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... lower these coffin ships waiting for the bodies of the newly deceased (Coffey). Families of the emigrants held American wakes, which were both mourning's and celebrations. These wakes were somewhat happy occasions because some were able to leave their lives of hardships behind them (Coffey).
The high mortality rate caused parishes to hold mass funerals. The funeral bills, although, were near impossible for families to pay so each church had a community coffin. These community coffins were used if there was a death in the community. The people would use the coffins for the wake and the funeral. At the graveside, a trap door would be opened and the corpse would fall into the graves (Coffey). For many of the Irish there was no real choice of staying or leaving.
They either had to take the risk of these hazardous journeys to America or stay and face probable death in their homelands. Most chose to take the risk and accept the low-paying jobs with poor working conditions in case they made it to America, rather than the circumstances of probable death in their homelands. The Great Famine was seen as an event more than any other that shaped the Irish as a people, defined their will to survive and demonstrated their sense of human vulnerability (Coffey). The Irish people who immigrated to America, settled all over the United States.
During the 19 th and 20 th centuries, Irelands population dropped from 8 million before the famine to 5 million afterwards (Ignatiev). In reaching America, people began looking for jobs and available land throughout the United States. In 1863, an act was passed by the United States Congress by which any citizen of the country, or any person who had declared his enthusiasm to be a citizen might enter for ten dollars. As a result of their interest, they would get public land, and if he or his heirs would live and work on the area of land for five years, and then they would gain possession of it (Guinnane).
As the amount of immigration increased, Congress passed laws that made it a hard task to enter the United States and become an American citizen. Literacy tests and naturalization laws were passed to restrict and limit immigration to the United States and to make the task to gaining citizenship for aliens difficult. Irish immigrants were helpless and most had no choice but to take the chance in entering the United States. Many of the Irish ancestors came to America during this era to escape the poverty and hopelessness that generations of Irish had endured. Each sent money back to those left behind, so that other family members might follow them to the new promised land. This also created a human bridge from Ireland to the United States.
They carried in their hearts the hopes and dreams of an entire country (Coffey). The Irish survivors looked to America for a better life, but they faced many hardships in the process. Among these hardships were the loneliness of leaving their family, friends and the land that was once known as home. Sometimes whole families would leave and other times only the head of the households would make the life-threatening journey. Even though they were in different countries, they were most often loyal to their families and sent their earnings back to their homeland. Immigrants were not educated and were then forced to take the jobs with low wages and poor working conditions.
Most Irish immigrants were not qualified for high-paying jobs and factory work and working in sweatshops was the best work they could find. The employees of sweatshops were not allowed to talk or sing while they were working, if they did so they were told they were fired. If one went to the bathroom and the supervisor felt the person was there too long, he or she was laid off for half a day with no pay. Also eating lunch on the fire escape in the summer was not allowed. The door was kept locked to keep everyone inside. Immigrants were forced to work 12 -hour long days with low pay in horrendous working conditions.
Children were paid $ 1. 50 a week and skilled workers might make as much as $ 12. 00 a week. There was no pension, no welfare and no employment insurance for the employees. Sweatshops and factories were dirty, overcrowded and unsafe for any human being (Guinnane). Another hardship that immigrants faced was discrimination and fear. The American citizens observed the amount of immigrants coming to America when they realized the increasing numbers of foreign-speaking people entering their country, Americans did not receive them well. Americans expressed much resentment and fear to these foreigners, and the Irish were no exception.
Many Irish faced discrimination and were not hired because they were Irish. This prejudice forced many Irish immigrants to move to the western United States cities in an attempt to find a real land of opportunity and not racism. The Irish immigrants had nothing to depend on and nothing to hope for. They worked to make a living and to help their families survive. Although the Irish immigrants faced much suffering and hardships, the Irish have brought many great things to the United States (Fallows). They endured and became a part of the foundation upon which our American modern day country was built.
For these were the laborers who built the railroads, bridges, the Holland Tunnel and the Erie Canal. These were the workers who laid out the streets and installed the drainage pipes, as well as the boatmen, shoemakers, stone cutters, coopers and lumberjacks. These were the Irish who showed up in solidarity to fight and die for their new country in the Civil War. (Coffey). During the American Civil War, many Irish men enlisted directly into the United States Army at their ports of immigration. The Union Army had 144, 221 men who were of Irish birth. These men accounted for nearly one fourth of all volunteers.
The enlistments were caused not so much by any patriotic sense of duty to the new country, but rather by an enlistment bonus of six hundred dollars. This was a magnificent sum for most Irish immigrants who arrived penniless. This money could feed and clothe a family for more than a year in 1865 " (Ignatiev). One important man of Irish descent, who came to America, was John Barry. John Barry was called the father of the American Navy. He had a great importance in the defense of the United States.
These men and women who went to war were courageous and offered many important contributions to the United States history. They both enhanced and enriched the culture of the area they occupied. The Irish brought their culture and also their music that is very much alive in our society today. Most of all the Irish brought the strong workers and leaders that have in building the United States up into the powerful nation that it is today. Some of the most famous Irish Americans include President Ronald Regan, President Ulysses S.
Grant, President John F. Kennedy, Henry Ford, Civil War General Philip Sheridan and war hero, Audie Murphy. Irish immigration has become a key factor in the diffusion of culture and their contributions have affected both the United States and the rest of the world. Bibliography: Works Cited Coffey, Michael. The Irish in America New York: Hyperion, c 1997.
Fallows, Marjorie R. Irish Americans: identity and assimilation. Englewood Cliffs, N. J. : Prentice Hall, c 1979. Guinnane, Timothy. The vanishing Irish: households, migration, and the rural economy of Ireland.
Princeton, N. J. : Princeton University Press, c 1997. Ignatiev, Noel. How the Irish became white.
New York: Routledge, c 1995. Parrillo, Vincent N. Strangers to these Shores: Race and Ethnic Relations in the United States (Fourth Edition). Boston: Allyn & Bacon, c 1997. Walt Disney Studios, The Irish in America: Long Journey Home.
Vol. 2. Buena Vista Home Entertainment. 115 min. Webb, Robert N. New York: Putnam, c 1973.
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