Irish staff members. The Irish were mostly women and many were middle-aged. The census counted one hundred fifty people at the Sherman House, all of them white. Dollie O’Brien, aged nineteen, may or may not have been related to eighteen-year-old Bridget O’Brien and nineteen-year-old Anthony O’Brien. In any case Dollie could hardly have been lonely. The Sherman House employed over sixty immigrant and second-generation Irish, and many staff members were in their teens and early twenties. Dollie would have worked long hours for low pay; but she was also well positioned to meet people, see the sights, and have fun. Unmarried and aged twenty-four, Annie Hackett worked at Alexander Loftus’s Hotel at 52 Sherman Street. Only fifty-three people were enumerated at the “hotel,” and its residents were predominantly working-class as well–it might better be described as a boarding house. Only six servants kept the hotel going. All the residents were white, most of them Irish, British, or Canadian. If Annie were husband-hunting, she had found quite a game preserve. Almost all the boarders were young, single men. If Annie had wanted to “step out” with a young man, the downtown’s entertainments were close by. (42)

Like young men, young immigrant women generally led hard lives. In addition, they were even less likely to be cocooned within their own family than Chicago-based men. In contrast to their brothers, domestic servants were positioned to develop an intimate knowledge of middle- and upper-class mores. Generally, however, they did not learn about “genteel” living from the small Irish Catholic bourgeoisie, but rather from cultural outsiders who often disparaged them. Healthy young women might enjoy the camaraderie of other servants, take pride in making their own money, and marvel at the consumer possibilities that Chicago offered. On the other hand, Dollie O’Brien at the Sherman House could not have failed to note the situation of her co-workers who were in their forties and fifties. Long-term employment prospects for the average immigrant woman were bleak. A young working woman could try to encapsulate herself within the certainties of Irish Catholic advice manuals, but she was surrounded with object lessons about power and class in American society.


As the nationwide data unequivocally demonstrate, the Gilded Age Irish were overwhelmingly working-class. While attitudes and aspirations are difficult to ascertain, this investigation of young workers in Chicago demonstrates that age, generation, gender, and specific historical circumstances must all be considered. To be a young, immigrant, unmarried, wage-earning woman or man of Irish background who lived and worked in Chicago meant exposure to a distinctive set of influences on perceptions of class options. While these influences were interactive, I will first address generation and age and then discuss gender and specific historical circumstances more fully.

Generation is crucial. Studies that combine the first and second generations into one category blur significant differences between the two. Immigrants had a low occupational profile, and youthful immigrants were especially disadvantaged. The Chicago investigation strongly supports two additional conclusions. First, young immigrants’ experiences combined low occupational status with broad opportunities to sample diverse class and cultural perspectives. While the second generation may have been more sheltered within ethnic enclaves, young immigrants were exposed to the harshness and the lures of the wider world. The fact that young immigrants were not isolated in Chicago, and that this finding applies to both sexes, constitutes one of the most significant points made herein. Gender profoundly influenced life-courses and perspectives, but it did not obviate all commonalities. The second point is that acculturation through embourgeoisement was an important option, but only one option among several that beckoned Chicago’s young immigrants. Gilded Age Chicago could produce consternation and exhilaration among young Irish workers. Most were exploited; many regularly witnessed ostentatious displays of wealth. Chicago also hosted the most radical working-class movement in the country, and its government was openly corrupt. Innocence was at a premium, but energy and possibilities abounded.

Scholarly deliberations about Irish-American class identity usually deal with women in a cursory manner, if at all. While nonemployed women played a crucial role in industrial class formation, (43) this article integrates women into the discussion by trying to elucidate the influences that their own wage-work experiences may have had on their strategies and goals. Irish women typically spent years of their lives in the labor force. The labor movement’s denunciations of “wage slavery” could resonate with their personal experiences. Family duty and the sheer necessity of self-support obliged most to endure low-status drudge work. Women would have personally encountered anti-Irish prejudice while witnessing other people’s comfortable life-styles. Evidence culled from information about Irish servants around the country indicates that many young women learned to stand up for themselves, adopted a calculating, wage-conscious job-search strategy, adored finery and fun, and used their money to help their families and themselves. Such experiences may have fostered aspirations for upward class mobility; but, typically, that strategy would have to be pursued by promoting husbands’ and children’s prospects. Immigrant women knew that their own potential for individual upward mobility was low. Furthermore, given the information already presented about the general socio-economic position of the Gilded Age Irish, family-based social climbing was a long-term strategy at best. Observers suggest that Irish women were resolutely practical. (44)

