"Come You All Courageously": Irish Women in America Write Home

By Harris, Ruth-Ann M. | Eire-Ireland: a Journal of Irish Studies, Spring-Summer 2001 | Go to article overview

"Come You All Courageously": Irish Women in America Write Home


Harris, Ruth-Ann M., Eire-Ireland: a Journal of Irish Studies


WHAT we know about immigrants has too often been seen through official lenses. Documentation beyond official sources is scarce because few immigrants conducted their lives with an eye to the biographer. If the world of immigrants is to be recovered, historians must be innovative in identifying and using nonconventional sources. Personal documents like letters are an especially appropriate source for research on immigrant and ethnic women, whose lives are so often hidden. In this essay I examine some of the themes that appear in letters written by Irish women. (1)

In Ireland two scholars based in Ulster were responsible for emigrant letters being given due place as historical documents. The late Rodney Green of Queen's University, Belfast, was the first to collect emigrant letters systematically, and it was he who first alerted many of us to their importance as documentary sources. Brian Trainor, while director of the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, also ensured the collection and preservation of emigrant letters, encouraging researchers such as myself to work in a receptive atmosphere. Drawing attention to their documentary significance, Professor Green said that while emigrant letters are highly subjective material as historical documents, they do nevertheless allow one to make some valuable generalizations about the emigration/ immigration experience. (2) Among other conclusions, he noted "the favourable reaction of the emigrants to American conditions...." (3) Most emigrants would have agreed that, on balance, America offered more than had Ireland. Their letters, replete with statistical information about wages and prices, are valuable sources for economic history, demonstrating that immigrants often had a sophisticated awareness of local as well as international markets.

Emigrant letters have been extensively used by some American scholars. Arnold Schrier used letters as historical documents in his pioneering and evocative study, Ireland and the American Emigration, 1850-1900, published in 1958. (4) Drawing on 222 emigrant letters as documentation, he opened what has become a lively and continuing discussion about the use of letters as sources. Twenty-five years later, Patrick O'Farrell used emigrant letters to document the lives of the Irish in Australia, while Kerby Miller drew on a wide array of letters in his influential study, Emigrants and Exiles: Ireland and the Irish Exodus to North America, published in 1985. (5) Donald Harmon Akenson challenged the adequacy of these earlier approaches in an article drawing on a selection of letters from the Irish in Australia, New Zealand, and North America. (6) More recently, David Fitzpatrick has used detailed and informed textual analysis to elucidate Irish-Australian letters, extending the range of what historians can achieve with such sources. (7) My own method has been to use textual analysis to create a computerized database with five main categories: family name, letter author name, collection, recipient, and characteristics of each letter. The letters were analyzed in terms of subcategories such as push-and-pull conditions, mention of remittances, evidence of bad family relations, renewal of ties, choice of spouse, poetry, religion, and education. The themes were analyzed in two different ways, one using individual letters, the other using individual authors as the unit of observation.

Collections of emigrant letters are likelier to contain letters from men than from women, although some evidence suggests that women tended to write more often. Thus my research efforts located only ninety-five letters from forty-five female authors, while there were five hundred forty-four letters from one hundred seventy-six male authors on which to base an analysis. (8) The letters were collected from several sources in Ireland and America. (9) Following an examination of how the letters of women and men differed, I will explore a number of themes appearing in women's letters. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

"Come You All Courageously": Irish Women in America Write Home
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.