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“TAKE CARE OF THE IMMIGRANT GIRLS”:1 THE MIGRATION PROCESS OF LATENINETEENTH -CENTURY IRISH WOMEN* ANNE O’CONNELL The feminization of the Irish diaspora in the second half of the nineteenth century has been well documented.2 Scholars have also established that the higher proportion of females in the emigration statistics was achieved through the migration of individual single women from the West of Ireland .3 Based on the huge sums of money that crossed the Atlantic as prepaid passages or remittances in the last decades of the nineteenth century, analysts of women’s increased centrality in the migration process have concluded that a female network or chain mechanism structured the transfer from the area of origin to the area of settlement—and that, as well as providing financial assistance and moral support for siblings and relatives, this network was often the all important catalyst in the decision to emigrate .4 Furthermore, with improved transportation during the period in THE MIGRATION PROCESS OF LATE-NINETEENTH-CENTURY IRISH WOMEN 102 1 Title of poem by P.J. Leitch, cited in Michael J. Henry, ed., Mission of Our Lady of the Rosary (New York: Barge Office, 1900), 5. * The Irish American Cultural Institute (Morristown, NJ) provided support for this publication through the Irish Institute of New York. 2 Patrick Blessing has summarized the trends in patterns of emigration as follows: “Until the late 1830s males outnumbered females in the cross-Atlantic movement, but from 1840–1893 the sexes were in rough balance. From 1894 to 1905 females outnumbered males.” For additional information, see Patrick J. Blessing, “Irish Emigration to the United States, 1800–1920: an overview,” P.J. Drudy, ed., The Irish in America: Emigration, Assimilation and Impact (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985). 3 Rita M. Rhodes, Women and the Family in Post-Famine Ireland (New York and London : Garland Publishing, Inc., 1992), 243–56. 4 Janet Nolan, Ourselves Alone: Women’s Emigration from Ireland, 1885–1920 (Lexington , KY: Kentucky University Press, 1989); Ide O’Carroll, Models for Movers: Irish Women’s Emigration to America (Dublin: Attic Press, 1990); Donald Harman Akenson, The Irish Diaspora : A Primer (Toronto: P.D. Meany Company, 1993); Rhodes, Women and the Family in Post-Famine Ireland. question, some have argued that the migration process itself became relatively hazard-free.5 The concept of a chain migration, however, implies an unbroken passage from the area of origin to the area of settlement. Properly defined, it is . . . the movement in which prospective migrants learn of opportunities, are provided with transportation, and have initial accommodation and employment arranged by means of primary social relationships with previous migrants.6 Recent research suggests that the extent to which non-chain female migration was a minority emigrant experience demands re-evaluation insofar as the female chain mechanism of the late-nineteenth century was not simply synonymous with the scale and scope of emigrant remittances.7 Research has also established that, despite the advent of the steamship with its attendant benefits and the introduction, throughout the 1880s and the 1890s, of restrictive immigration legislation in the US, the migration process continued to be fraught with danger, particularly for single females. Non-chain migrants were especially at risk. This group included a significant number of women who held pre-paid passages, as well as women who relied almost exclusively on philanthropic assistance to finance their leave-taking.8 THE MIGRATION PROCESS OF LATE-NINETEENTH-CENTURY IRISH WOMEN 103 5 Rita A. Harris, “‘Where the poor man is not crushed down to exalt the aristocrat’: Vere Foster’s programmes of assisted emigration in the aftermath of the Irish Famine,” Patrick O’ Sullivan, ed., The Irish World Wide, History, Heritage, Identity: The Meaning of the Famine 6 (London: Leicester University Press, 1997), 184. Kerby A. Miller, Emigrants and Exiles: Ireland and the Irish Exodus to North America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985). 6 John S. MacDonald and Beatrice D. MacDonald, “Chain Migration, Ethnic Neighbourhood Formation and Social Networks,” Milbank Memorial Fund Quarterly (January 1964), 82. 7 Anne O’Connell, “Assisted Female Emigration: Vere Foster’s Scheme 1880–1896” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Limerick, 1998). 8 Between 1880 and 1886, by his own estimation, Belfast...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1550-5162
Print ISSN
0013-2683
Pages
pp. 102-133
Launched on MUSE
2017-08-31
Open Access
No
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