Surrounded by hard-pressed and irregularly employed Irish men and observing older women who labored for meager pay, women employed various strategies to better their lot. One possibility was to insist on the right to work and earn a self-supporting wage whenever circumstances dictated that they enter the labor market. It is no accident that so many late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century women labor organizers were ethnically Irish. In areas that attracted multiracial workforces, the concern for jobs could tempt Irish women as well as men to adopt a strategy of emphasizing whiteness as a qualification for decent treatment and opportunities. (45) The labor movement’s demands for an “American standard of living” may also have appealed to Irish women and promoted their support for unionized men’s struggles. Their well-known interest in consumer goods, even fine things, might be met by winning a higher standard of living for the working class. Women doubtless wanted better material conditions. Gilded Age immigrant women commonly encountered industrial America’s material bounty in tandem with anti-Irish condescension, overwork, and deprivation. Many may well have developed their own version of respectability and a desire for the accoutrements of genteel living without having fully internalized the world-view of their “betters.” (46) Such women might back strategies of either class solidarity or individual-family social climbing based on rational calculation of immediate prospects for success. Of course, some women did develop an ideological allegiance to one or the other strategy. If they were in the market for radical ideas, Chicago offered a smorgasbord of possibilities. Some young Irish women may have joined the crowd of 20,000 to 40,000 that attended a downtown commemoration of the Paris Commune in March 1879. A Tribune reporter insisted that “all the red-headed, cross-eyed and frowsy servant girls” in the city turned out for the occasion. (47)

Young women were not culturally isolated. Those who resided downtown lived in the vortex of a wide-open, corrupt, and dynamic city. Given the prevailing mores, however, women’s opportunities to sample the city’s diversity were more constrained than those of young men, who could roam the city, absorb ideas amid the banter in saloons and shifting work sites, and participate in public contests for power and influence.

What were young men’s aspirations? Personal upward mobility was at least somewhat more feasible for them than it was for immigrant women. About 30 percent of Irish youths under age twenty-five held skilled or white-collar positions. Many of those young men may have lost ground in the unstable Gilded Age economy, but no doubt many entertained hope for individual advancement. The other 70 percent held jobs that tended to be exploitative, even dangerous–and, adding insult to injury, subject to layoffs. What was their perspective? Teen-aged Michael Kilcran emigrated to Chicago in the early 1880s. He encountered brutal treatment. Kilcran could not find secure employment and he went hungry. At one point he joined a union, participated in a strike, and disparaged both bosses and the workingmen who bent to the bosses’ will. Later in life, Kilcran became a detective of police and seemed fairly satisfied. Was Kilcran a class-conscious worker or upwardly mobile? (48)

Such either/or categorizations are untenable for most Gilded Age Irish. As a boy, Michael Kilcran dreamed of grand success but did not want to become “heartless.” Kilcran toughened up, but he still remembered the hurts of his early years in America. People’s views do not simply mirror their material circumstances. If they did, we could fairly easily resolve the debates about Gilded Age Irish Americans’ perspectives on class. Certainly, however, the masses of Irish immigrants would have been extraordinarily unperceptive if their own experiences failed to debunk the contemporary rationalizations of the class system. Michael Kilcran and his fellow immigrants, women and men, had seen too much to believe that virtue and prosperity were inseparable. Catholic Irish immigrants’ cultural heritage, which stressed communal solidarity and bred suspicion of bald materialism, also undermined the legitimacy of the capitalist ethos. Most immigrants’ experiences and heritage provided resources that might have supported a radical, working-class consciousness. However individuals resolved tensions between the promptings of ambition and solidarity, Irish participation in the contests for power and influence that roiled Chicago during this era demonstrates widespread discontent with the status quo. (49)

