Irish-American History

Irish Catholic immigrants began to arrive in large numbers after the Irish Potato Famine of the 1840s. They largely settled in Northern cities such as New York, Boston, and Chicago. After much prejudice, their rise to the American mainstream was finally cemented with the election of John F. Kennedy in 1960.

"The Biddies" -- Irish Domestic Servants in Early America

The ideal for women in the early 1800s was that of the virtuous housewife. The immigrant women who arrived from Ireland did not share in this luxury.

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  • 1825 - The Erie Canal is completed in New York. A large portion of the work had been completed by Irish laborers.
  • 1845 - The Irish Potato Famine begins, driving hundreds of thousands of Irish to emigrate to the United States.
  • 1845-1870 - Many Irish women who arrive in the United States become domestic servants for upper-class Americans.
  • 1863 - The New York Draft Riots are the largest civil disturbance in United States history.
  • 1863-1869 - Thousands of Irish laborers work on the eastern half of the First Transcontinental Railroad, stretching from Omaha, Nebraska to the center of Utah.
  • 1872 - "Honest John" Kelly becomes the first Irish leader of the Tammany Hall political machine in New York, after the downfall of Boss Tweed.
  • 1877 - The Great Railroad Strike spreads across half of the country before it ultimately fails.
  • 1882 - The Knights of Columbus is founded in New Haven, Connecticut. It becomes one of the largest and most prominent mutual aid societies for (mostly Irish) Catholics in the United States.
  • 1889 - Kate Chopin (nee O'Flaherty) publishes her classic novel, The Awakening, which is mercilessly attacked for its lurid subject matter.
  • 1890 - The Union Stockyards in Chicago slaughter 9 million animals in a year. Chicago becomes known as the "hog-butcher of the world".
  • 1903 - Mother Jones leads a march of disfigured child textile workers from Philadelphia to Teddy Roosevelt's home in Oyster Bay, New York to publicize the cause of child labor regulation.
  • 1924 - Led by Knute Rockne and the "Four Horsemen", Notre Dame wins its first national championship in college football.
  • 1955 - Richard Daley is elected Mayor of Chicago. He holds the office until his death in 1976.
  • 1960 - John F. Kennedy becomes the first Catholic President of the United States. He is assassinated in 1963 under suspicious circumstances.