"Forty shades of green": Conflict over community among New York's Irish, 1860-1920

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Margaret Thompson



Subject Categories

European History | History | United States History


New York's Irish population in the later nineteenth century has received little scholarly attention to this point. This dissertation argues that Irish settlement in New York in the period 1860 to 1920 was divided across lines of class, religion, and political affiliation. Distinct sectors of the Irish immigrant population transplanted specific aspects of Irish cultural heritage to New York, Ireland's historical divisions creating the parameters of the Irish experience. Laden under the weight of this cultural baggage, Irish men and women reinvoked past identities in New York.

Following an introductory chapter identifying the different components of the city's Irish population, the second chapter examines the diversity of Irish women's experience in New York. Breaking new ground, the third chapter explores Irish Protestant settlement.

The fourth chapter focuses on the language and rhetoric identifying distinct Irish elements in the city. Political rhetoric, public announcements, club and society reports, and the popular periodical literature of the day reflected the mentalities of their authors. The Catholic church receives attention in the following chapter, further supporting the argument for division within an area traditionally viewed as solidly Irish in character.

The Irish population in New York established organizations for social and economic advancement but, primarily for the furtherance of their political aspirations for Ireland. These groups reinforced existing divisions, exacerbated antagonisms and rejuvenated dormant Irish historical wounds.

A new era for Ireland dawned in 1920. "Partitions" which had previously torn the Irish population into antagonistic factions now altered, with the implementation of a form of Home Rule in 1921, and the partition of Ireland. The final part of this study brings together some conclusions on the broader questions of redirection for Irish-Americans in New York. It further comments on this new understanding of Irish settlement in New York as a contribution to the expansion of the larger history of the nineteenth century American urban experience.


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