By the 1880s Irish workers had earned their reputation as a volatile and militant element within the labor force. Irish men, sometimes joined by women and children, literally fought for better conditions in Chicago’s streets and work sites. They drew on both Irish secret-society traditions that justified coercion and violence in defense of the oppressed and on a shared sense of ethnic solidarity. Richard Schneirov has studied the impact of the combined influences of the Knights of Labor and the social consciousness associated with the Irish nationalist Land League on the Chicago Irish working class. His conclusion that Irish combativeness was being transformed into “cosmopolitan, class-aware unionism” may be overly optimistic, but some Irish workers were showing signs of class-consciousness. In the late 1870s and early 1880s Irish workers cooperated with other ethnic groups, especially Germans and Bohemians, to stage spectacular protests and to wring concessions from employers and the government. (50)

Chicago’s Irish community was overwhelmingly working class. It was not under the tight control of the Democratic Party, the Irish Catholic middle class, or the Catholic church. While some Irish workers may have isolated themselves from outside influences, others participated in the broad sweep of the city’s struggles and excitement. The Democrats did not have a secure lock on the Irish vote. About 30 percent of the 1878-79 Socialist Labor Party vote was Irish, and some Irish operated within the Republican Party. Irish Catholic bourgeois hegemony did not exist in Gilded Age Chicago. The middle class was small and populated with individuals of modest accomplishments whose careers often depended on political patronage. Furthermore, members of the middle class feuded among themselves. The middle class wielded influence, but it did not command the masses. The Catholic church was more formidable than the lay middle class, but even the church did not take working-class allegiance for granted. Irish men and women religious labored mightily to build a church infrastructure and to supply the spiritual and material sustenance that would cement loyalty to the church. The working class, especially the immigrant generation, was rough-hewn. No sensible member of the lay middle class or the religious underestimated the potential for trouble or disaffection among the masses. (51)

Scholarship on the Gilded Age Irish and class has been so contentious in part because there are no clear answers. The situation was fluid and confusing, for the actors themselves as well as for later scholars. Gilded Age Chicago hosted a working-class Irish population that included militants and supported a degree of rough-and-ready cosmopolitan class-consciousness. Who could doubt that the class system was unfair and cruel? On the other hand, the lure of a bountiful life and even working-class versions of self-respect and respectability could erode radical resistance. The working class was not monolithic. As circumstances and practical options changed, an individual’s perspective could change too. To complicate matters, the lay middle class and the Catholic church in the Gilded Age were not monolithic either. Officially committed to supporting the established order, members of both groups were not immune to either alienation from the dominant American system or to deep sympathy for their own kind. A profound ambivalence about class permeated all elements of Gilded Age Irish America.

(1) Stephan Thernstrom, The Other Bostonians: Poverty and Progress in the American Metropolis, 1880-1970 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1973), illustrates the first view. Examples of the second perspective are Marjorie R. Fallows, Irish Americans: Identity and Assimilation (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1979); Lawrence J. McCaffrey, The Irish Diaspora in America (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1976), and its revised edition The Irish Catholic Diaspora in America (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1997) as well as Andrew M. Greeley, That Most Distressful Nation: The Taming of the American Irish (Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1972). Eric Foner, “Class, Ethnicity, and Radicalism in the Gilded Age: The Land League and Irish America,” Marxist Perspectives 1 (1978), 6-55, and David Montgomery, “The Irish and the American Labor Movement,” in David N. Doyle and Owen Dudley Edwards, eds., America and Ireland, 1772-1976: The American Identity and the Irish Connection (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1980), 205-18, exemplify the argument for Irish working-class radicalism. Kerby Miller’s lucid argument for Catholic middle-class hegemony is summarized in “Class, Culture, and Immigrant Group Identity in the United States: The Case of Irish-American Ethnicity,” in Immigration Reconsidered: History, Sociology, and Politics, ed. Virginia Yans-McLaughlin (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), 96-109. A more recent line of inquiry examines the extent to which the Irish contributed to race inequality by embracing “whiteness” in order to gain social acceptance and competitive advantages in American society. See, for example, Noel Ignatiev, How the Irish Became White (New York: Routledge, 1995).

