Date of Award

8-2008

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

History

Abstract

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries Irish women accounted for more than half of all Irish emigrants to leave Ireland. A great portion of these women settled in urban centers on the East coast of the United States where a large percentage took jobs as domestic servants. The great number of Irish women involved in domestic service led to the emergence of the negative stereotype of the Irish maid "Bridget," in popular entertainment and literature. Further research into the literature and data of the time shows positive contemporary descriptions of Irish women involved in American domestic service. These positive descriptions add an opposing view of Irish-American identity that stands in contrast to the common negative stereotypes. These positive descriptions, along with examples of hard data show how the reality of Irish women in America often stood in sharp contrast to the stereotype presented by way of the Irish maid "Bridget." By looking at the involvement of Irish women in the American workforce one can trace the rather rapid move towards Americanization from the first generation into the second and third. Irish-American women quickly distanced themselves from the negative connotations present in domestic service and began to follow the employment patterns of native-born American women as well as adopting American values and culture. Through education, industriousness, and the willingness to adapt, Irish women helped bring a large portion of the Irish-American community into the American middle-class.

Included in

History Commons

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