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Subversive Consumption 19th Century Irish Immigrants in America

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Title: Subversive Consumption 19th Century Irish Immigrants in America


1
Subversive Consumption 19th Century Irish
Immigrants in America
  • Linda Scott
  • University of Oxford

2
Conflict and Consumption
  • Alcohol
  • Fashion, festivals, theater, birth control
  • Public and private goods
  • The reform movement
  • Transformative consumer research.

3
Irish Immigrants to America
  • The Great Famine 1840s
  • The little famine 1870s
  • First major wave of immigrants into (formerly
    British) America
  • Large, sudden, invasive
  • Catholics in a Protestant land.

4
Leaving Ireland
  • Inheriting the land
  • Prospects for marriage
  • Resulting demographics.

5
Process of Entry
  • Money for passage
  • Conditions of travel
  • Arrival in America.

6
Entry and Settlement
7
Sizeable and Sudden
  • No appreciable immigration before 1830
  • Between 1830 and 1920, 5.5 million Irish
    immigrated
  • Concentrated between 1845 and 1880
  • Boston population doubled in 15 years
  • 1865 more than half Bostons population was Irish.

8
Reception at Entry
9
Cultural Conflict
10
Puritan Consumption Ethic
  • Denial of the flesh, austerity
  • Inconsistent application
  • Sumptuary laws
  • Dress, drinking, entertainment
  • Sexuality, grooming
  • Worship, gatherings, and festivals.

11
Irish Condition and Attitudes
We can conclude this sketchy account of the
history of Ireland by saying that whatever
comparisons might or might not be made to other
groups, the Irish came to this country with a
history of a thousand years of misery,
suffering, oppression, violence, exploitation,
atrocity, and genocide. Their country was given
no opportunity to develop intellectually or
economically. Their aristocracy was
repeatedly liquidated or exiled. Their cultures
and even their language were systematically
eliminated. They
were thought of as an inferior people and, like
all oppressed people, began to half believe it
themselves. Like all such people, they were
torn between the desire for respectability and
savage resentment of their oppressors. If
anyone thinks that the twin themes of
respectability and resentment are not part of
the heritage of the American Irish, he simply
does not know the American Irish very well.
--Andrew Greely, Irish Immigrants (1981, 68)
  • Completely broke and in poor health
  • English-speaking, some literacy
  • Political subversion, hatred of British
  • Determination and ambition
  • Group solidarity
  • Desiring respectability, upward mobility.

12
Housing the Irish
  • Slums
  • Sanitation
  • Disease
  • Alcoholism
  • Crime
  • Abandonment.

13
Consuming Public Goods
  • Hospitals
  • Insane asylums
  • Prisons
  • Orphanages, schools
  • Charity organizations
  • Boston aid doubled
  • New York 60 of almshouse residents were Irish.

14
Irishmen and Drink
  • Major social problem
  • Violence and domestic abuse
  • Waste of wages
  • Abandonment of families.

15
Irishmen and Politics
  • Brutal, dangerous, difficult jobs
  • Gendered spheres
  • Growth of urban Irish, solidarity
  • Block vote potential
  • Pubs as organizing centers
  • Took over major northern cities within 25 years.

16
Consuming Public Goods (Part 2)
  • Monopoly of municipal jobs
  • Control over services and infrastructure
  • Privileges and loyalty.

17
Female Immigration
  • Domestic service and factory work
  • 80 of domestics in Boston and New York were
    Irish
  • Lived downstairs in Protestant homes
  • Negotiating wages
  • Spending on fashion
  • Savings.

18
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19
  • Young Irish women, according to a number of
    observers, seemed to be dressed in fashionable
    clothes as soon as they stepped off the boats at
    Castle Garden.
  • --Lois Banner,
  • American Beauty

20
  • I have been amused, on a Sunday morning, to see
    two Irish girls walking out of my basement door
    dressed in rich moire antique, with everything to
    correspond, from elegant bonnets and parasols to
    gloves and gaiter-boots--an outfit that would not
    disgrace the neatest carriage in Hyde Park.
    These girls had been brought up in the floorless
    mud cabins covered with thatch, and gone to mass
    without shoes or stockings very likely, and now
    enjoy all the more their unaccustomed luxuries.

21
Irishwomen and Money
  • Accusations of prostitution
  • Investigations into spending/saving
  • Shrewd management, creative uses
  • Remittances and the chain of immigration
  • Building an Irish infrastructure.

22
Building Catholic Churches
  • Visible evidence of Catholic invasion.
  • Irish priests and hierarchy
  • Institutional power base
  • Irish iconography
  • Social service mechanism
  • Educational infrastructure.

23
By 1870,Catholics were running 296 schools, of
which 209 were for girls.
24
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26
Upward Mobility
  • Significant second generation mobility
  • Nurses and teachers versus maids
  • Education and gentility
  • Learning of trades, entrepreneurship
  • By 1907, the Irish passed the British average in
    college attendance.

27
Reform Movement
  • Abolition of slavery
  • Woman movement
  • Temperance movement
  • Social purity
  • Elimination of prostitution
  • Censorship
  • Moral hygiene
  • Dress reform.

28
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29
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30
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31
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32
Carmel Snow, Harpers Bazaar
33
Amusements and Sexuality
  • Lower rather than higher pleasures
  • Seeking of vicious excitement
  • Gratification of animal instincts
  • Slaves of passion.

It is as natural for a Hibernian to tipple as it
is for a pig to grunt.
34
Popular Theater
35
  • Margaret Sanger,
  • Birth Control,
  • The Comstock Law

36
Sociability and Festivity
  • Puritans and gatherings
  • Christmas in Puritan America
  • Commercialization, Christmas, and the Irish
    consumer.

37
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38
Samhain Paganism
39
Thanksgiving as Cultural Defense
40
St. Patricks Day
41
Assimilation and Invisibility
Potatoes
42
Finding an Irish Voice
  • Consumption behaviors as imposed, exogenous
    conditions
  • Consumption as conflict
  • Consumption as resistance
  • Reform as control and defense
  • Freedom and the material
  • Spirituality and material expression.

43
Discussion
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