(2) Irish people who disembarked in Canada often settled in the US. George W. Potter, To the Golden Door: The Story of the Irish in Ireland and America (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1960), 134-38.

(3) William Forbes Adams, Ireland and Irish Emigration to the New World from 1815 to the Famine (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1932), 193-201, 224, 268-76; Kerby A. Miller, Emigrants and Exiles: Ireland and the Irish Exodus to North America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985), 193-201, 224, 268-76; David Fitzpatrick, “Emigration, 1801-70,” in W. E. Vaughan, ed., A New History of Ireland, Vol. V: Ireland Under the Union, 1, 1801-70 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989), 565-41; Peter Way, “Shovel and Shamrock: Irish Workers and Labor Violence in the Digging of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal,” Labor History 30 (1989), 489-517; Paul A. Gilje, “The Development of an Irish American Community in New York City before the Great Migration,” in Ronald H. Bayor and Timothy J. Meagher, eds., The New York Irish (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), 70-83.

(4) Miller, Emigrants and Exiles, 291-97, 331; Oliver MacDonagh, “Irish Emigration to the United States of America and the British Colonies during the Famine,” in R. Dudley Edwards and T. Desmond Williams, eds., The Great Famine: Studies in Irish History 1845-52, (Dublin: Browne and Nolan, 1956), 322, 328-29, 385-86; Robert James Scally, The End of Hidden Ireland: Rebellion, Famine, and Emigration (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995).

(5) Fitzpatrick, “Emigration, 1801-70,” 575-77, 617; Miller, Emigrants and Exiles, 346, 349-53, 407, 469-70, 581; Timothy W. Guinnane, The Vanishing Irish: Households, Migration, and the Rural Economy in Ireland, 1850-1914 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997), 101-11; David N. Doyle, “Unestablished Irishmen: New Immigrants and Industrial America, 1870-1910,” in Dirk Hoerder, ed., American Labor and Immigration History, 1877-1920s: Recent European Research (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1983), 199-201.

(6) Miller, Emigrants and Exiles, 569-82; W.E. Vaughan and A.J. Fitzpatrick, eds., Irish Historical Statistics: Population, 1821-1971 (Dublin: Royal Irish Academy, 1978), 259-353; Ireland (Eire), Commission on Emigration and Other Population Problems, 1948-54, Reports (Dublin: Stationery Office, 1954), 314-19. In this context “greenhorn” means recently arrived immigrant.

(7) For examples, see Oscar Handlin, Boston’s Immigrants: A Study in Acculturation, rev. ed. (New York: Atheneum, 1970), 72; Carl Wittke, The Irish in America (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1956), vi, 23, 27; Thernstrom, Other Bostonians, 140.

(8) McCaffrey, The Irish Diaspora in America, 76-82; David N. Doyle, Irish Americans, Native Rights, and National Empires: The Structure, Attitudes, and Division of the Catholic Minority in the Decade of Expansion, 1890-1901 (New York: Arno Press, 1976), 46. Doyle revises his position somewhat in “Unestablished Irishmen,” 193-95.

(9) Brinley Thomas, Migration and Economic Growth: A Study of Great Britain and the Atlantic Economy, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973), 142-55 (1910 data, 147). The government did not publish tabulations of occupations by country of birth for 1910. A census official supplied Thomas with previously unpublished tabulations. E. P. Hutchinson describes occupational patterns in 1900 in Immigrants and Their Children, 1850-1950 (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1956), 174, 184. For information on specific locales, see, for example, Martin G. Towey, “Kerry Patch Revisited: Irish Americans in St. Louis in the Turn of the Century Era,” in Timothy J. Meagher, ed., From Paddy to Studs: Irish-American Communities in the Turn of the Century Era, 1880-1920 (New York: Greenwood Press, 1986), 145-49; Timothy J. Meagher, “`The Lord Is Not Dead’: Cultural and Social Change among the Irish in Worcester, Massachusetts” (Ann Arbor, Mich.: University Microfilms, 1982), 157-63.

(10) Frederic Cople Jaher, The Urban Establishment: Upper Strata in Boston, New York, Charleston, Chicago, and Los Angeles (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1982).

(11) See especially Thernstrom, Other Bostonians, 130-44. Thernstrom’s other study of a locale in New England (Newburyport) is Poverty and Progress: Social Mobility in a Nineteenth-Century City (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1964). On San Francisco, see Timothy Sarbaugh, “Exiles of Confidence: The Irish-American Community of San Francisco, 1880-1920,” in Meagher, ed., From Paddy to Studs, 161.

(12) Brian C. Mitchell, The Paddy Camps: The Irish of Lowell, 1821-61 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1988), 162.

(13) Dennis Clark, The Irish in Philadelphia: Ten Generations of Urban Experience (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1973), 70-87.

(14) My calculation, based on Hutchinson, Immigrants and Their Children, 98.

(15) Meagher, “`The Lord Is Not Dead’,” 225.

(16) For example, in Troy, women in the collar industry worked as laundresses or sewers. A recalculation of information provided by Carole Turbin, Working Women of Collar City: Gender, Class, and Community in Troy, New York, 1864-86 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1992), 54, shows that in 1880, 57.4 percent of Irish immigrants performed the more grueling laundry work, while 65.0 percent of the second generation found positions as sewers. Nationwide, as late as 1900, 60.5 percent of first-generation Irish women workers were servants or laundresses. David M. Katzman, Seven Days a Week: Women and Domestic Service in Industrializing America (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1976), 67.

(17) JoEllen Vinyard, The Irish on the Urban Frontier: Nineteenth-Century Detroit 1850-1880 (New York: Arno Press, 1976), 315-16. She notes the salience of factors in addition to region on 323-24. See also Dennis Clark, Hibernia America: The Irish and Regional Cultures (New York: Greenwood Press, 1986).

(18) Ira B. Cross, A History of the Labor Movement in California (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1935), 88-129; Alexander Saxton, The Indispensable Enemy: Labor and the Anti-Chinese Movement in California (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971). R. A. Burchell, The San Francisco Irish, 1848-1880 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980) celebrates prominent Irish individuals and argues that San Francisco provided a positive environment for the Irish. However, he does make it clear that the Irish experienced a broad range of conditions in the city; see 1-11, 64, and 155-57.

(19) Stuart M. Blumin, The Emergence of the Middle Class: Social Experience in the American City, 1760-1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 1-16; James A. Henretta, “The Study of Social Mobility: Ideological Assumptions and Conceptual Bias,” Labor History 18 (1977), 165-78.

(20) James R. Barrett, Work and Community in the Jungle: Chicago’s Packinghouse Workers, 1894-1922 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987), 82, 85.

(21) Jeanne Boydston, Home and Work: Housework, Wages, and the Ideology of Labor in the Early Republic (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), 56-74, 120-41; Stephanie Coontz, The Social Origins of Private Life: A History of American Families, 1600-1900 (London: Verso, 1988), 172-80, 187-97, 200-09, 251-329; Nell Irvin Painter, Standing at Armageddon: The United States, 1877-1919 (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1987), xvi-xxvii; Blumin, Emergence of Middle Class, 258-75, 285-97; Thernstrom, Other Bostonians, 289-302.

(22) While the majority of Irish Americans in this period were working class, there was a small and growing middle class as well. Few Irish were professionals; the Irish middle class was heavily concentrated in small proprietorships (e.g., saloons, groceries, ice and coal delivery) and patronage positions. Saloonkeepers, petty politicians, and priests all wielded influence, but they had to contend with the basic reality that they depended on a working-class clientele. Nor was their middle-class standing by any means secure: downward mobility was a constant threat.

(23) Miller, Emigrants and Exiles, 316-17, 320, 357-59, 502-06; Timothy J. Hatton and Jeffrey G. Williamson, “After the Famine: Emigration from Ireland, 1850-1913,” Journal of Economic History 53 (1993), 579-80.

(24) Michael B. Katz, Michael Doucet, and Mark J. Stern, The Social Organization of Early Industrial Capitalism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982), 102-30; Miller, Emigrants and Exiles, 316-17; Thernstrom, Other Bostonians, 39, 221-32.

(25) The youthful labor force in Chicago was not overwhelmingly female because a considerable proportion of the young women had married and were not employed. Kelleher sample.

(26) Kelleher sample; Chicago Tribune, 1 June 1880.

(27) Enumerators failed to note the marital status of a few individuals; 95 percent were explicitly recorded as single. I used contextual information to code 1.3 percent as “presumed single.” Unless otherwise noted, all statistics in the text from this point forward derive from my sample.

(28) U.S. Census Office, Tenth Census (1880), Manuscript Population Census, Chicago, Enumeration District 24, 48, and ED 8, 64. It is difficult to differentiate vessels in the supplementary pages of enumeration district 8. Collins’ vessel apparently includes persons listed on lines 39 through 50. Louise Carroll Wade, Chicago’s Pride: The Stockyards, Packingtown, and Environs in the Nineteenth Century (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987), 125; Richard Schneirov, Labor and Urban Politics: Class Conflict and the Origins of Modern Liberalism in Chicago, 1864-97 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998), 101, 107-08, 125.

(29) Tenth Census (1880), Manuscript Population Census, Chicago, ED 10, 46, and ED 45, 6; Thomas Hutchinson, comp., The Lakeside Annual Directory of the City of Chicago (Chicago: Chicago Directory Company, 1880), 1266, 1461-73.

(30) The last name is spelled as O’Doneil in the manuscript census. Hutchinson, Lakeside Annual Directory (1880), lists Patrick Hussey (576) and John O’Donnell (848) at 2646 Hickory Street. Young Thomas was not listed in the directory. Tenth Census (1880), Manuscript Population Census, Chicago, ED 48, 66; Wade, Chicago’s Pride, 122-26; Schreirov, Labor and Urban Politics, 106-10; James R. Barrett, “Americanization from the Bottom Up: Immigration and the Remaking of the Working Class in the United States, 1880-1930,” Journal of American History 79 (1992), 997-98.

(31) Howard P. Chudacoff, Mobile Americans: Residential and Social Mobility in Omaha, 1880-1920 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1972), 35, 41-42, 61-110.

(32) Hasia R. Diner, Erin’s Daughters in America: Irish Immigrant Women in the Nineteenth Century (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983), 71.

(33) Percentages derived from Kelleher sample. See note to Table 2.

(34) Faye E. Dudden, Serving Women: Household Service in Nineteenth-Century America (Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1983), 8, 50-51, 62.

(35) Less than 1 percent were enumerated as married or widowed. Enumerators were especially lax about specifying marital status when recording information about downtown hotel workers. Overall, 86.5 percent of the employed young women were recorded as single, I used contextual information to code 12.6 percent as “presumed single.” Kelleher sample.

(36) See Chicago Tribune, 6, 13, 27 June 1880, for “no Irish” examples, and Chicago Tribune, 3, 6, 13 June 1880, for examples of preferences for non-Irish employees.

(37) Diner, Erin’s Daughters, 70-94; Katzman, Seven Days a Week, 44-183. See also Dudden, Serving Women, 44-183. Kevin Kenny, The American Irish: A History (London and New York: Longman, 2000), 149-54, also emphasizes the degree of labor exploitation involved in domestic service.

(38) Tenth Census (1880), Manuscript Population Census, Chicago, ED 13, 7, and ED 26, 35, 47.

(39) Dudden, Serving Women, 230-32, discusses camaraderie among domestic servants.

(40) Chicago Tribune, 6 July 1878.

(41) The Commercial Hotel advertised itself as “First Class” and boasted of “All Modern Improvements.” The Sherman House was “Elegantly Furnished” and “Strictly Fireproof.” The opulent Grand Pacific occupied an entire city block. Republican Party, The Republican National Convention Catalogue and Visitors’ Guide (Chicago: Blakely Marsh Printing Co., 1884), 67, 84-85; A.T. Andreas, From the Fire of 1871 until 1885, vol. 3 of History of Chicago (1886; reprinted New York: Arno Press, 1975), 354.

(42) Tenth Census (1880), Manuscript Population Census, Chicago, ED 1, 16-18 (Commercial); ED 4, 33-37 (Grand Pacific); ED 1, 28-30 (Sherman House); ED 6, 21-22 (Loftus Hotel).

(43) Boydston, Home and Work, 120-41.

(44) Arnold Schrier, Ireland and the American Emigration, 1850-1900 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1958), 30, 104-08; Dudden, Serving Women, 50-59, 62, 65-66; Diner, Erin’s Daughters, 70-105.

(45) Diner, Erin’s Daughters, 92-93, 100-05; Turbin, Working Women of Collar City, 38-39; Kathleen Banks Nutter, “Organizing Women during the Progressive Era: Mary Kenney O’Sullivan and the Labor Movement,” Labor’s Heritage 8 (1997), 18; Martha Mabie Gardner, “Working on White Womanhood: White Working Women in the San Francisco Anti-Chinese Movement, 1877-1890,” Journal of Social History 33 (1999), 73-95.

(46) Lawrence Glickman, “Inventing the `American Standard of Living’: Gender, Race, and Working-Class Identity, 1880-1925,” Labor History 34 (1993), 221-35; Colleen McDannell, “Going to the Ladies’ Fair: Irish Catholics in New York City 1870-1900,” in Bayor and Meagher, eds., New York Irish, 239-41, 246-47; Kerby A. Miller, with David N. Doyle and Patricia Kelleher, “‘For Love and for Liberty’: Irish Women, Migration, and Domesticity in Ireland and America, 1850-1920,” in Patrick O’Sullivan, ed., The Irish Worldwide: History, Heritage, Identity, Vol. IV: Irish Women and Irish Migration (Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1995), 54-61.

(47) Chicago Tribune, 23 March 1879, quoted in Bruce C. Nelson, Beyond the Martyrs: A Social History of Chicago’s Anarchists, 1870-1900 (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1988), 79.

(48) Nelson, Beyond the Martyrs, 9-26; Eric L. Hirsch, Urban Revolt: Ethnic Politics in the Nineteenth-Century Chicago Labor Movement (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), 1-10; Wade, Chicago’s Pride, 119-22; Barrett, Work and Community in the Jungle, 20-31; Miller, Emigrants and Exiles, 499, 503, 505, 509; Michael Kilcran, “Journal,” Kerby A. Miller Collection, History Department, University of Missouri-Columbia. My thanks to Professor Miller for sharing the Kilcran journal with me.

(49) Miller, Emigrants and Exiles, 3-4, III, 325, 493; Kilcran, “Journal.”

(50) Barrett, Work and Community in the Jungle, 119-31; Schneirov, Labor and Urban Politics, 35-40, 48-53, 70-94, 109-38, (“cosmopolitan,” 119); Hirsch, Urban Revolt, 21-42, 62-85, 117-43.

(51) Schneirov, Labor and Urban Politics, 86, 99-161; Michael Funchion, Chicago’s Irish Nationalists, 1881-1890 (New York: Arno Press, 1976), 42-55; Stephen P. Erie, Rainbow’s End: Irish Americans and the Dilemmas of Urban Machine Politics, 1840-1985 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), 21-22, 27-33, 40-45; Bruce C. Nelson, “Revival and Upheaval: Religion, Irreligion, and Chicago’s Working Class in 1886,” Journal of Social History 25 (1991), 233-35, 242-49; Ellen Skerrett, “The Development of Catholic Identity among Irish Americans in Chicago, 1880-1920,” in Meagher, ed., From Paddy to Studs, 117-38.

PATRICIA KELLEHER is Assistant Professor of History at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania. Her research focuses on the interplay of gender, class, and ethnicity. She is co-author (with David N. Doyle and Kerby A. Miller) of “For Love and For Liberty: Irish Women, Emigration, and Domesticity in Ireland and America, 1815-1920,” in Patrick O’Sullivan, ed., The Irish Worldwide, Volume 4, Irish Women and Irish Migration (1995). Her article, “Maternal Strategies: Irish Women’s Headship of Families in Gilded Age Chicago,” appeared in the Journal of Women’s History 13 (Summer 2001).

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